5 fun facts about German Unity Day
Monday, Oct. 3 is German Unity Day, a national holiday in Germany. It celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany following more than 40 years of separation after World War II. Most shops, public offices and other off-base services will be closed. Here are a few fun facts about Germany’s reunification.
It happened by accident
For months leading up to the inevitable fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, East German leaders had been under pressure to loosen travel regulations between East and West Germany. In an effort to placate politicians, newly appointed spokesman, Günter Schabowski, was told to announce the new travel laws at a press conference. Because he hadn’t been briefed ahead of time, when Schabowski was asked when the freedom of movement would take place, he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Ab sofort” or “right away.”
Technically, the East dissolved
Rather than a true reunification of two countries merging into one, East Germany was absorbed into West Germany. Due to economic uncertainty, in an effort to speed up the process, the five East German states voted to join West Germany and become a unified nation.
Bonn vs. Berlin
After unification, the city of Bonn (previously the capital of West Germany) remained the capital. A year later, it was moved back to Berlin. However, this move didn’t take effect until 1999 — nine years after Germany was united. Even now, there are still many government offices based in Bonn rather than Berlin.
Official celebration moves each year
While there is a huge celebration in Berlin each year, the official party, or Bürgerfest, is hosted by a different city each year. Typically, a federal state capital hosts the festival. One of the only exceptions was 2015, when Frankfurt played host rather than Wiesbaden. This year, Dresden is the official city. The days-long celebration includes carnival rides, regional cuisine and an amazing fireworks display.
Only national holiday
German Unity Day is the only non-religious official national holiday. Most other holidays are at the discretion of the federal states.