Happy German Unity Day!

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Cold War
The German Flag

Germany’s Flag

October 3rd is a public holiday in Germany since 1990, a day of celebration of a reunified country after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the effective end of the Cold War.

Berlin was the epicenter of the division of Germany into East and West since the end of the Second World War. The Warsaw Conference divided Germany into four zones, occupied by the Allied Powers of the United States, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. The City of Berlin was also divided into four zones. By 1949 the relationship between the Soviet Union and the other three Allies had become less cordial, and Germany was divided into West (democratic) and East (socialist.) East Germany allied itself to other communist, Moscow-led countries through the Warsaw Pact, against the NATO-led capitalist countries of the West during the Cold War. Berlin was in the odd circumstance of being surrounded by East Germany, and thus the Western-occupied zones became an island of democracy within East Germany. Living conditions between the two sides became disparate, as West Germany experienced the “economic miracle” while the East German economy deteriorated. Many East Germans fled to the West, and by the 1960s millions had left.

During the night of August 12th, 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected, stopping the flow of Germans from East to West and separating families, friends and neighbours for 28 years. During this time only about 5,000 people managed to escape, and many others died during their attempts. The Berlin Wall symbolized the global East-West divide.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall was unexpected and rapid as well. 1988 and 1989 saw the Polish, Czech and Hungarian regimes fall. Poland led the way, with the underground Solidarity movement (led by Lech Walęsa). In East Germany, hundreds of thousands of citizens began to demonstrate and demanded freedom in what is now known as the “Peaceful Revolution”. Suddenly, on November 9th, 1989, the borders between East and West Germany were opened. People crossed on both sides, hugging, crying and kissing each other in some of the most memorable moments in recent history.

As we continue to transform the Diefenbunker into an experiential learning environment about the Cold War and Canada’s role in ensuring that the experiences of the past inform our future, let’s take a moment to commemorate the thousands of acts of civil resistance and courage in helping to bring down regimes during some of the most critical times in the world’s history.


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