BERLIN • Until Nov 9, 1989, East and West Germany had been separated for 40 years, and generations had grown up with the belief that unification would be out of the question during their lifetimes.
Created in 1949, the Western and the Eastern parts of Germany were both firmly anchored in their respective political and military blocs. East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic (GDR), belonged to Moscow's sphere of influence while the Western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was under Washington's umbrella. During the Cold War, this was cemented in a way that any change was seen as impossible. Whenever there was unrest in one of the countries of the Eastern bloc, it was quelled using force: East Berlin in 1953, Budapest in 1956, Prague in 1968 and Poland in 1981.