Sunday, 3 October 2010

Happy Tag der deutschen Einheit!

Twenty years ago today the Bundesrepublik Deutschland officially embraced the former Deutsche Demokratische Republik and unified Germany after over forty years of division. In Bremen there are celebrations going on, but the atmosphere among most Germans is very subdued.

That's not to say they're not happy Germany is now unified (though that's a discussion for another time!), merely that for many there is no emotional attachment to the day. Today was the date on which Germany officially became unified, but most people would point to the more famous date of 9/10th November 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Our mentor Klaus said far more poeple have an emotional attachment to the 9th November and can clearly remember where they were when they heard the news, like people who remember the assassination of Kennedy or when the places hit the Twin Towers. Last night on the way back from Oktoberfest with the two German volunteers attached to the Memorial Site, one of them said they had forgotten the Day of German Unity was today.

So why not remember German Unity on the 9th November? The answer lies in a cruel coincidence of history; Hitler attempted to take power for the first time on the 9th November 1924 and, far worse, the night of the 9th November 1938 saw the events of Kristallnacht, the Jewish pogroms that many see as the start of the active phase of the Holocaust. Germans have quite rightly agreed that this day of remembrance must be commemorated as a matter of principle.

So most Germans will probably celebrate the Mauerfall on the 9th November, but like most attempts to celebrate German culture in the 20th century, it must stand awkwardly next to another significant date in German history.

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