very year, on October 3, Germany celebrates German Unity Day as a national public holiday.
The special occasion commemorates the day the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), commonly referred to as West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), known as East Germany, reunited under a single state.
Here’s everything you need to know about the history behind German Unity Day and its significance.
Why was Germany divided into two states and how did they reunite?
When the Nazi government signed the document of surrender in 1945, they agreed that Germany had lost its independence to the Allies.
As a result of that, and agreements that were signed in the aftermath, the Allies divided Germany into four occupation zones governed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union.
The West and East divide happened when the United States, the United Kingdom, and France decided to merge their territories to create the Trizone, leaving the Soviet Union’s territory on its own.
The Trizone’s West Germany followed a social-market economy and had a liberal democracy.
East Germany, on the other hand, was a communist state with a planned economy.
West Germany went on to join the European Commission and Nato, while East Germany was a member of the Warsaw Pact, a defence treaty between the Soviet Union and a number of Eastern Bloc socialist republics in Europe.
The Berlin Wall, built by the East German territory, encircled West Berlin, separating it from East Berlin, and became a physical symbol of the “Iron Curtain” that stood between the two communities.
In 1987, US President Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to tear the wall down.
By the late Eighties, as the Soviet Union stagnated and the Eastern Block countries started to engage in a series of revolutions, the pressure to eliminate the Berlin Wall started to build.
In 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would let the Eastern Bloc countries freely determine their own internal affairs going forward.
However, East German citizens wanted more freedom. After weeks of civil unrest, in November 1989, the East German government announced that they would allow their citizens to visit West Germany.
By December 1989, the communities had opened a gate named the Bradenburg Gate in the wall, and on June 13, 1990, the demolition of the Berlin Wall began.
It was on October 3, 1990, that Germany formally reunited.
How is German Unity Day celebrated?
The special day is traditionally celebrated with a three-day festival around Platz der Republik at the German Parliament, Reichstag, and the Bradenburg Gate.
The festival sees food and drink stalls serve customers, and various artists and live bands entertain the crowds.