To Merkel, a Night in '89 Was Just the First Step on a Long Path for 2 Germanys

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BERLIN — A young East German physicist named Angela Merkel was on her way home from her weekly trip to the sauna and a beer with a friend when she was swept up in the ecstatic crowds crossing the border at Bornholmer Street on the night of Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell.

Now, as chancellor of a reunited Germany, Mrs. Merkel is presiding over a series of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of that day. In a talk with reporters here on Thursday she shared her recollections about that historic day and the long path Germans have taken since then to bring the two sides closer.

The moment was ripe for looking back on the fall of the wall “after many years of just trying to deal with the daily problems,” Mrs. Merkel said. “Our heads are now above water, and we have accomplished the most important things.”

The timing appeared right for Mrs. Merkel as well. She is fresh off her victory in elections in September and is the first chancellor from the former East Germany, or German Democratic Republic, since reunification. Mrs. Merkel has seized the moment and seemed more animated and at ease than normal, given her often very serious public demeanor.

She balanced her comments about the events of that day with an appreciation of the struggles faced by her fellow East Germans in the period of dislocation that followed. The celebrations and the discussion itself are complicated by profound disappointment among those left behind in the painful restructuring economy of the former East, and what many there view as a discussion dominated, like so many facets of their lives, by those from the West...

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