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Germany: Reunification Party Without Selfie Sticks

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Twenty-eight years ago, the Berlin Wall fell. It lasted for the same period of time, 28 years, from August 13th, 1961, to November 9th, 1989. On October 3rd, 1990 the reunification process was finalized. This is what the Germans are celebrating on Unification Day.

This time, Berlin organized the main celebration. Days before the big event, the city prepared the area around Brandenburg Gate and the Chancellery. Countless little huts were set up, in which every German province will present itself, with culinary surprises and culture.

Stickers with the names of hundreds of German communities were stuck to the sidewalks and paths between Berlin Central Station and Brandenburg Gate, throughout the entire festival area. The latter is accessible through official entry points only, for security reasons.

The stage at Brandenburg Gate was set up days in advance. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Exhibitions are part of the reunification festivities too. ‘What did you purchase with the welcome money?’ is the title of one of them. Between 1970 and the end of the GDR in 1989, all Eastern German visitors in Western Germany received 100 Deutschmarks each. The exhibition tells the story of the ‘welcome money’ which Western Germany distributed.

Another exhibition shows what happened in Berlin between the fall of the Wall and the actual reunification. Also the representations of several German provinces will open their doors for visitors. Sports activities will be offered as well.

While some visitors will test their Karaoke abilities inside a tent reserved for that purpose, others will debate subjects like ‘Living in the GDR’ or ‘What Kind of Mentality does the East Have?’

Then of course there is a big stage in the center of it all, behind Brandenburg Gate. On Wednesday, countless German bands will perform here, including Namika, Philipp Poisel, Same Deluxe, Meute and one of the few German Pop music artists who used to be famous even in America, Nena. She will sing her song ’99 Red Balloons’, no doubt.

According to the Berlin Senate, which prepared the big party, the festivities on ‘Unification Day’ are supposed to celebrate coherence, freedom, diversity and democracy. Especially during these times during which the latter is under attack from different directions, this sounds convincing to many.

“The big success of November 9th, 1989, should give us the courage we need for the situation we are in”, Berlin’s Mayor Michael Müller told German-language media. He mainly meant the rise of right-wing populists throughout Europe and radicals in Germany.

“We will only cope with the challenges of the present and future by working together” Müller said. “It’s just like the unification 28 years ago”, which Germans had brought about by cooperating.

The big Unification Day party, which starts today, will cost a total of 6 million Euro. Berlin will pay 4.5 million while the state is supposed to cover the rest.

Security is already tight in the center of Berlin. Thousands of police officers will be on duty in order to prevent outburst of violence. One of the problems is the fact that there will be protests on the streets of Berlin during the festivities. Radical right-wingers will stage a march, and left-wingers intend to “disturb” that event.

At all entry points to the official Unification festivities, everyone will be searched. Bags larger than a regular letterhead sheet are forbidden. The same applies to glass bottles, umbrellas and even selfie sticks, since those items could be used as weapons, according to Berlin’s police command. Bicycles, Segways and skateboards are taboos as well.

Additional events for high-ranking Berlin politicians around the party area is another security nightmare for the police. They will have to secure everything simultaneously. And they will have to do so in the rain. Because of bad weather, only few visitors entered the premises reserved for the festivities on Tuesday.

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