BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel led celebrations Sunday marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, calling it an example of the human yearning for freedom and honoring those who helped bring down the barrier that for 28 years symbolized the Cold War.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel places a candle to commemorate the victims of the wall at the Berlin Wall memorial site at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin, Germany, (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

On the night of Nov. 9, 1989, thousands of East Berliners streamed through the once-closed border crossings after communist authorities caved in to mounting pressure and relaxed travel restrictions that had prevented their citizens from going to the west for decades.

"The fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true," Merkel said at the main memorial site for the Wall on Bernauer Strasse. "Nothing has to stay the way it is, however big the hurdles are."

The fall of the Wall was the climax of weeks of popular protests, spurred by changes that had already taken place elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Merkel noted the important examples set by the democracy movements in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and praised those East Germans who were inspired by them to stand up to the dictatorship.

She also honored the many who suffered under the communist regime, including the 138 people who died at the Wall.

Merkel noted that Nov. 9 is a significant date in Germany history also for being the day when, in 1938, Nazi paramilitaries launched a pogrom against the country's Jewish population in what became known as Reichskristallnacht - the "Night of Broken Glass."

"That was the opening note for the murder of millions," said Merkel, adding that on Nov. 9 each year "I feel not just joy, but the responsibility that German history burdens us with."

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