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Day of German Unity

"The Day of German Unity", Tag der Deutsche Einheit, first celebrated on October 3, 1990, commemorates a new beginning for a country divided into four military sectors after World War; controlled by France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Soviet Union.

On May 23, 1949, the three western sectors merged to bring about a Federal Republic of Germany, while on October 7, 1949, the Soviet Union named the region under its control the German Democratic Republic.

Two "Germanys" with completely different political and economic systems and little contact possible between their citizens, a part and consequence of what became known as the Cold War.

It was sad to see people standing on the eastern side of Checkpoint Charlie just watching tourists and cars go through. Their only contact with whatever it was that lay on the western side of the wall; behind watch towers, fences, minefields and armed guards.

"Mr. Gorbachev, Open This Gate, Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!"

June 12, 1987, US President Ronald Reagan was standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, delivering a challenge to a Soviet leader whose policies of Glasnost (openness) and Perestroika (restructuring), and reorientation of Soviet strategic aims, had already begun contributing to the eventual end of the Cold War.

The totalitarian system was dismantling in Central Europe, a process started in the Polish city of Gdansk.

Nevertheless it was a call for a freedom and democracy few thought would materialize so quickly.

On September 4, 1989 there was a peaceful protest in Leipzig against the German Democratic Republic's government, accompanied by other demonstrations across the country, calling for political reform and open borders.

Despite being requested to do so, and unlike earlier unrestin the country that the USSR had helped end with military intervention, Mikhail Gorbachev refused to interfere; saying German reunification was an internal German matter.

"The Wall Fell" on November 9, 1989, checkpoints were opened and people could travel freely. This brought about political change, democratic elections and by August 1990 the leaders of both countries signed the "Treaty of Unification", which became official on October 3, 1990.

For some time November 9 was the favorite in the discussions to find a suitable date to celebrate reunification, as well as the day the wall "fell".

As this coincided with the founding of the Weimar Republic in 1918; the defeat of Hitler's first coup attempt, the 1923 "Beer Putsch"; and Kristallnacht, the pogrom against Jews in 1938; a day with no "bad memories" was chosen. October 3.

It replaced West Germany's "Unity Day". Held each year on 17 June, and marking the East German workers uprising of 1953 that had been crushed with help from the Soviet Union.

A national holiday, "The Day of German Unity" is a time of celebration for a peaceful unification, as well as to reaffirm the country's commitment to use freedom to help shape the world, and the main celebrations take place in the capital of whichever German state occupies the chair of the Bundesrat that year. The upper house of the Germany's parliament and similar to the US Senate or Britain's House of Lords.

On the first "Tag der Deutsche Einheit" in 1990 thousands of people symbolically walked through the Brandenburg Gate, and this still takes place. Hundreds of public celebrations and festivities are organized, including of course speeches by politicians and other leaders, but also concerts, street parties, fireworks and regional events.

Some mosques are also open; helping to build a connection between Muslims and non-Muslims and also highlight the role they have played in the forming of modern Germany.

For many reasons Germans still tend to shy away from any big displays which could be interpreted as national pride, and October 3 was a random date where the two "Germanys" became one, but this is a continuing process as the country did not become one people on that day.

There were and still are many differences.

Germany always was and remains a diverse country, and although a "Nation State" since 1871 many still think of themselves as Bavarian, Saxon or Wuerttembergers rather than German, nevertheless for most Germans "Tag der Deutsche Einheit", The Day of German Unity, means far more than just a day off work.

Instead the feeling is "Da feiern wir, dass unser Land ein Land ist" - "We are celebrating because our country is one country". Aus zwei mach eins Two become one.

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