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Twenty Years Of A Unified Germany

Fireworks illuminate the Reichstag building and the sky above during a reception marking the 20th anniversary of Germany's reunification in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. Germany's post-World War II division ende

At zero hour Central European Time, October 3rd, 1990, Germany once again became one country.

For nearly half of the twentieth century, Germany existed as 2 countries; a land and people divided by ideology, barbed wire and political alliances on opposite sides of the Cold War. On October 3rd, we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Germany's reunification into a single entity.

After World War II ended in 1945, the 4 nations that were instrumental in defeating Nazi Germany: the United States, France, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, split the country into four administrative sectors.

But over the next few years, as tensions grew between the former allies, Germany became a poster-child for the political realities of post-World War II Europe. The three Western powers merged their sectors into one entity, but the Soviet Union began to isolate its sector and the people who lived within it. By 1949, Germany had split into 2 countries: the Federal Republic of Germany, also known as West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany.

Movement between the 2 new countries became increasingly difficult, and inasmuch as life was easier in the West, as many as 3.5 million East Germans, at least half of them the country's best educated people, left for West Germany.

On August 13th, 1961, the East German police and units of the East German army sealed the last crack: the border dividing the city of Berlin into 2 sectors. Over time, they would build a concrete wall 3.6 meters high and 1.2 meters wide -- a nearly literal iron curtain that would be the most visible symbol of the Cold War.

On November 9, 1989, under pressure from its restive population, the East German government partially opened the border in Berlin. A flood of East Germans rushed to West Berlin, and the Berlin Wall began to come down. And as the Wall crumbled, so did the physical and political barriers that had, for over 40 years, artificially split a nation and its people. Less than one year later, on August 31st, 1990, the 2 German states signed a reunification treaty.

At zero hour Central European Time, October 3rd, 1990, Germany once again became one country. The German family was reunited.