The Berlin International Human Rights Congress (BIHRC)

"Human Rights and Democracy in a Globalized World - Moving Towards an International Consensus"

(Berlin; October 1st - 4th, 2010)

20th Anniversary of German Reunification

From a Divided Country to a Unified Country

As the allied powers gathered at Potsdam in July of 1945 to negotiate the terms that would bring the Second World War to a close, Germany faced an uncertain future. Confronted with the failure of the Nazi regime and shouldering the responsibility for the years of war and genocide that had marked Europe and the world, Germany stood to be partitioned and to have its territory occupied by the powers that had put an end to the bloodshed. Over the next forty-four years, Germany would struggle to rebuild its identity and reconcile itself with its past whilst remaining a divided nation. Ideologically, politically and physically, the barriers that divided Germany over these years would shape the evolution of its post-war identity - an identity that, in 1989, would be given a peaceful revolutionary voice in the declaration of ‘Ein Volk’ and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The building of the Berlin Wall on August 13th 1961 represented the culmination of over a decade of hardening relations between Allied occupied Germany and the territories of the Soviet Union. The first indication of the instability of relations between the East and the West and the genesis of the Cold War had come thirteen years earlier, when the success of the Berlin Blockade proved to the Soviet Union how limited their control was over the segregated zones of the city. August 1961 also saw the Wall claim its first victim – 24-year-old Günter Litfin, shot dead by police whilst trying to cross the boundary.

Over the four decades of the Cold War, the physical division of the city of Berlin came to symbolise the diplomatic and political standoff between East and West. Over the twenty-five years that followed Kennedy’s visit to the city in 1963, the relationship between the Eastern German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany of the West improved slowly. However, it was not until 1987, with President Reagan’s declaration of ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down these walls’, that Western policies towards the Soviet Union began to bear fruit.

The reunification of Germany on October 3rd 1990 marked a new stage in the evolution of Germany’s national identity. It was one based upon repudiation of violence and oppression, conscious of the divisions wrought by the preceding decades, but also determined to move forward in unity.

“From a Divided Country to a Unified Country”: 1945 – 1990 the Path to German Reunification


May 9, 1945 »

The War is Over

more »

July 17- August 2, 1945 »

Potsdam Conference and the future of Germany

more »

June 20, 1948 »

New currency in the West brings prosperity

more »

June 24, 1948 »

The Berlin Blockade

more »

May 23, 1949 »

The Foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany

more »

October 9, 1949 »

The foundation of the second German state, the German Democratic Republic

more »

May 27, 1952 »

The DDR seals its western border

more »

September 10, 1952 »

The Luxemburg Agreement

more »

March 5, 1953 »

Stalin, the Red Dictator dies

more »

June 17, 1953 »

GDR uprisings of discontent

more »

October 23, 1954 »

FDR joins NATO

more »

May 14, 1955 »

The signing of the Warsaw Pact

more »

September 9 - 13, 1956 »

Adenauer's diplomatic talks with the Soviet Union

more »

May 25, 1957 »

The establishment of the EEC

more »

August 13, 1961 »

The Berlin Wall is built

more »

August 22, 1961 »

The first victim of the Wall dies

more »

October 27, 1961 »

The Checkpoint Charlie standoff

more »

June 16, 1963 »

Kennedy and his speech in Berlin

more »

August 21, 1968 »

The Prague Spring Uprising is suppressed

more »

March 19, 1970 »

FDR Chancellor makes a diplomatic visit to the DDR

more »

December 7, 1970 »

Willy Brandt and the Kniefall

more »

December 21, 1972 »

The Basic Treaty and the improvement of diplomatic relations between the two Germanies

more »

June 22, 1974 »

FDR – DDR, 0:1

more »

October 10, 1981 »

Anti-Nuclear demonstrations in Bonn

more »

March 11, 1985 »

Mikhail Gorbachev comes to power

more »

June 12, 1987 »

Reagan's iconic speech

more »

May 2, 1989 »

Hungary opens its border to Austria

more »

May 7, 1989 »

The communal elections farce

more »

September 4, 1989 »

The Monday Demonstrations

more »

September 30, 1989 »

GDR’s days are numbered as they grant exit visas

more »

October 7, 1989 »

40 year anniversary of the DDR

more »

November 9, 1989 »

The fall of the Berlin Wall

more »

July 16, 1990 »

The making of the future at Hunting Lodge

more »

August 23, 1990 »

The vote for reunification

more »

September 12, 1990 »

The 2 + 4 Treaty

more »

October 3, 1990 »

German Reunification Day

more »