Friday, August 30, 2019

Revolution in Leipzig

When people think of the fall of the wall, Berlin usually comes to mind. But one of the most important triggers of change occurred in the East German city of Leipzig - home of the Monday demonstrations, a series of peaceful protests that called for fundamental human rights and the freedom to travel between East and West Germany. The Monday of September 4, 1989 marked the first such demonstration, beginning a transitional period that Germans call “Die Wende” ("The Change"). Next week marks the 30th anniversary of these protests.

The demonstrations began in the 800-year-old old St. Nicholas Church (the Nikolaikirche) where several German dissidents regularly met to discuss religion and politics under the leadership of Pastor Christian Führer. The weekly meetings took place every Monday and soon grew in size as more people expressed their dissatisfaction with the GDR.

The first demonstration was held after the weekly prayer for peace on September 4. Protesters gathered outside the church, chanting "We want out!" and demanded a new government. In the weeks that followed, the protests grew from about 1,200 to more than 300,000 people - despite threats of violence from GDR authorities. But fear was not enough to curb the demonstrations, and hundreds of thousands of people continued to march peacefully in Leipzig until the fall of the Berlin Wall - and even several months thereafter.

"Wir sind das Volk!" ("We are the people") became the widely-recognized motto of the Monday demonstrations.

The fall of the Berlin Wall has largely overshadowed the Monday demonstrations in history books, but the effect of these protests is undeniable. The demonstrations put immense pressure on the GDR government, ultimately leading to the fall of the wall on November 9, 1989.

"It was a self-liberation," Pastor Führer told Der Spiegel years after the demonstrations. "We did it without the dollar or the DAX, without the U.S. or Soviet armies. It was the people here who did it."

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we'll make sure to keep you informed about some of the most significant events related to a formerly-divided Germany and its reunification. Check out this week's TWIG to learn about our Word of the Week - Stacheldrahtsonntag ("Barbed Wire Sunday").

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

The lights in the ground around Nikolaikirche in Leipzig memorizes where the demonstrators gathered. Read about it in our book Leipzig! One Thousand Years of German History

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