Happy 20th Anniversary Germany!
Thousands took to the streets and festivities took place around Germany to mark the 20th anniversary of its reunification. President Christian Wulff used the occasion to call for greater integration and tolerance, particularly for the large population of Turkish Muslims living within the country’s borders. At the main anniversary event in Bremen, Wulff noted that “a new self-confidence has grown in all of Germany, an uninhibited patriotism, an open commitment to our country, which is aware of its great responsibility for the past.” He warned against continuing prejudice and exclusion of immigrants before declaring, “There is no doubt that Christianity belongs to Germany; there is no doubt that Judaism belongs to Germany … but Islam now also belongs to Germany.” Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union at the time of German reunification, also spoke at an event in Frankfurt, highlighting the role of Russia’s acceptance of German unity in 1990.
Others marked the reunification in their own unique ways – 24-year old Jens Stober, a media design student at Karlsruhe University in southwestern Germany, developed a computer game to commemorate the event. The game, entitled “1378 km” (the length of the former border fortifications between East and West Germany) requires players to shoot at East Germans making attempts to cross the border. The game has inevitably elicited a variety of reactions, ranging from those who see it as a valuable history lesson to those who attack it for being insensitive and in poor taste.
Many lives have been deeply affected by the change which took place in this remarkable nation. I myself was born 24 years ago in “West Germany”. 22 years ago, my dad held me outside a Berlin church that had gotten stuck in the no man’s land between the East and the West. During my most recent trip to Berlin in 2007, I stayed in a hostel in former East Germany in between my visits to Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate. It still boggles my mind that these landmark transformations have occurred in my relatively short lifetime.
Alles Gute zum Jahrestag, reunified Germany. Many happy returns.