East Germany’s economy was facing inevitable collapse – as the results of what is known as the Two-plus-Four treaty were announced at 2:30 am on August 23, 1990 settling the negotiations between East and West Germany, a unified sovereign state was declared. On October 3, Germans and especially Berliners celebrated German Unity Day for the first time – with German flags in the air, music, rejoicing, and perhaps a drink, or two. 

Many East Germans already had a taste of life in the West as the first punctures to the Iron Curtain were seen in 1989 with the removal of Hungary’s border fence with Austria in June, and with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, allowing an exodus of thousands from East to West Germany. Free elections in the GDR (German Democratic Republic aka East Germany) were sparked by a series of protests by East Germans, eventually bringing on the unification process. By October 1990, Germany was unified. While some opposed unification, nostalgic of a German-Soviet culture that was now a thing of the past, the first German Unity Day shook Berlin on October 3, 1990 as a national celebration was born. 

In celebrating German Unity Day, take a look at IMAGO’s archives from a time when it was still fresh, and maybe even hard to believe. 

See IMAGO’s curated archive collection on German Unity Day.