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3 October 2009

On this day in history: German Reunification, 1990

Following their defeat of Germany in 1945, the Allied Powers occupied different parts of the country that remained after they granted a number of eastern German provinces to Poland. The French occupied the south-west, the British occupied the north-west, the United States took control in the south, and the Soviet Union controlled the east. They also divided the city of Berlin into different occupied zones, although it was surrounded by the Russian zone.

At the Potsdam Conference, the Allies agreed that Germany should remain a single economic entity albeit one with decentralised political power. As tensions increased between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R these plans failed to materialise. In 1948 the Russians announced that they would no longer take part in the quadripartite administration of Germany and halted road access to the French, British and American sectors of West Berlin meaning that any supplies had to be brought into these areas by air.

In May 1949, the American, British and French unified the zones they occupied to create the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland - BRD), and five months later the Soviets followed suit creating the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik - DDR). In 1961 the East Germans constructed a wall around West Berlin to prevent their citizens crossing into the West. Over the following decades relations improved between the two Germanies as reform movements appeared in the Eastern Bloc.

The results of 1989 local elections in the DDR led to widespread protests and a dramatic increase in requests for exit visas. When the Hungarian relaxed their border controls there was a flood of emigration from East Germany to the BRD. Rather than employ the repressive measures of earlier times, the government in the DDR started planning a peaceful transition from socialism to capitalism and the from communist party dominance to free elections.

In November 1989 the Politburo of the DDR announced the opening of border checkpoints in the Berlin Wall. The following March the East German people voted in democratic elections, effectively ending communist rule in their country and opening the way for German reuinification. That summer, negotiations took place between the two German governments and those of the four occupying powers resulting in The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, signed in Moscow in September.

On 3rd October 1990, the five re-established federal states of the former DDR and the new city-state of Berlin joined the Federal Republic of Germany. The involved parties had rejected the alternative option of writing a new constitution to create a new German state, rather the constitution of West Germany had been amended to permit Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia to join. The anniversary of the re-unification is celebrated every year as the Day of German Unity (Tag der deutschen Einheit), a national public holiday.

The full text of The Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany is available on the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany's web site.

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2 comments:

Emm said...

Wow. I remember that. I remember sitting in school wathcing the news that week - amazing!

Stepterix said...

Emm: It certainly was a key historical event. Thanks for the comment.