Europe celebrates fall of the Wall

World leaders, past and present, from East and West, are gathered in the German capital to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Images of the historic night of November 9, 1989 is dominating the news all over Europe. The fall of the Berlin Wall led to the reunification of Germany and hastened the demise of the Soviet Union.

One of the most important events of the 20th century in Europe

The fall of the Berlin Wall, exactly 20 years ago, on November 9 1989, turned out to be one of the most important events of the 20th century in Europe.

As part of Monday's celebrations, 1,000 giant painted dominoes have been set up along a 1.5 km stretch of the Wall's original path next to the Brandenburg Gate.

They are being toppled Monday evening in the presence of the visiting European leaders from Britain, Belgium, France, Russian, and other countries.

"The happiest day in recent German history"

PM Herman Van Rompuy (photo) is in Berlin to join other European leaders in the evening festivities.

Until the end of 1989 the former capital of Germany was hermetically split into two. One half of the city, East Berlin, was the capital of the communist DDR. The other half, West Berlin, remained in West German hands. For years West Berlin was a seductive Western enclave in the middle of communist territory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the first German leader to have grown up behind the Wall in communist East Germany, called the fall of the Wall: "The happiest day in recent German history." She was working as a scientific researcher in East Berlin 20 years ago.

The wall was erected in 1961 as an 'anti-fascist protection barrier'

Backed by the Soviet Union, the East German government began erecting its "anti-fascist protection barrier" in the early hours of Aug. 13, 1961 to end a mass exodus of its citizens into capitalist West Berlin.

It was initially a make-shift fence of barbed wire.  It was gradually built up into an imposing barrier that encircled the three western sectors of the city and was patrolled by border guards who were ordered to 'shoot anyone who tried to escape'.  Hundreds lost their lives in an attempt to flee to the West.

Brussels also commemorates the fall of the Berlin Wall

On the Luxembourg Square (next to the European Parliament) the legendary Checkpoint Charlie was reconstructed.

Dignitaries, including Belgian Foreign Minister Yves Leterme were present at the inauguration Monday morning.

Original pieces of the Berlin Wall can also be viewed, until the 29th of November.