Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or German Unity Day, today commemorates the reunification of Germany and is marked by political speeches, a Bürgerfest (citizens' festival) and plenty of fireworks.
After the mass crossings through the Berlin Wall in 1989, East Germany held its first free elections on 18th March 1990. Negotiations then took place between the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, which culminated in a Unification Treaty, and on this day in 1990 the GDR was incorporated into the FRG.
Construction of the Berlin Wall begun in August 1961, and although ideological reasons were given, in practice it existed to prevent mass emigration from East to West, and East German police had shoot-to-kill orders to prevent anyone from escaping.
In 1989, this all changed when a series of bungled orders by the authorities and the dissemination of confusing information to the public resulted in the massing of thousands of East Germans demanding that guards open the gates. No one in authority was prepared to issue the order to open fire on the crowds, so the vastly outnumbered guards had no way of holding them back. The gates were finally opened, leading to the historic dismantling of the wall.
Today we will be celebrating this fabulous day of victory for the people with an appropriately named German Vacation.
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