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October the 3rd is a public holiday in Germany: it is the Day of German Unity.
Why is this even celebrated? Let me explain.
After the Second World War, the map of Europe was redrawn.
Germany, its government having collapsed and its cities in ruins, was divided up.
Part of it went to the Soviet Union, and a bigger piece to Poland.
The rest of Germany was to be divided into zones occupied by the Allies: the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and France.
All except Berlin, which was declared an independent city divided into four sectors: Soviet, British, American and French.
But the western Allies and the Soviet Union were ideological enemies, and so didn't see eye to eye.
A few years later, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in the three western zones; just over four months after that, the Soviet zone was declared the German Democratic Republic.
The border between the two Germanies formed part of the border between the capitalist West and the communist East.
It was very difficult to cross this border known as the "Iron Curtain", but there was still the matter of Berlin.
The Democratic Republic — East Germany — claimed that Berlin belonged to their country, but the western Allies viewed Berlin as belonging to neither Germany.
The problem for the eastern countries was that people were traveling to Berlin and flying out to the West.
So in 1961, East Germany built fortifications around West Berlin, including a concrete wall dividing the two halves of the city.
This lasted until 1989, when many communist countries started to reform, except for East Germany.
Large numbers of East Germans travelled to Hungary, from where they crossed the border, which was now open, into Austria, and claimed asylum in the West German embassy.
And then in East Berlin, masses of people flooded the checkpoints, and the border guards had no choice but to let them through.
And so the Berlin Wall fell; and with it, the whole of the Iron Curtain.
So, the 3rd of October is about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War?
No, because this happened on the 9th of November, and the problem with that date is that it is already a very significant one in German history.
In particular, the 9th of November, 1938 was the night of the first major Nazi pogroms against the Jews, and so not really considered a very good day for a celebration.
Instead, the 3rd of October, 1990 is the date on which the Democratic Republic of Germany ceased to exist, and its territory, and that of the whole of the city of Berlin, was given over to the Federal Republic.
Finally, Germany was politically reunified.
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German unity: What's so special about 3rd October?

253 Folder Collection
Courtney Shih published on September 6, 2019
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