Germans observe unification day

by Petra Lessoing
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

When the gates between Westberlin and Ostberlin opened the night of Nov. 9, 1989, thousands of citizens from the German Democratic Republic crossed the border. The official reunification was Oct. 3, 1990. — Photo by Linda Steil

Germany will observe Unification Day Tuesday as a legal holiday in all German states; stores, banks and official institutions will be closed.

The former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) were officially reunited Oct. 3, 1990.

The process of reunification started in 1989. During September and October of that year, East Germans demonstrated for democratic reforms and the right to travel to Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, Schwerin and other towns.

Chief of State, Erich Honecker was dismissed from his top position Oct. 18 and the new political office announced the opening of the borders to the Federal Republic of Germany and the border gates along the Berlin wall the night of Nov. 9, 1989. Over the next three days, more than 3 million East Germans crossed the border into West Germany just to celebrate, sightsee and purchase goods, which they were not able to obtain in the east.

The wall, a symbol of the Cold War for 28 years, was torn down during the following weeks and months, and pieces were sold as souvenirs.

East Germany’s first free elections in 40 years were held March 18, 1990, and citizens elected a new government. Basic changes concerning the country’s economy, currency, social laws and jurisdiction were established by state contracts May 18 and Aug. 31.

Finally, Oct. 3, 1990, the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist. After 40 years it vanished from the world political map.

The celebrations in Berlin the night of Oct. 2, included a giant fireworks display, hundreds of thousands of people dancing in the streets drinking champagne, and the raising of the national flag on the former East German parliament building.

Berlin was chosen as the new capital city of unified Germany.

This year, official celebrations will take place in Mainz, the capital of Rheinland-Pfalz. Various musical and dance performances can be seen on several stages in Mainz Tuesday and Wednesday. Visitors will be able to explore all 16 states of Germany and taste their culinary specialties.