Germany has been reunited for 30 years. Despite the Corona crisis, many politicians paid tribute to the historic event, especially Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Nothing came of the once planned central unit party of hundreds of thousands – because of Corona. The party is still going on, but with distance and mouth and nose protection. Potsdam rethinks what East and West have achieved together. There are many thoughtful notes.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to the cohesion of the Germans on the 30th anniversary of the unification. “In these Corona times, our country is showing that we stand together, that we are strong and act responsibly,” Steinmeier said at the central unification ceremony in Potsdam on Saturday.
Memorial to the Peaceful Revolution?
“Yes, today we live in the best Germany that has ever existed,” said the Federal President, thanking everyone who contributed to it. The day of unity is a moment of joy, remembrance, and encouragement. Germany has found its way to a reunited, free and democratic country in the middle of Europe. “No pandemic can stop us from being proud of it.” Because of the virus, the central celebration this time took place under special circumstances: smaller than normal and with mask and distance.
Steinmeier proposed a memorial to the peaceful revolution in the GDR. This was to remind us that the East Germans took their fate into their own hands and set themselves free. Germany is nowhere near as far as it should be. “But at the same time we are much further than we think.” The revolution hit the East Germans much harder than the West Germans. It was underestimated how long-lasting disadvantages could be.
“If people feel permanently withdrawn, if their point of view does not appear in the political debate, if they lose faith in their own creative power, then we should not remain indifferent,” Steinmeier warned. “Then the cohesion crumbles, then the mistrust in politics increases, then the breeding ground for populism and extremist parties grows.”
“Must be brave again today”
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) called on the people of Potsdam for courage. “We know we have to be brave again today,” said the Chancellor. “Courageous to break new ground in the face of a pandemic, courageous to truly overcome the remaining differences between East and West, but also courageous to repeatedly claim and work for the cohesion of our entire society.”
It was brave people in the GDR who started the peaceful revolution in 1989. West Germans also had the courage to walk the path of unity. The German partners were brave to trust Germany. It is a pleasure to celebrate the anniversary in peace and freedom, Merkel said. The unit was “generally” successful.
Steinmeier and Merkel had previously participated in an ecumenical service at the start of the celebrations in the capital of Brandenburg – with mouth and nose protection. Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble and Federal Constitutional Court President Stephan Harbarth were also in attendance. Due to the pandemic, the number of visitors was limited. Under the motto “We together”, Brandenburg was the host, as the state is currently president of the Federal Council.
“You can learn a lot from the East”
During the ceremony, Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke called on East Germany to be a role model. “You can learn a lot from the East,” said the SPD politician. “Confident women’s policies, company kindergartens or outpatient clinics such as health centers are just a few examples.” This is the normal standard of living for a new generation across Germany. “We older East Germans are now confident enough to just be proud of it.”
In parts of the inner city of Potsdam, the wearing of a mouth and nose protector was ordered, including in the area of the “Unity Expo”. There, the federal states and constitutional bodies present themselves in glass pavilions. The police wanted to be present on the unity day with about 2,500 officers. In front of the Metropolishalle, where the ceremony took place, about 200 employees from the Schaeffler factory in Luckenwalde demonstrated – the automotive and industrial supplier wants to cut jobs.
During the service, the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesia Upper Lusatia, Christian Stäblein and the Catholic Archbishop of Berlin Heiner Koch called on people to support and respect each other.
Söder criticizes the AfD
The reunited Germany is in good shape with all the current challenges, said the President of the Federal Constitutional Court Harbarth of the “Passauer Neue Presse”. No generation had lived so long in peace.
Despite conflicts and problems, German satisfaction has increased significantly in some cases, according to a new survey. In terms of income, East Germans in particular are happier than 30 years ago, and slightly less in West Germany. This is evident from the evaluation of representative surveys from 1991 and 2020 conducted by the German Insurance Association (GDV).
The reunification was commemorated in many places in Germany on Saturday. For the Prime Minister of Bavaria, Markus Söder, it is a historic gift. “German unity is primarily due to the population of the former GDR,” said the CSU leader during a meeting with Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) at the former inner German border near Weischlitz. At an online Union “Germany Festival”, Söder criticized the AfD en masse. “Breaking down democratic culture” is a great danger.