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Unity Day in Germany

October 7, 2015
by
A monument commemorating the day that the Berlin Wall was built.

A monument commemorating the day that the Berlin Wall was built

A segment of the Berlin wall from the 1990's

A segment of the Berlin Wall with graffiti

On October 3, 1990 Germany officially became a united country for the first time since the end of World War II. On Saturday, October 3, 2015, I was fortunate enough to be in Berlin for the 25 year anniversary of this momentous occasion.

Amy Waggoner a student in the research program at the Free University of Berlin during Unity Day celebrations

Amy Waggoner, an MA candidate in the Institute for European Studies, currently doing research for her thesis at the Free University of Berlin. Here she is in front of the Brandenburg Gates during the Unity Day celebrations.

In the southwestern section of Berlin, where I now reside, there was little indication anything special was going on in the city. Cars meandered along both sides of Potsdamer Chausse as usual, interrupted by the occasional person crossing to the bus stop or grocery store. The air was a crisp temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, and the sun had almost tucked itself in for the night by the time I was ready to make my way downtown. I was slightly disappointed as I rode towards the celebration, as it seemed no one save me was excited for this special day. But that all changed when I stepped off the U-bahn at my last stop and surfaced at Potsdamer Platz—people by the thousands flanked the streets, waving Unity flags and shouting “Wir sind Eins!” Cars zipped along the street, drivers honking and waving as if on display themselves. As I walked towards the Brandenburger Tor, I was delighted to see it rimmed in a spectacular light show, complete with lasers and loudspeakers booming the voices of popular German musical acts one by one.

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I was proud to see so many people taking pride in modern Germany; one of unanimity and autonomy, one with no walls or fences forcing das Volk into submission. Joy could be found everywhere—on the faces of both parents and children as they prudently selected the best floating duck, in the movements of the German folk dancer as she whirled her flag-inspired skirt. Even Superman turned out for the event, signing autographs and posing for pictures with anyone who desired his time. Young and old blended seamlessly together in this celebration, as I witnessed exclamations of “Cotton candy!” and cheers of “Prost!” time and again throughout the night.

The Brandenburg Gate, lit up for the Unity Day celebration

The Brandenburg Gate, lit up for the Unity Day celebration

Jumbotrons were set up at various points along the mile long festival so one could view the musical acts with ease, with the screens alternating to Dance Revolution anime figures from time to time. Many people danced along, either with full body movement or the tapping of feet, to a blend of 90s to modern pop music. A favorite of the entire crowd was “99 Luft Balloons”—the audience literally roared with happiness as the first strains of the song came over the loudspeakers.

As I made my way back to the U-bahn station, ice cream cone in hand along with a festival souvenir, I watched the display of fireworks shower the night sky over the Gate while listening to the crowd sing the German national anthem, das Deutschlandlied. As someone who is old enough to remember watching images of the original Unity Day on television, I considered myself incredibly blessed to have witnessed the silver anniversary of the event. It is a day, and an experience, I will never forget.

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All photos were taken by, Amy Waggoner, the author of the blog post.

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