"The Berlin Wall was an offence to the human spirit," Mr. Annan said at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York where he received the gift from the President of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse.
"It not only marked the division of Germany and Europe, but also expressed, in a uniquely horrible way, the propensity of human beings to erect walls and borders, and then glare across them, hearts filled with hate, minds full of fear and distrust, all the while numb to the notion that there might be a better way," Mr. Annan said.
The Secretary-General noted that it was entirely appropriate that a piece of the Berlin Wall reside at the United Nations. During the Cold War, the Organization was often able to work around the tensions and ideological rivalry, and advance many parts of its agenda. But just as often, he said, it was severely hobbled, especially on the key questions of peace and security.
"The new freedom to find agreement, which came when the Wall was pulled down, has helped to liberate the entire international community," Mr. Annan said, adding that it was striking that something that loomed so big in people's imagination turned out to be so thin.
"Perhaps that, too, holds a lesson for us: the lesson that divisions in the human community are not so insurmountable as we feared; that gaps of misunderstanding and material well-being can be bridged; and that we can, like the couple depicted here, join hands and unite for a better world," the Secretary-General said, referring to the figures painted on the pieces of the wall.