Every October 3rd, Germany celebrates Unity Day, marking the peaceful unification that took place in Germany back in 1990 when the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). It was an emotional time for people all around the world, but especially for those who had been separated from loved ones by the Berlin Wall.
US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement to commemorate the 24th anniversary, and in it revealed some personal stories of his own experiences growing up in Germany when his father “served in Berlin as a Foreign Service Officer after World War II”. As a 12-year-old boy, Kerry picked up on the struggles of those living in the East Sector, leaving a lasting impression on what happens when there is such a divided nation.
We’ve included his full statement below for you to read:
On the Occasion of Germany’s National Day
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate the people of Germany as you celebrate your Day of Unity.
This day holds a particularly special meaning for me. When my father served in Berlin as a Foreign Service Officer after World War II, I used to ride my bike all around the city. I would ride along the lakes, up and down the Kurfurstendamm, past the burned-out Reichstag. The War was still fresh on people’s minds.
I’ll never forget, as a 12-year-old boy, riding into the East Sector and seeing men and women with their heads turned down. There was no joy on those streets, but what I saw left a lasting impression on me. I saw a city deeply polarized, a people divided, a country rent by war.
I also learned an important lesson about the virtues of democracy and the binding ties that unite a people yearning to be free.
Following years of struggle, the German people made an historic choice that set their country on the path of unity. Today we celebrate the vision and courage of Germany’s leadership over the past two decades. We reflect on the fundamental values that we share, and we reaffirm our commitment to work together for a more peaceful, prosperous and secure world.
German unity is a model for nations that are struggling with political and social divisions, and we are especially grateful for your close cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa. Germany is also our largest trading partner in Europe, and we look forward to even more trade and investment that will create jobs – jobs for Germans, jobs for Americans, and jobs for all Europeans.
In the spirit of our partnership and the deep bonds of affection between our peoples, I wish you continued prosperity and a joyful Day of Unity.
Sources: US Department of State
Photo: State Department / Public Domain