Wednesday, October 2, 2013

German Unity Day: The Languages Of Germany, Part 1

In preparation for German Unity Day, the day honouring the unification of West Germany and East Germany in 1990, we're going to be looking briefly at the history prior to this event. On Friday we'll be looking at the languages spoken in Europe's most populous country.

US tanks face-to-face with Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie
during the Berlin Crisis.
Following the Nazi defeat in Germany during WWII, Allied Forces occupied a large portion of Western Germany. The US held Bavaria and Hesse in the south, France held a portion of the regions in the southwest and the British Zone of Occupation was in the northwest. The remaining regions were occupied by Soviet forces and from 1945-1949 Germany would remain divided between the Allies and the Soviet forces, exacerbating tensions between the West and the Soviet  Union.

From 1949 the American, French, and British zones of occupation were unified as what was known as West Germany or the Federal Republic of Germany. The Soviet Zone of Occupation would become East Germany or the German Democratic Republic.

The German capital, Berlin, was divided between the four nations, with East Berlin held by Soviets and the western parts of the city under the occupation of Allied forces split between the US, the UK, and France. Though Berlin's location meant that it was entirely within the Soviet Zone, it was never considered wholly as part of East Germany.

The Brandenburg Gate, 13 August 1961.
The day the Berlin Wall was erected.
From 1949 to 1990, Germany and Berlin remained divided thus. The erection of the Berlin Wall, which started in 1961, put great strain on the relations between both East Germany and West Germany, not to mention between the West and the Soviet Union.

The Berlin wall spanned 155 kilometres (96 miles) along the border of East and West Berlin. The wall effectively stopped all immigration from East Germany to West Germany until 1989 when, though the physical wall still stood, East Germans were allowed to pass into both West Berlin and West Germany.

The German people began chipping away parts of the wall and eventually, in 1990, the physical wall began to be torn down. Amidst the fall of one of the world's most fierce representations of separation and isolation between the West and the East, the movement for German reunification gained great momentum.

As you know, the reunification of East and West Germany was formalised on 3 October 1990. We'll be back on Friday with our look at the languages of Germany.

Part 1 | Part 2