Early last November, Donald E. Tillman was interviewed by a television station about when the Berlin Wall might come down.
"I told them, 'Not in my lifetime,' " said Mr. Tillman, who is president of the German Society of Maryland.
But last night, Mr. Tillman and about 200 others celebrated the opening of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, and gave thanks for the reunification of Germany in an ecumenical service at Zion Lutheran Church near City Hall on Baltimore's War Memorial Plaza.
It was the second annual service.
The first took place just weeks after the wall came down last year.
"We're giving thanks for the things that happened in Europe without any conflict or fighting," Mr. Tillman said. "We're especially proud that Germany today is the strongest democracy on the continent."
Sponsored by the German Society of Maryland, the Society for the History of Germans in Maryland and Zion Church, the service brought German-Americans from a variety of denominations together to celebrate the peaceful reunification of their ancestors' country.
"My family came over [to America] in the 1880s, but I felt good that uni
fication finally happened. It had to happen," said Charles Specht of Columbia, who along with his wife and son studies the German language in a class offered by Zion Church.
Judge Gerard Wittstadt, president of the Society for the History of Germans in Maryland, said the Berlin Wall's demise symbolizes freedom for all those behind the Iron Curtain. He said most Americans still don't realize how deeply the country's division affected its people.
"Many families were separated for 45 years," he said.
The anguish of the separation erupted a year ago with massive pro-democracy demonstrations and the flight of refugees to the West. The demonstrations prompted East Germany's Communist leaders to begin opening the Berlin Wall.
Zion Church, which is undergoing a major renovation, has a 10-by-10-inch chunk of the Berlin Wall embedded in a wall in the church garden. The rock, still stained with blue graffiti paint, is a tribute to the more than 200 East Germans who died in their attempts to get into West Germany.
Edwin O. Wenck, who chaired the committee that organized last night's service, remembers traveling to Germany several years ago and looking through a fence to see the
other half of a village his ancestors came from. But that kind of separation is a thing of the past, Mr. Wenck said.
"You have folks that have been touched by the emotion of the thing," he said. "The wounds are finally healing."
The Rev. Herbert Brokering, a Lutheran pastor who has worked in East Germany and is the author of 34 books, was the principal speaker at the service, in which United Church of Christ, Roman Catholic and United Methodist clergy also participated.
The Rev. H. J. S. Otto is pastor of Zion Lutheran.