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German Unity Day is celebrated on October 3 to commemorate the unification of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic into a single federal Germany on the same date in 1990. A public holiday, the day is characterized by concerts, communal meals, speeches by politicians, and fireworks.
History of National Unity Day
After WWII, Germany was divided into 4 military sectors, each controlled by France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. In 1949 the Federal Republic of Germany was formed and, on October 7 of the same year, the German Democratic Republic (also known as DDR — ‘Deutsche Demokratische Republik’) was formed.
The political tensions in post-war Europe did not allow much interaction between the people of the two countries. The DDR exercised strong resistance against and repression of its political opponents. Thousands of people were kept under surveillance by the German police.
On September 4, 1989, a peaceful protest was carried out by the people of Leipzig against the DDR government. More such demonstrations in other DDR cities took place calling for political reforms and the opening of the borders. And on November 9 that year, the checkpoints between the two German countries were opened and people could travel freely once more. This date marked the ‘fall’ of the Berlin wall.
Democratic elections further paved the way for the people to come together in the DDR. Finally, in August 1990, the leaders of both countries signed the Treaty of Unification and Germany’s unification was made official on October 3, 1990.
The Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate are two very important symbols of Germany’s division and the unification of Germany in 1990. Images of both of these are put on display on German Unity Day all across Germany. The day is celebrated as a three-day festival around the Brandenburg Gate and at the Reichstag around Platz der Republik.
National Unity Day timeline
The German sectors of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States come together to form the Federal Republic of Germany.
The sector controlled by the Soviet Union becomes the German Democratic Republic (also known as the DDR — ‘Deutsche Demokratische Republik’).
On November 4, an estimated 50,000 people gather for a mass protest in East Berlin — five days later, the Berlin Wall dividing communist East Germany from West Germany crumbles.
The Unification Treaty is signed allowing a reunited Germany to become fully sovereign the following year.
National Unity Day FAQs
What is German Unity Day called in German?
German Unity Day is called ‘Tag der Deutschen Einheit’ (The Day of German Unity).
What does German Unity Day celebrate?
The Day of German Unity is Germany’s national holiday. It commemorates the German reunification in 1990 and is celebrated with a festival around Platz der Republik, Straße des 17.
What is closed on German Unity Day?
German Unity Day is a public holiday in Germany so post offices, banks, and many businesses are closed. Nearly all stores are closed, although a few may be open in some city areas.
How To Celebrate German Unity Day
Celebrate the local culture
Celebrate with all the locals at the Charlottenburg Palace. Experience the neighborhoods of Berlin while taking a stroll through Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, and Mitte.
Watch films and documentaries about Germany
There are many famous documentaries about Germany and the Berlin Wall. Some of them include “Busting the Berlin Wall,” “Stasi – East Germany’s Secret Police,” “After the Wall: A World United,” “Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall,” and more.
Visit the specific city of observance
A famous feature of German Unity Day is the observance of the day in one of the 16 states’ capitals every year. That particular state hosts the celebration.
5 Interesting Facts About German Unity Day
The 27-mile barrier separating Berlin into east and west had two concrete walls that had a 160-yards-wide ‘death strip’ in-between with watchtowers, guard dogs, floodlights, machine guns, and more.
Death on the wall
More than 100 people died while trying to cross the Berlin Wall, by gunshots, fatal accidents, or suicide.
The great escape
More than 5,000 people escaped by either going over or under the Berlin Wall.
Berlin in Vegas
A piece of the Berlin wall is now in the bathroom of the Main Street Station Casino in Las Vegas.
In memory of Ida Siekmann
The Berlin Wall cycle route has a glass plaque honoring Ida Siekmann who was the first person to die while trying to cross the wall and flee to East Berlin.
Why German Unity Day Is Significant
It celebrates the unification of Germany
The establishment of Germany as a federal country after years of division since 1945 and the unification of East and West Germany is worth celebrating.
Fall of the Berlin Wall
It commemorates the day when the wall dividing communist East Germany and West Germany crumbled. This was just five days after almost 50,000 people gathered in a mass protest in East Berlin.
Dissolution of German Democratic Republic
The date marks the dissolution of the German territory controlled by the Soviet Union and the day it joined the Federal Republic of Germany.
National Unity Day dates