German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday praised the courageous citizens who peacefully brought down the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, calling the momentous day proof that "dreams can come true".
Merkel, who grew up in the communist East, was speaking at a memorial site to the 138 people killed in Berlin alone as they tried to flee the Soviet-allied state.
"The Berlin Wall, this symbol of state abuse cast in concrete, took millions of people to the limits of what is tolerable, and all too many beyond it," she said according to AFP. "It broke them."
"Little wonder that after the border opened, people took apart the hated structure with hammers and chisels. Within a year it had all but vanished from the cityscape."
Merkel, in an unusually emotional speech, said the lesson of November 9, 1989 was that "we can change things for the better - that is the message of the fall of the Berlin Wall".
She said this was true for her reunified country and the world, "especially for the people in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and in many, many other regions of the world where liberty and human rights are threatened or being trampled".
"It is a message of confidence in our ability to tear down walls today and in future, walls of dictatorship, violence, ideology and hostility," she said.
"Too good to be true? A daydream that will burst like a bubble? No, the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true."
Merkel recalled that November 9 is also the anniversary of Nazi Germany's 1938 anti-Jewish "Kristallnacht" pogroms that marked the start of the Holocaust, "a day of shame and disgrace".
"How could that date ever become a day of happiness and joy?" she asked.
Merkel thanked those abroad who paved the way for the historic events, from the Czech and Polish pro-democracy movements to Moscow's "glasnost" and "perestroika" reforms, saying that in 1989 "the Iron Curtain had already been torn".
"We Germans will never forget that the freedom and democracy movements in central and eastern Europe paved the way for the happiest moment in our recent history," she said.
Merkel was speaking at the Berlin Wall Memorial which features a 220-metre (720-foot) section of what was once a 155-kilometre (100-mile) concrete cordon encircling West Berlin.
The street saw dramatic scenes as residents tried to flee the Soviet sector, sliding down ropes and jumping from windows into the rescue nets of West Berlin firefighters - or, in tragic cases, to their deaths.
Merkel honoured the East Germans who found the courage to protest against a repressive regime that beat and arrested demonstrators, and which in June 1989 openly praised China's bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown.
"Tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands took to the streets against state domination, repression and economic mismanagement," she said, pointing out that parents among them were uncertain they would see their children again that night.