What is Tag der Deutschen Einheit?
Tag der Deutschen Einheit is “Day of German Unity”, which is essentially Germany’s version of the 4th of July. It is the day that they celebrate being German and being one united German people. How did this celebration get started? Was it always the 3rd of October? Why isn’t it on the day that the Berlin Wall fell? All this and more can be answered in this week’s lesson. Below you can find an English explanation of the holiday and history.
Tag der Deutschen Einheit is the national holiday of Germany and celebrates the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, when the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR) formally and politically became one country.
The 1st German Reich & the 1st Tag der Deutschen Einheit
Before 1871 there wasn’t really a Germany. There was a loose collection of independent nations and regions. They sort of got along with each other sometimes, but occasionally they fought wars against each other. The Germans finally decided to get together when they had a common enemy that they could all agree needed to be disposed of. Napoleon III (not the one you are thinking of) attempted to take over the independent nations and regions and this resulted in the Franco-Prussian war.
When the war was over, the Germans decided it was a good security policy to continue to work together as one nation and so they formed the First German Empire (das erste deutsche Reich). During the 1st German Reich there wasn’t really an official national holiday, but a lot of people celebrated it on Sedantag (September 4), which was when the French surrendered in the battle of Sedan, which was basically the end of the Franco-Prussian War even though it lasted for another 5 months. One might consider this to be the first Tag der Deutschen Einheit, as it celebrated Germany being unified as one nation, but that is not what modern Germany celebrates.
The 2nd German Reich
When the 1st German Reich evolved into the Weimar Republic it didn’t really change the name from “Deutsches Reich”, but it was under different management, which is why this “Reich” is considered the 2nd one. During this time, the Germans celebrated their national holiday on August 11, because that’s when the president signed the constitution.
The 3rd Reich
Obviously, a lot changed in 1933 when Hitler came into power. One of the things that changed was the national holiday. Between 1933 and 1945 the national holiday was celebrated on May 1st, which was (and still is) technically the German version of Labor Day. It was meant to celebrate the hard work of the German people.
Post World War II Germany
After World War II things got messy. Between 1945 and 1949 there wasn’t really a nation that could celebrate as a German nation. It wasn’t until both East and West Germany had been officially and bureaucratically established that they could have a national holiday. After that the East Germans celebrated on October 7th and the West Germans celebrated on June 17th.
Fall of the Berlin Wall vs Tag der Deutschen Einheit
Most Americans that I know think that the Day of German Unity is on November 9th, because the Berlin Wall fell then and that is what they remember as the day that Germany became one again, but this is not the case. The official Day of German Unity in modern Germany is October 3rd, because that is the day in 1990 that East and West Germany bureaucratically became one.
The 9th of November couldn’t be the national holiday, because Hitler was Hitler and he did Hitler-things on the 9th of November. This includes his first attempt to take over Germany in 1923, the founding of the SS in 1925 and Kristallnacht in 1938. I guess he really wanted to make sure that the Germans couldn’t celebrate anything on November 9th so he ruined the day 3 times.