The separation and reunification of Germany

By Hanna Sannwald

 

Every year on October 3rd, Germany celebrates the “German Unity Day”. This is a national holiday. But, why is this day celebrated?

After Germany lost the Second World War (1939-1945), the four winning powers separated Germany into four parts. Today’s states Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen were occupied by the Soviet Union. The other states were the occupation zones of France, the USA and Great Britain. Although Berlin was in the Soviet Union area, it was separated into four zones, one for each winner. This was decided as it was the capital.

After the end of the Second World War and the separation of Germany, the winning powers turned away from each other. This happened, as they had different views of the world. The Western countries, under leadership of the USA, represented capitalistic principles. In contrast, the Eastern countries stood for communist ideals and were led by the Soviet Union. This time is called the “Cold War”, which took place from 1945 to 1991.  The superpowers never fought directly, however, there were substitutional confrontations. Due to the differences, the “Iron Curtain” emerged over the entirety of Europe. This term describes the closed borders in Europe. Out of different countries, an East and a West bloc arose, which isolated themselves from each other. Germany was heavily affected by this isolation:

The zones occupied by France, the USA and Great Britain became the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland or BRD). Nowadays, these areas are called the “western states”, and back then Bonn was the federal capital. Out of the Soviet Union occupation zones, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) was founded. Many call these areas the “eastern states” to this day. The borders between these newly founded republics were heavily guarded and it was difficult to get from one country to the other. West- and East Berlin were separated with a wall, which was built in 1961 and stood until 1989. This Berlin Wall is often seen as a symbol for Germany’s separation and reunification until this day. So, the separated Germany was turned into two countries, which stood on opposite sides of a political conflict.

People, who for example tried to cross the Wall from East- to West Berlin, were violently stopped. Provenly, there were at least 86 deaths at the Wall. Germany was a part of the Iron Curtain and lives on the opposite sides was different in many things: For example, there were differences in the government systems, in the economic situation and in the freedom of speech.

For many years, Germany was a separated country, until the “Monday Demonstrations” arose in September, 1989. With these demonstrations, the people of the East fought for freedom of travel and assembly, with the words “We are the people!”. Through the demonstrations, the pressure on the DDR government grew. On November 9th, 1989, it was announced that the borders between DDR and BRD were open. Consequently, many people charged towards the borders. This event is also called the “Fall of the Berlin Wall”, as the people in Germany basically stormed over the separating wall. Until today, remains of the Wall can be found in Berlin and many artists have painted it in different colors. An old border crossing, “Checkpoint Charlie”, can also be visited. These things remain to remember the German separation.

After the Fall of the Wall, many people called for a German reunification. In 1990, negotiations took place between the DDR and the BRD. It was decided that the DDR will join the BRD on October 3rd, 1990. On this day, almost one year after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, it became official: After many decades Germany was once again a unified country. Therefore, Germany celebrates the “German Unity Day” every year on October 3rd. The national holiday remembers the separation and reunification of Germany.

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Das Brandenburger Tor in Berlin. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Mostafa Elyasian.

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