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Reflections: The End of a Divided Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Polish leader Lech Walesa (center) and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. PHOTO: EPA.

Some dates are so significant that they define the identity of whole nations. For Germans, November 9, 1989, is such a date. It was the day the heavily mined border known as "the death-strip" between East and West Germany was opened or, as popular shorthand would have it, the day the Berlin Wall came down. It was a day of celebration, hope, incredulity, and exhilaration.

As the German magazine Der Spiegel wrote from Berlin this week: That night, the whole city celebrated a new Day of German Unity.

The fall of the wall changed the lives of millions of people so profoundly that even after 20 years, some are still struggling to make sense of the day that united a nation but divided their lives into two chapters: before and after the wall.

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