Image: Riot police in Bremen, Germany
Johannes Eisele  /  AFP - Getty Images
Riot police officers walk past during a demonstration against the reunification celebrations Saturday in the northern German city of Bremen as the country prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the reunification of its western and eastern parts Sunday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/2/2010 7:45:05 PM ET 2010-10-02T23:45:05

Germans kicked off festivities Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of reunification, which is Sunday.

The northern port city of Bremen leads celebrations this year, Deutsche Welle radio reported.

"Today, we remember the brave citizens who fought for freedom," said Bremen Mayor Jens Boehrnsen, who is also president of the German parliament's upper house, Deutsche Welle reported. "That's why we're celebrating today with a citizens' festival," Boehrnsen said Saturday as he kicked off festivities.

The city has been turned into a venue for concerts, street parties, parades, politicians' appearances and displays representing all 16 German states, Deutsche Welle said.

However, thousands of protesters marched ahead of festivities Saturday.

About 20 percent of Germans don't remember reunification because they were born after 1990, Deutsche Welle noted.

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It explained the holiday:

On October 3, 1990, Germany was officially reunified after four decades of division into the Soviet-controlled communist German Democratic Republic in the east and the Federal Republic of Germany in the west.

The Berlin Wall had fallen just 11 months earlier when Germans celebrated their reunited status in front of the Bundestag, or parliament, in Berlin.

October 3 has been a public holiday since.

Deutsche Welle said a version of the Berlin Wall was erected in Bremen market square to display images and texts showing the story of the country's division and reunification. Festivities include fireworks and a concert Saturday night.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Christian Wulff plan speeches on Sunday.

In her weekly video address, Merkel urged Germans to value the freedom and democracy reunification brought to eastern Germany and not just complain about the costs, Deutsche Welle said.

"For people from the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) almost everything has changed," she said, noting the "wave of solidarity" from the former West Germany, Deutsche Welle quoted her. "It's thanks to these joint efforts that we've been able to rebuild so quickly," she added.

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