During the German reunification, the German Democratic Republic (GDR/DDR) (also known as East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany or FRG/BRD). The reunification of Germany is celebrated on October 3rd as “German Unification Day“ (Tag der deutschen Einheit).
In May 1989, the removal of Hungarys border fence with Austria created a gap in the Iron Curtain. This caused thousands of East Germans to flee to West Germany via Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria.
In addition to that thousands of East Germans had been protesting many cities in East Germany for more freedom and democracy. This forced the East German goverment to pass a new law regarding travel beyond the Iron Curtain into non-socialist states. The law was passed on November 9th 1989.
It was supposed to come into effect a few days later. The general secretary of East Germany Egon Krenz handed a note about the new travel law to the press officer Günther Schabowski. The note did not include the date on which it was supposed to come into effect. When Schabowski was asked when the law should come into effect, he said: „As far as I know… immediately, right now.“
The message quickly spread across Europe and Germany. Soon thousands of East Germans gathered at the border. The soldiers guarding the border did not know anything about the new travel law to non-socialist states. However, the mass of people overwhelmed the guards and the gates were opened.
This wasn‘t the entire end of East Germany. It continued to exist until it joined the Federal Republic of Germany on October 3rd 1990.
One year later, in December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed thus ending the Cold War era.
Keiran L., 9b