October 3, 1990 is one of the most important events in German history. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) – the two countries became one after 41 years of division. Accordingly, this historically significant moment was commemorated nationwide with German Unity Day, which is celebrated on October 3. Many German cities and municipalities hold celebrations, schools and stores remain closed. The day is a public holiday throughout Germany.
Why is German Unity Day celebrated on October 3rd?
On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, thus overcoming the division of Germany, at least symbolically. Originally, the 9th of November was to be declared German Reunification Day. However, this date also coincides with the so-called “Kristallnacht” of 1938, when the National Socialist regime brutally took action against the Jewish population within the Third Reich. During the November pogroms there were arrests and murders. In addition, the regime ordered the mass destruction of Jewish stores, apartments and churches. For this reason, November 9, 1938 is considered the beginning of the Nazi extermination of the Jews.
To avoid overlapping this date, it was decided that October 3 would be a public holiday for Germany as a whole.
What happened on the 3rd of October 1990?
On this day, the German Democratic Republic, or GDR (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, abbreviated as DDR), came under the laws that previously covered only the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland, abbreviated as BRD). This was decided by the DDR’s National Chamber during a special session on August 22.
What happened on the day of the fall of the Wall, i.e. 9th November?
On 9th November 1989 the border crossings from DDR to BRD were slowly opened. It all started in the evening at a press conference, where Günter Schabowski, a member of the SED politburo, announced, or rather howled, that the changes would take effect immediately. This was not really his initiative, as Schabowski was actually going to announce new, more liberal travel regulations for DDR citizens.
However, after the announcement of the immediate opening of the borders, tens of thousands of DDR citizens rushed to the border crossings, which gradually began to open. From then on, it was possible to cross the border freely and the Berlin Wall became history over time.
Is German Reunification Day always a holiday?
It is the only German holiday that is regulated by federal law and is a statutory holiday. All other holidays are regulated at the state level.
Is October 3rd a possible shopping day?
Shopping Sundays and public holidays that are open to commerce are regulated by the individual federal states. It is sometimes the case that cities and municipalities decide which Sundays and holidays stores will be open. The federal states definitely exclude public holidays such as Christmas and Easter. But North Rhine-Westphalia has also excluded German Reunification Day from its trading days.
Traditions associated with German Reunification Day
There has been an official celebration of German Reunification Day since 1990. It is always celebrated in the capital of the federal state that holds the presidency of the Bundesrat. However, many other German cities also hold festivals on 3 October every year.
A special commemoration of German Unity Day is the so-called “Einheitsflagge” in front of the Reichstag Building in Berlin. The largest official flag of the Federal Republic of Germany was raised on the night of 2 to 3 October 1990.
German Reunification Day 2021
This year, German Reunification Day falls on a Sunday, so there will be no long weekend.