Alexanderplatz demonstration

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Demonstrators on Alexanderplatz during the closing rally on November 4, 1989 with creatively designed banners

The Alexanderplatz demonstration was the largest non-state-controlled demonstration in the history of the GDR . The demonstration took place in East Berlin on November 4, 1989 and was the first officially approved demonstration in the GDR that was not organized by the power apparatus. The demonstration and the final rally on Alexanderplatz , which were organized by employees of several East Berlin theaters, were directed against violence and for constitutional rights, freedom of the press , freedom of expression and freedom of assembly .

According to the organizers, one million people took part in the Alexanderplatz demonstration. However, this information is controversial in research. It is considered a milestone in the peaceful revolution in the GDR .


Participating actors from East German television at the beginning of the demonstration in Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse , including Herbert Köfer (1st row, 3rd from left)

The initiative for the demonstration came from actors and employees at East Berlin theaters from mid-October. Impressed by the attacks by the People's Police and Stasi against demonstrators during the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the GDR, a gathering of 800 theater people took place in Berlin on October 15, 1989, at which Jutta Wachowiak was the first to propose a demonstration for a democratic GDR . Wachowiak's proposal came about at the suggestion of the New Forum . On October 17, 1989, a group of theater people applied for permission to hold a demonstration for Articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution of the GDR , which was approved on October 26, 1989.
The official organizers were the artists of the Berlin theaters, the Association of Visual Artists , the Association of Film and TV Makers and the Committee for Entertainment Arts .


Protesters train through the western end of the Alexanderplatz S-Bahn station to the Palace of the Republic
Demonstrators cover the Palace of the Republic , the seat of the People's Chamber , with slogans from the new citizens' movement, Democracy Now
Ulrich Mühe (left) and Johanna Schall (right) speak at the final rally

The demonstration started at 10 a.m. in front of the ADN building on the corner of Mollstrasse and Prenzlauer Allee , from where the march went over Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse to the Palast der Republik , circled the palace over Marx-Engels-Platz before going over the Rathausstraße to Alexanderplatz led - the site of the final rally, which lasted over three hours. Around half a million people took part in the demonstration. The organizers themselves assumed a million participants. The number could be reconstructed from aerial photographs. The historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk is of the opinion that, for logistical reasons, no more than 200,000 people could have attended this event.

Among the more than 20 speakers were politicians such as Manfred Gerlach and Günter Schabowski , Stasi Colonel General a. D. Markus Wolf , theologian Friedrich Schorlemmer , lawyer Gregor Gysi , university rector Lothar Bisky , student Ronald Freytag (falsely announced as Roland Freytag), writers Christoph Hein , Stefan Heym , Christa Wolf , playwright Heiner Müller , as representative of the New Forum Jens Reich ; Marianne Birthler for the Peace and Human Rights Initiative and the actors Steffie Spira , Ulrich Mühe and Jan Josef Liefers . Songwriters such as Kurt Demmler and Gerhard Schöne also performed . Wolf Biermann, who was also invited by Bärbel Bohley , had been refused entry by the GDR border authorities at the Friedrichstrasse border crossing. The “representatives of the established order” (Gerlach, Schabowski, and especially Wolf, who as the long-time director of the HVA was identified with the Stasi in particular) were repeatedly interrupted by chants and whistling concerts - regardless of their self-portrayal as reformers.

“When I saw that his (Markus Wolf's) hands were trembling because people were whistling, I said to Jens Reich : Well, now we can go, now everything is fine. The revolution is irreversible. "

- Bärbel Bohley, who was standing near Markus Wolf, on November 4, 1989.

“It's as if someone pushed the window open! After all the years of stagnation - intellectual, economic, political; - the years of dullness and foulness, of rubbish of phrases and bureaucratic arbitrariness, of official blindness and deafness. [...] One of them wrote to me - and the man is right: We have overcome our speechlessness in the last few weeks and are now learning to walk upright! "

- Stefan Heym at the demonstration on November 4, 1989.

Numerous participants carried self-drawn banners with slogans such as “We are not fans of Egon Krenz”, “Referendum on the SED's claim to leadership”, “Free elections instead of wrong numbers” and “Resignation is progress”. The creativity, irony and wit that were shown in many banners were a special feature of this demonstration. The demonstration was broadcast live on GDR television without prior notice .

Steffie Spira , actress , uttered the sentence: "I wish for my great-grandchildren that they grow up without flag roll call, without civic education, and that no blue shirts with torches pass the high people."

Marion van de Kamp with a sash marked "No violence"

Members of the People's Police were barely visible; artists acted as voluntary stewards, who were marked for this function with colored sashes with the inscription “no violence”. The East Berlin border troops were on heightened alert , however , as the GDR leadership feared that the demonstrators would break through to the Berlin Wall . In addition, on the night of November 3rd, the leadership moved NVA soldiers of the 1st MSD, organized in fourteen hundreds, to East Berlin, who were covered and ready during the demonstration.

The speakers with their occupation at the time, in the order of their appearance:

Effect and reception

Collection of banners

A large part of the banners from the Alexanderplatz demonstration was collected after the event and given to the German Historical Museum in Berlin in 1994 . For the tenth anniversary of the demonstration, exhibitions, discussions and artistic activities took place in Berlin in November 1999 under the motto “We were the people”. Among other things, the teacher's house was provided with an eight-story high banner with the motto. The historical importance of the Alexanderplatz demonstration is valued by the historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk as high, because many well-known personalities had their say on it and it had a broad impact due to the broadcast by the GDR mass media.


Web links

Commons : Alexanderplatz demonstration  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Karsten Timmer: From Departure to Change - the Citizens' Movement in the GDR 1989. Göttingen 2000, p. 277.
  2. ^ A b German Historical Museum : The most beautiful day of the year - November 4, 1989 - signs and messages of a demonstration. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
  3. a b c d Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk : Endgame. The 1989 revolution in the GDR. CH Beck, Munich 2009, p. 446 ff.
  4. Listening quotes at the German Historical Museum and cf. Karsten Timmer: From departure to upheaval - the citizens' movement in the GDR 1989. 2000, pp. 276–280.
  5. Gabor Steingart and Ulrich Schwarz: "We were drifted away" - mirror discussion with Lothar Bisky , Bärbel Bohley , Manfred Gerlach , Jens Reich , Steffie Spira and Markus Wolf . In: Der Spiegel . No. 45/1994, November 7, 1994, page 40. See also Karsten Timmer: Vom Aufbruch zum Umbruch - the citizens' movement in the GDR 1989. 2000, pp. 278–279.
  6. ^ Speech by Stefan Heym on November 4th, 1989 on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, as html with mp3 - and as video
  8. Rüdiger Wenzke : The National People's Army (1956–1990). In: Torsten Diedrich (Ed.): In the service of the party. Handbook of the armed organs of the GDR. 2nd edition, Ch. Links, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-86153-160-7 , p. 512.
  9. Frank Beuth: Many celebrities spoke to the participants of the demonstration on November 4th, 1989., December 2009
  10. Program "We were the people." Of November 4, 1999 at the district office in the center of Berlin. (Retrieved November 6, 2009.)