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The Day of German Unity

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

The three western sectors merged to bring about a Federal Republic of Germany on May 23, 1949, 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.

A sad sight was to see people as they stood on the eastern side of Checkpoint Charlie watching the tourists and cars go through, their only contact with whatever it was that lay on the western side of the wall. Behind the watch towers, fences, mine fields and armed guards.

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

It was June 12, 1987, US President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and delivered a challenge to the Soviet leader. A call for a freedom and democracy which 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.

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

Discussions involving which date the reunification should be celebrated had begun with the day the wall "fell", November 9, being a favorite for a while.

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

This replaced West Germany's Unity Day, held each year on 17 June marking the 1953 East German workers uprising which had been crushed with the help of the Soviet Union.

A national holiday "The Day of German Unity", is now a time of celebration for a peaceful unification, as well as one in which 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 during the year.

That is the upper house of the Germany's parliament and vaguely 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, which of course include speeches by politicians and other leaders, but also include concerts, street parties, fireworks and regional displays.

Some mosques are also open, both to help build a connection between Muslims and non-Muslims and also to 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 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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