German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the courageous citizens who peacefully brought down the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, calling the historical day proof that "dreams can come true".
"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," Merkel said on Sunday. "It broke them."
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.
"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," she said.
Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer, reporting from Berlin, said: "A million or maybe more are supposed to take part in celebrations here at the Brandenburger Gate.
"There was a moment of sombre reflection and recollection in the morning when Angela Merkel, remembered, along with the Mayor of Berlin, the people who died trying to escape East Germany".
Merkel's speech took place at the Berlin Wall Memorial, which features a 220-metre section of what was once a 155km concrete barrier encircling West Berlin,
The chancellor said that 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.
Merkel recalled that November 9 is also the anniversary of Nazi Germany's 1938 anti-Jewish "Kristallnacht" massacre that marked the start of the Holocaust, "a day of shame and disgrace".
Fall of Communism
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".
Merkel also 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
Celebrations will continue through the rest of Sunday, with concerts and speeches taking place.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies