1. The reunification of Germany occurred in 1990, when the German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG/West Germany) to form the reunited Germany. The unification process is referred to by Germans as, die Wende (The Turning Point.). When East and West Germany became one, it was referred to as German Unity. Unity Day has been celebrated since the year following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
2. During the reunification, Berlin became one city, instead of a city divided. At the close of World War II, the four main victors of the war: United States, United Kingdom and the Soviet Union divided Berlin four blocks, comprising the Four-Power Authorities. The United States, the United Kingdom and France controlled Western Berlin and the Soviet Union controlled Eastern Berlin. East and West Berlin were separated by the Berlin Wall. When the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany was no longer divided and residents of both regions could move freely across borders.
3. The Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 and separated East Berlin from West Berlin. In fact, the wall separated East Germany from West Germany. The Berlin Wall was built by the Eastern Bloc, in response to the massive emigration that was occurring in East Germany to West Germany. The Eastern Bloc had lost a great deal of its work force to emigration. Those that emigrated were typically young, educated and skilled professionals. The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989, although it had been breached at the Hungarian/Austrian border in the summer of 1989. The focus in West Germany and East Germany was industry, however because the control of businesses was controlled by the State (the Soviet Union) in East Germany, the transition to private-controlled business had its challenges. West and East Germany were separated by the Berlin Wall for over 30 years and their urban differences can still be observed.
4. The Berlin Wall was not built to keep people out, but to keep people in. When we think of walls that are built around cities, we generally think in terms of the wall serving as a barrier to keep outsiders out. However, this was not the case with East Germany. The Berlin Wall only had graffiti on the west side, as those on the east side of the wall could not get close enough to the wall, without being electrocuted or shot.
When the wall was constructed, families were separated. West Germans were able to apply for a permit to visit East Germany. Permit seekers had to apply for the permit to enter East Germany weeks in advance. East Germans were not permitted to travel to West Germany.
5. Helmut Kohl was the first chancellor of the reunified Germany. All-German elections took place two months after East and West Germany reunified. Conservative political parties that supported reunification won this election. This election of December 1990, marked the first free all-German election since the Nazis were still in power. East Germany adopted the West German
6. Following the reunification in 1990, the economy of East Germany collapsed and the economy of West Germany improved some. The crippling cost of reunification and privatizing state-owned businesses sent the East German economy into recession. This further increased social tensions. The western regions of Germany carried the largest burden of cost of reunification. By 1994, the economy improved and Helmut Kohl was re-elected in the national elections. After reunification, Germany joined the European Union and adopted the Euro as their official currency. In 2013, Germany had a balanced budget—their first since reunification. Germany’s economy has grown significantly. It is one of the healthiest economies of Europe, as well as the largest.
7. The Berlin Wall may be down, but you can still see remnants of it. The wall on the East Germany side had a 300 foot area that could not be entered, armed guards, dogs an inner wall and an electric fence. While most of the Berlin Wall and the towers have been dismantled and passage is open, a double row of paving stones can be seen where the former course once stood, in memory of the wall. The Berlin Wall only had graffiti on the East German side. The West German side of the wall did not. You can still see small sections of the wall when walking through Berlin.
8. The reunification of Germany signaled the end of the Cold War. Although the collapse of the Soviet Union would not happen for more than a year later, the fall of the Berlin Wall was an indication of the decline in power of the Eastern Bloc. By the time the Berlin Wall came down, communism had been faltering in other countries, such as Poland. The Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev had begun talks with the U.S. about arms control and had withdrawn their troops in Afghanistan. The Eastern Bloc was in economic crisis and was unable to maintain their communist stronghold on Eastern Europe. Reformation in the Soviet Union was underway!
9. Berlin’s urban re-development was an important part of the reunification process. All open fields, empty lots and spaces where the Berlin Wall had previously occupied. When Germany reunified, East Germany had many urban areas that were in dire need of redevelopment. There were many building that had been destroyed during the bombings of World War II that had not been repaired. Roads were in desperate need of repair and a majority of the railroads had been destroyed after World War II. Housing, business complexes, parks, road and all matters of urban infrastructure were commenced, with the goal of becoming a thriving Western metropolis.
10. Berlin was chosen as the capital of the new, united Germany. It has undergone many renovations and changes since 1990, nevertheless, East and West Germany have retained many of their vast differences of the past. Despite the progress that has been made over the years since reunification, the states in East Germany that were formerly held by the Soviet Union continue to lag behind economically, when compared to their western counterparts—by about a third. Only one in five Western Germans have even been to Eastern Germany! In fact, many Germans living in the east and west believe the other to be very different from themselves. One thing that they can unify on, nevertheless, is the value they place on their freedom to travel.