Sunday, October 3, 2010

When East Met West

Magnet # 358:  Famous Sites of Deutschland Photo Collage

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Elke

All across Germany, its people are gathering in honor of German Unity Day.  It's actually their only national holiday, as every other one is handled by individual states.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event.  The state where the holiday's main events are held varies depending upon which one is hosting the Bundesrat, or legislating body of Germany for the year.  Bremen, a city in the northwestern part of the country, will have the honors this year for the second time. Activities will include speeches, concerts, fireworks, and consumption of large amounts of traditional German cuisine.  Other celebrations will be held around the rest of Germany, of course, particularly in Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate and Munich, where Oktoberfest activities are wrapping up.  Some suggested that this celebration could have been held on November 9th.  Not only was that the date when the Berlin Wall began to be torn down in 1989, it was also when Germany was proclaimed a Republic in 1918, and when Adolf Hitler and his forces were defeated in Munich after trying to start a revolution there in 1923.  Unfortunately, that day was also marred in Germany and parts of Austria when the Nazis destroyed Jewish businesses, homes, and synagogues in a shocking act that came to be known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass.  Luckily, October 3rd didn't pose such a controversy - its was the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany finally completed the unification process which had begun earlier that year.  Prior to their reunification, West Germany held a "Day of German Unity" on June 17th, the anniversary of when East Germany rose up in a failed coup against its Stalinist government in 1953.  As for East Germany, they observed the "Day of the Republic" on June 17th to mark the 1949 founding of the German Democratic Republic.  But now, the two nations have come together and are able to put aside those old holidays, and I imagine nearly everyone in Germany who remembers the separation is grateful to do so.

In 1945 when World War II had come to an end, Germany was left in ruin and the Soviet Union was eager to establish Communism in the area.  And when the Allies divided the area into four zones, with each one controlled by either the United States, Britain, France, or the Soviet Union, they got their chance.  Eventually, they cut the area off from Western contact, forming the Iron Curtain.  And while the other three powers combined their zones to form Western Germany, a parliamentary democracy, by 1949 the Soviets created the German Democratic Republic, which later became East Germany.  Germany was officially split and while thousands were able to escape to freedom in West Germany, countless more longed for the two nations to come together once again.  They were supported by many nations around the world, but not all of them.  Just last year, documents surfaced from the Kremlin that neither Britain nor France supported German reunification.  In fact, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher went so far as to tell Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that both her nation and the rest of Western Europe were against it.  The Iron Maiden, as she was called, even encouraged Gorbachev to try to prevent it.  The French weren't quite so active in trying to prevent reunification, realizing it was inevitable, and relented when German leaders agreed to some of their terms.  Both of the nations, probably along with others in the area, feared that a unified Germany would be even more of a threat than Hitler and the Nazis had ever been.  Nonetheless, by 1990 Eastern and Western Germany were able to reunite, and around the world, there was great rejoicing.  So far, the concerns of Britain and France have proved to be needless, as Germany has remained peaceful and established a good reputation around the globe.  Together, the people of the nation likely have a storied past and a bright future, particularly if they continue to remain united.

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