German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Saturday paid tribute to the courage of protesters who led the peaceful revolution that paved the way for the reunification of East and West Germany 30 years ago.
Commemorations to mark German Unity Day were held in the city of Potsdam, about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) southwest of Berlin. Such a momentous anniversary would usually be met with fervor, but this year’s festivities have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We look back with gratitude at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a new era,” Steinmeier said in a keynote speech at the official ceremony. “Today we live in the best Germany that has ever existed.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a similar tone, saying “We have to be brave again today.”
“Courageous enough to break new ground in the face of a pandemic, courageous enough to really overcome the differences that still exist between East and West, but also courageous enough to continually demand the cohesion of our entire society and work towards it.”
Steinmeier called for safeguarding democracy and freedom, noting that some groups in Germany are beginning to question these values.
“According to the president, the division in Germany is no longer just between the eastern and western parts of Germany; it is becoming more mainstream between people who believe in democracy and those who question it,” said Nina Haase, DW’s political correspondent in Berlin.
The president used anti-lockdown protests as an example of displeasure among some parts of the German society.
“A vast majority of anti-coronavirus protesters are peaceful but there are fringe groups that have tried to hijack this movement. Some of them are considered neo-Nazis or right-wing extremists,” Haase said.
The main proceedings took place with far less fanfare than usual in order to keep the number of attendees down while maintaining social distance measures. A morning ecumenical service at Potsdam’s Church of St. Peter and Paul was also scaled down, along with similar religious and musical events all over the country, many of which were livestreamed.
Read more via DW