While Germany is busy celebrating twenty years as a unified country, some are critical of the reunification process. But DW's Marc Koch believes November 9th deserves to be made into a national holiday.
People should celebrate reunification, not critique it
It is a day of evocative pictures and touching accounts, and of pathos and platitudes as well. Yet more than anything, November 9th, 1989, was the most auspicious day in modern German and European history.
Not only did it symbolize the end of an ailing and unjust system, and the reunification of a country after 40 years of division, it was also the day on which everyone could experience the long-evoked values of unity, justice and freedom. A moment of triumph in which society could celebrate itself.
Thanks to the citizens of the GDR
But twenty years later, it is important to remember that it was neither the West nor politicians who made this day possible. It was citizens of the GDR who, on the dismal streets of their walled-in state, asked for nothing more than their rights.
The fact that weeks of peaceful protest led to the collapse of the concrete and barbed wire barrier affirms the place of democratic constitutional history, and the values upon which it rests. And all those who are critical of the state of unified Germany - or who rant about the supposed eastern economic collapse, or who waste their right to a free and secret democratic ballot by handing their vote to parties in favor of a return to Socialist experiments - should remember that today.
Bumps on the road
Naturally, there have been hiccups during these past twenty years of unification. Hasty promises could not be kept. The shock- therapy-style introduction of a social market economy into the ruins of the former GDR was an extremely painful experience for many people. But it was the only way forward, because ultimately the East German revolution not only fundamentally changed a country, but a complete world order.
November 9, 1989 marked the end of a 44-year era which, for all the threat of an international East-West conflict, was also a time of ease. The fact that the world is now more complex, less clear and in need of greater explanation than ever before, is directly related to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And for that reason, it is not only historic foolishness to look back to the olden days with sadness, but also an insult to all those whose activities brought the wall down.
Twenty years later, it is undoubtedly too soon for a truly pan-German perception of this event. Perhaps that is why two crucial elements are often missing from the countless memorial ceremonies, commentaries and documentaries: They are the joy and the pride which surrounded this dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime moment that saw people from East and West weeping with emotion and disbelief as they embraced one another, long before the reunification process became the domain of politics and economics.
Beacon for the wider world
This November 9, 1989, which came so unexpectedly, proves still now that even the best thought-out repressionist regime can collapse - and that goes for Cuba, Iran and North Korea. As such, it is not only a fortunate day for Germany. To finally declare it a national German holiday would not only be of political importance, but would also send the right historical signal.
Marc Koch is the Editor in Chief of DW-World/DW-Radio (tkw)
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn