3rd October 1990: At the stroke of midnight on this day in Berlin history, the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany was hoisted above Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The ceremony marked the moment or German Reunification. After half a century divided, East and West Germany became a single country once more.
There were fireworks and champagne, revellers embraced. There was certainly reason to celebrate. The Berlin Wall, which had been breached so dramatically a year prior, had become nothing more than an increasingly tattered canvas for graffiti artists. The 1,500 km inner German border which for decades had divided the country so brutally was all but gone. It was an exciting new beginning for a nation which had experienced so much trauma over the previous century.
But the jubilation that night belied an undercurrent of uncertainty. Especially for those millions of East Germans who suddenly found the country they grew up in no longer existed. German Reunification was achieved by the accession of the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany.
In other words, the five East German states were simply absorbed into West Germany. This sudden merging of two very different countries caused serious complications. In the East, factories closed down, young people left and unemployment soared, problems which three decades later still persist. In 1991 a “Solidarity Tax” was introduced which has since funnelled billions of Euro from western states to eastern, a cost bemoaned by many in the west.
People speak of the “Mauer im Kopf” or the “wall in their head” to describe the very real cultural divide between “Ossis” and ”Wessis”. Clearly, although the first German Unity Day was celebrated on this date thirty years ago, the actual reunification continues to be a work in progress.
This slice of On This Day in Berlin History was written by Berlin Guides Association member, Chris Cooke. It’s one of four noteworthy events he’s chosen to remember this October. Keep an eye on our blog to see what else made the cut.