Berlin hosted this year's celebrations for the Day of German Unity. Tens of thousands of people enjoyed themselves at the civic festival, there were serious words at the service and the ceremony, and there were demonstrations. Typical Berlin.
In the end, the weather played along after all. At the same time, at the beginning of the festivities for the 28. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of German unity in Berlin, the sky still looks as if it reflects the mental state of the country.
Dark clouds hung over the city, rain fell and the wind blew coldly around the corners as politicians and society gathered for an ecumenical service in Berlin Cathedral to kick off the festivities.
Words of admonition from the bishop
In front of the prominently occupied pews with the Federal President, the Federal Chancellor and many state prime ministers, the two Berlin bishops found serious words. "A society that is not capable of learning freezes and solidifies," warned Catholic Archbishop Heiner Koch. Learning progress is often initiated and accompanied by people and communities that do not belong to the circles we are familiar with.
The Protestant Bishop of Berlin, Markus Droge, warned against the "centrifugal forces that want to drive our society apart". Unity therefore means not only the unity of East and West, but also the social unity of the country. "Only if we take everyone along with us will we secure social peace in our country," Droge warned.
Political appeals for the preservation of democracy
At the official ceremony that followed in the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the two speakers, Bundesrat President Michael Muller (SPD) and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble (CDU), also made an urgent appeal to defend the basic democratic values of our society. Berlin's head of government said that racism and misanthropy should have no place in society.
It is time to openly and loudly stand up for our basic values. "In our country, no one has to run with right-wing populists or right-wing extremists in order to express criticism," Muller said to great applause. Muller also reminded the audience of the "wounds" that the post-reunification period had inflicted on many East Germans.
Germany's success is based on the renunciation of violence, freedom of opinion, tolerance and mutual respect, Schauble emphasized. No one has the right to claim that he alone represents "the people," the CDU politician emphasized, and also received great applause for this. Immigration also makes society more colorful and confusing today, he said. This makes rules even more important.
However, he said, a person's origin "must not be misused to belittle someone. We must intervene decisively."If necessary, with the rigor of the rule of law, said Schauble.
Great civic festival
As if the serious words were enough, at the end of the ceremony the sky cleared and the sun shone. And Berlin began the light-hearted part of this holiday. Tens of thousands flocked to the festival grounds of the Burgerfest in the government district, where music, information, bratwurst and beer were offered.
Between the tents of the federal states, the cover music group Sang- und Klanglos from Selfkant in North Rhine-Westphalia provided the best mood music, on the big stage the Maxim Gorki Theater from Berlin showed an impressive performance about the Basic Law. In the evening, there was a big closing concert with, among others, Nena and Samy Deluxe.
Meanwhile, a kilometer away as the crow flies, right-wingers gathered at the main train station to mark the day in their own way with Prussian flags, "Merkel must go" banners and singing the first verse of the Germany song. About 1.000 people came, including many hooligans and NPD cadres.
But Berlin wouldn't be Berlin if it didn't stand up to it. Residents, unions, churches and artists had organized counter-rallies, also here came over 1.000 people. "You are not welcome here," was the clear message.