Choosing October 3 as the Day of German Unity

On August 23, 1990, the first freely elected East German parliament voted on the date for German unification, settling on October 3 after weeks of debate within the governing coalition and an intense debate into the wee hours of the morning.

East German Volkskammer Enlarge image Meeting of the first freely elected East German parliament, the Volkskammer (© picture alliance / ZB) The question by this time was not whether the German Democratic Republic would join the Federal Republic of Germany, but when. One fraction had called for the date to be June 17, choosing what had until 1990 been the Day of German Unity, observed on the anniversary of the 1953 GDR uprising. Others in the government wanted the accession to occur before the first all-German national elections, set for December 2, 1990. Initially, GDR Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière rejected both, believing actual unification should occur after the national elections. However, East Germany’s perilous economic state would make such a later date impossible – it was unlikely that the country would financially survive that long.

After he was unable to get the leaders of the various political factions together to agree on October 14 as the date for accession, de Maizière finally called for a special session of the Volkskammer on August 22, 1990, beginning at 9 p.m. Meeting in the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin, legislators would debate over the proposal of the German Social Union (DSU) for immediate accession and of de Maizière’s own governing coalition for October 14. The SPD was endorsing still another date, September 15.

Lothar de Maizière Enlarge image Lothar de Maizière, last Prime Minister of the German Democratic Republic, in 1990 (© picture-alliance / dpa) During the debate the head of the CDU faction indicated his party would be willing to consider October 3 as the earliest possible date for unification. The foreign ministers of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe were meeting on October 1 and 2 in New York, where they would be formally informed of the agreements in the all-important 2+4 Treaty (Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany).

Eventually, the party faction heads agree on a joint amendment to make October 3, 1990, the date for the German unification.

Gregor Gysi, head of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), successor to the East German communist party, takes issue with the seeming confusing rush to settle on a date for what would be the end of the German Democratic Republic:

“Madame President! The parliament has just agreed on nothing more and nothing less than the demise of the German Democratic Republic on October 3, 1990,” he said at the podium in the Volskammer. “I regret that the passage of the resolution occurred in herky-jerky fashion via an amendment and not in a worthy form without campaign tactics; then the GDR, however it will be judged historically, was for each of us—with very different experiences—life until now.” 

Helmut Kohl in Bonn Enlarge image Helmut Kohl speaks at the special session of the Bundestag in Bonn on August 23, 1990. (© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government; Reineke) Later that same day in a special session of the Bundestag in Bonn to agree on the same date, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl welcomed the Volkskammer decision. “Today is a day of joy for all Germans.”

Choosing October 3

Palace of the Republic inEast Berlin