The day of German unity 1990-2005
: redefining the past, present and future

  • Charlotte Susannah Ball

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This is an original study analysing the staging of the German national holiday - the Day of German Unity - commemorating the accession of the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany on 3rd October 1990. By examining the mise-en-scéne and rhetoric of the unity commemorations, it highlights the way in which political actors attempted to redefine ideas about united Germany's past, present and future from 1990 to 2005. Adopting the innovative approach of the cultural history of politics - which understands representations such as national holidays as key mechanisms that not only reflect but also have the potential to influence agendas and discourses - the thesis is based on extensive research of German, French and British newspaper articles, televised reporting, speeches, organisational documents, Bundestag debates and structured interviews with Day of Unity organisers. The study concludes that the Day of Unity functioned as a stage on which political actors attempted to present a specific image of Germany, to redefine Germany's 'official' interpretation of the National Socialist and German Democratic Republic pasts and to improve intra-German relations. Furthermore, it contends that the German national holiday was staged to some extent as a postnational event: on the one hand, through emphasis at the unity celebrations on sub-national (regional) aspects; on the other hand, through manifestations of supra-national aspects visible in the 'EU-isation' of the event, that is to say, through an emphasis on the European Union in the staging and in the prioritisation of bilateral relations. The thesis relates to a number of theoretical debates including Benedict Anderson's understanding of nations as 'imagined communities', Eric Hobsbawrn and Terence Ranger's study of the 'invention of tradition', Rogers Brubaker's work on civic and ethnic nationalism, Maurice Halbwachs concept of 'collective memory', Jan and Aleida Assmann's concepts of 'cultural memory' and 'communicative memory' and Edgar Wolfrum's work on Geschichtspolitik. The research also contributes to the debate about the resilience and transformation of the nation-state in a phase of Europeanisation and globalisation.
    Date of Award5 May 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorWolfram Kaiser (Supervisor)

    Cite this