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Warm welcome as Obama and Merkel address huge Berlin crowd

The former US leader told tens of thousands assembled before the Brandenburg Gate 'we can't hide behind a wall'.

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Warm welcome as Obama and Merkel address huge Berlin crowd

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There was a warm welcome in Berlin for the former US President Barack Obama as he and Angela Merkel took part in a public debate before tens of thousands of people. It was part of a series of events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

The city suffered its own terror attack last year so this week’s horror in the UK was on everyone’s minds.

“The world is a very complicated place – when we can see the terrible violence that took place just recently in Manchester. And we had a chance to send a message to the people of Manchester about how heartbroken we are by the loss of life and to grieve with the families,” Obama told the crowd in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

There were echoes of JFK’s famous visit after the Berlin Wall was built when the iconic 1960s US president said “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”) in solidarity with the people of the divided city. One banner welcoming Obama read “Du bist ein Berliner” – “You are a Berliner”.

Obama was keen to defend his own record in office.

“Look I am very proud of the work I did as president. When you get involved in public life you have to recognize that you never achieve a 100 % of what you want. This is a human enterprise. And so inevitably it is flawed and what you try to do is to work with others who share your values and share your vision to try to make things better – understanding that you won’t make things perfect,” he said.


The German leader grew up under communism in the former East Germany and has memories of those divisive days in the early 1960s.

“When I started to go to school, the Wall was built. My parents were very shocked that day, all our lives had changed. And many people were laughed at when they said “the Wall will come down one day” – and yet it came down. We must not always think in terms of months, but in years,” Merkel told the crowd.

The event, which has been described as a Protestant form of Woodstock, continues for several days.