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Germany: Federal Republic Turns 60

  • May 27th, 2009
  • Posted by EUEditor

brandenburg-night-sxc-cut.jpg“We are celebrating freedom, unity, democracy,” said the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, joining hundreds of thousands who commemorated the 60th anniversary on the weekend (23.5.09), of the Federal Republic of Germany.


In Berlin crowd estimates ran up to 500 000 as citizens joined a street party, around the Brandenburg Gate, enjoying a patriotic mood that has most lately shown itself when mighty football contests are under way.

football-2008-cologne-crowd-in-street.jpgThere is a slight amount of sleight-of-hand to be noticed with this anniversary.


When the republic was proclaimed in 1949, five of the Lander, the states, were missing from the federation, being under Soviet occupation behind the newly-erected “Iron Curtain”.

Negotiators on the communist side had been persisting with their proposals for an all-German “democratic republic”; but the Western allies, not finding that a palatable model, funded economic reconstruction under the Marshal Plan, backed a new currency to go with it (the late, loved Deutschmark), and recognised the federal state -  “West Germany” with its capital at Bonn.

berlin-wallmarswnecedu.jpgEast of the “internal frontier” the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) was then set up, at first on the declared principle of working towards reunification, and in its later years being declared an enduring separate state.

At Bonn the seeming phantom constitution was maintained – an all-German republic to which, by simple vote of their peoples, the five Eastern Lander could easily accede.


Fortieth anniversary celebrations in Bonn, in that fateful year 1989, were extremely low-key.

Five months later however, an attempt at celebrations for the GDR, the “other” German republic, at East Berlin, broke down in shambles – rioting, mass marches, a Trabant-borne exodus out of the country through Hungary to the West.

In a little over five weeks the Berlin Wall would come down (9.11.09); citizens in the East did vote to join the wining side, and on 3.10.09, in the Berlin Tiergarten, crowds cheered the formal reunification of Germany, amid much waving of national and EU flags.

The federal republic model turned out to be helpful for putting through a major legal change; lingering differences among people – the much talked-of “Wall in the mind” – stand to continue a while longer.

 Reference: Simon Sturdee, “Celebrations as Germany turns 60”, 24.5.09, AFP.

Pictures: Brandenburg gate; Cologne football crowd, celebrating a victory, against Turkey, 2007; Berlin wall, 1960s.