Monday demonstrations in 1989/1990 in the GDR

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Federal Archives Image 183-1989-1023-022, Leipzig, Monday demonstration.jpg
Monday demonstration on October 23, 1989 ...
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1990-0108-033, Leipzig, Monday demonstration.jpg
... and on January 8, 1990, always in Leipzig

The Monday demonstrations were an important part of the Peaceful Revolution in the GDR in autumn 1989. They were mass demonstrations that took place in Leipzig from September 4, 1989 . In autumn 1989 , regular mass demonstrations took place in other cities in the GDR, for example in Dresden , Halle , Karl-Marx-Stadt , Magdeburg , Plauen , Arnstadt , Rostock , Potsdam and Schwerin , some of them on other days of the week. Every week hundreds of thousands of GDR citizens across the country spoke up with the cry “ We are the people ” and protested against the political situation. The aim was a peaceful, democratic reorganization, in particular the end of SED rule, freedom of travel and the abolition of the Ministry for State Security were also demanded.

Leipzig, beginning in September 1989

In Leipzig as early as 1988, isolated demonstrations followed the prayers for peace against the arms race in East and West. The Liebertwolkwitzer deacon Günter Johannsen held these since September 20, 1982 on Monday evenings in the Nikolaikirche . From 1986 Christoph Wonneberger , the pastor of the Lukas parish , who worked closely with opposition grassroots groups, coordinated the prayers for peace. At his suggestion, which he made in 1982 as pastor of the vineyard community in Dresden, these prayers originally went back. After his stroke on October 30, 1989, Pastor Christian Führer took over the prayers for peace and made them a trademark of Leipzig after the so-called Wende. The first so-called Monday demonstration took place on September 4, 1989. It was initiated by civil rights activists Katrin Hattenhauer and Gesine Oltmanns, who after the peace prayer distributed five banners to those willing to demonstrate and even unrolled the one with the inscription "For an open country with free people" . The rally on the Nikolaikirchhof demanded “Freedom!” And, under the impression of the mass exodus of many GDR citizens, above all freedom of travel and other basic human rights. Those wishing to leave the country drew attention to their desire to be able to leave the GDR: “We want to get out!” In front of West German journalists who were allowed to attend the Leipzig trade fair, the state security tore down the banners and tried to break up the demonstration. Thereupon the secret police reaped loud “Stasi out!” Shouts.

The traditional date of the peace prayers in the Nikolaikirche and three other churches in downtown Leipzig, Mondays at 5 p.m., turned out to be a clever choice. On the one hand, it allowed participation in prayer and demonstrations without having to stay away from work - while SED members were traditionally bound by their Monday party meetings in their company party organizations. On the other hand, it was also before the shops in downtown Leipzig closed, so it was relatively safe to stay there without attracting the attention of the security forces. He also made it possible for West German television stations to regularly include the beginning of the demonstrations in the main news programs. The image material had to be smuggled out of Leipzig because the city was closed to western journalists at this time (outside of the trade fair times).

The GDR security forces sometimes used violence against the demonstrators in Leipzig, especially on October 2, 1989 and also during the celebrations for the 40th  anniversary of the founding of the GDR on October 7 and 8, 1989. A wave of arrests began on October 11, 1989 September 1989, when 89 demonstrators were arbitrarily arrested.

Important events before Monday, October 9th

Dresden, October 4th 1989 (Wednesday)

In Dresden, the “ valley of the unsuspecting ”, the violence seemed to escalate. In connection with the departure of GDR refugees via the Prague embassy , four trains were directed through Dresden Central Station on October 4, 1989 . Around 5,000 people gathered in front of and in the train station, some with the aim of forcibly getting onto the trains. When the police stepped in and cleared the station, violent clashes broke out, with citizens throwing paving stones at the police and demolishing parts of the station. A police car was set on fire. The police used water cannons, tear gas and batons and arrested 1,300 citizens by October 8, including many people who were not involved in the protests (so-called feeding and detention for hours). The head of the Dresden BDVP Lieutenant General Willi Nyffenegger was in charge of the operations in charge, in coordination with the district operations command under the direction of the 1st SED District Secretary Hans Modrow . In the press and other media there was initially little information and there was talk of "anti-social elements". However, the events became known through the German media and a few days later some teachers mentioned them in different ways because students asked questions. On October 7, many citizens were again arrested and held for hours after returning from events and demonstrations.

Plauen, October 7, 1989 (Saturday)

Memorial plaque on the Plauener Theaterplatz, in memory of the first large-scale demonstration on October 7, 1989
Demonstration with around 40,000 participants in front of the Plauen town hall on October 28, 1989
Memorial to the first demonstration in Plauen in 1989

After trains with emigrants from the embassy in Prague had passed through Plauen for the second time on the night of October 4th to 5th, a spontaneously scheduled peace prayer took place on October 5th in St. Mark's Church , which was due to the large number of people Times had to be held.

On October 7th, Republic Day , the first large demonstration took place at 3 p.m. (estimates are between 10,000 and 20,000 people) at Theater- and Otto-Grotewohl-Platz (tunnel). It was organized through typewritten leaflets and mostly word of mouth. Because the police did not manage to clear the square, two water cannons (fire brigade tankers) were used against the demonstrators at around 3:30 p.m. However, this did not bring the desired success, but led to the angry crowd pulling in front of the town hall. The street between the town hall and Luther Church was cordoned off by the police and working-class combat groups armed with submachine guns . The unit of the riot police, which was supposed to clear the entrance to the town hall, brutally beat the demonstrators, who then backed off in the direction of Otto-Grotewohl-Platz. Around 4 p.m., a helicopter was used to circling as low as possible over the square. At around 4:15 p.m., a demonstration march formed, which initially moved in the direction of Bahnhofstrasse and then returned at around 5:30 p.m. in front of the town hall. Banners with slogans such as “We need reforms”, “For reforms and freedom of travel against mass exodus - above all peace” or “freedom of travel - freedom of expression - freedom of the press” were carried along. There were shouts in front of the town hall demanding that the mayor Norbert Martin come out to talk to him. Thanks to the level-headed commitment of Superintendent Thomas Küttler , who mediated between the town hall / police and demonstrators, the demonstration remained peaceful and slowly broke up with the cry “We'll be back” around 6 p.m. after the decision to demonstrate again the following Saturday .

However, some demonstrators did not want to leave the area and stayed near the town hall. Around 10:15 p.m. there were around 130 people in front of the town hall and another 100 in the immediate vicinity. As a result, military transport vehicles were brought up and the crowd dispersed. After the vans had withdrawn, around 70 people again gathered in front of the town hall between 23:00 and 23:45; some of them were then arrested and brutally interrogated by the newly evacuated security forces. A total of 61 arrests were made that day.

From this point on, demonstrations took place in Plauen every Saturday until the first free elections on March 18, 1990.

The demonstration on October 7th was the first mass demonstration on the territory of the GDR that could not be broken up by the security forces. To commemorate this pioneering role, October 7th was declared a local day of remembrance, the “Day of Democracy” and on October 7th 2010 a turning monument was inaugurated in Plauen.

Dresden, October 8, 1989 (Sunday)

In the course of two larger demonstrations in the afternoon and evening of October 8th, there were considerable attacks by state authorities on the demonstrators in downtown Dresden.

In the afternoon several thousand people gathered on the theater square . It is not clear who called for this. This gathering was broken up by the police and a march formed. This later split up. A few hundred demonstrators were surrounded and arrested on Fetscherplatz. After being subjected to harassment, they were taken to Bautzen, where they were detained and interrogated until the evening of the next day.

Before another demonstration could escalate again on Prager Strasse in the evening , a group of the demonstrators surrounded by the police, initiated by the courage of chaplain Frank Richter , managed a conversation between a delegation from among them and the Forcing then Lord Mayor Wolfgang Berghofer over their demands. This delegation, which consisted of around 20 people (the so-called original members ), referred to itself as the " Group of 20 ". In the course of its existence, it played an important role in the political development of the city of Dresden and is of particular importance for the history of the peaceful revolution. For the first time it was possible to avoid further confrontations and to establish an open dialogue between representatives of the state and the protesting people. The goal of the state power, however, to contain the protest movement in this way, could not be achieved. In the days and weeks that followed, the demonstrations in Dresden became bigger and bigger, but were always overshadowed by the media as the Monday demos in Leipzig, which they perceived to be much more tense.

The way of the demonstrators in Dresden always led from the Kreuzkirche on the Altmarkt over the Postplatz , the Theaterplatz, the Augustusbrücke , past the Golden Rider and today's Ministry of Finance, back over the then Dr.-Rudolf-Friedrichs-Brücke towards Pirnaischer Platz and then over the former Ernst-Thälmann-Straße or Grunaer Straße . Closing rallies often took place on Fučík Square .

Leipzig, October 9, 1989

"We are the people", postage stamp of the GDR from 1990
The notorious " round corner " of the Stasi district administration in Leipzig on Dittrichring
Nikolaikirche Leipzig , in the foreground the monument to the peaceful revolution
Detail of a mural by Michael Fischer-Art in downtown Leipzig

The Monday demonstrations developed into a mass movement. The slogans “On the street!” “We are the people” and “No violence!” Did not fail to have an impact. The turning point of the Monday demonstrations was October 9, 1989 - the first protest demonstration with unexpectedly high mass participation, in which many participants on all sides had the violent reaction of the Chinese state power in Tian'anmen Square in the back of their minds, but ultimately nothing of the kind happened. Members of the Justice Working Group and the Human Rights Working Group printed a call for nonviolence the weekend before in the Lukas parish at Christoph Wonneberger's . The approximately 25,000 leaflets were aimed at "emergency services" and those willing to demonstrate, without concealing the political opponent:

We are one people ! Violence among us leaves wounds that bleed forever! The party and the government must be primarily made responsible for the serious situation that has arisen . "

Despite differing interests, the announcement read out on the city ​​radio in downtown Leipzig in the evening also contributed to the peaceful outcome . The three SED district secretaries Kurt Meyer, Jochen Pommert and Roland Wötzel as well as a university theologian who served the State Security, Peter Zimmermann, had written the text called later called the Six with two prominent artists, the cabaret artist Bernd-Lutz Lange and the Gewandhauskapellmeister Kurt Masur :

“Our common concern and responsibility have brought us together today. We are affected by developments in our city and are looking for a solution. We all need a free exchange of views on the continuation of socialism in our country. That is why they promise all citizens today that they will use all their strength and authority to ensure that this dialogue is not only conducted in the Leipzig district, but also with our government. We urge you to be prudent so that peaceful dialogue becomes possible. "

- “Call of the Six”, read out by Kurt Masur on the evening of October 9, 1989

The six personalities had come to Masurs out of concern about an imminent escalation of violence, which was believed to be likely due to both rumors and one-sided reporting in the Leipziger Volkszeitung (for which Pommert was jointly responsible as the supervising secretary for agitation and propaganda) I met the house and wrote the call together. The three SED secretaries had not coordinated their approach with the party leadership in the district. The appeal had also been read out in the churches. The level-headed behavior of the pastors at the Nikolaikirche and the regional bishop Johannes Hempel also played a special role in the peaceful course . The worshipers left the church with lit candles in their hands as a sign of their peaceful sentiments. A crowd was already waiting for them in the forecourt of the church.

After the security forces did not intervene against the demonstration in downtown Leipzig that day (they had only received orders to protect themselves in the event of violent attacks), the march around the inner city ring of Leipzig was able to develop peacefully. The train, which consisted of around 70,000 people, also passed the Leipzig Stasi headquarters on Dittrichring, the notorious "Round Corner".

The reasons that led to the withdrawal of the security forces have not yet been finally clarified. The representation of the SED General Secretary Egon Krenz is controversial. He later claimed that he had personally given the order to withdraw. The decision had been made at Leipzig level, however, and was probably related to cases of refusal to obey by the various security forces: The acting 1st Secretary of the SED District Management and Chairman of the District Operations Management Helmut Hackenberg had turned to Berlin with a description of the situation , but received it for a long time After the demonstration broke up, Egon Krenz gave a hesitant answer. Since they did not want to take responsibility for the threatening bloodbath, Hackenberg, who was politically responsible, and the Leipzig police chief (also responsible for the working class combat groups ), BDVP Major General Gerhard Strassenburg, as head of operations, made the decision to withdraw the forces, subject to self-protection. The actual order to prevent a demonstration was not carried out. One of the reasons was the incidents in the military technical school of the air force / air defense "Harry Kuhn" in nearby Bad Düben . Members of this school were supposed to move to Leipzig to reinforce the security forces. Vehicles and equipment (not weapons, but batons) were provided. The NCO courses in the winter half year consisted mostly of high school graduates, which was related to the allocation of university places in the GDR. A large number of these approx. 1,200 non-commissioned officers refused to take action against citizens of the GDR and even made their unwillingness clear with banners made from sheets. The order to march was then not given. In the days that followed, a delegation was ordered to join the LSK in Strausberg. The school's commandant at the time was Colonel Werner. Other responsible commanders in Leipzig at that time were Lieutenant General Manfred Hummitzsch , head of the district administration of the Stasi and Major General Klaus Wiegand , head of NVA military district III, Leipzig. The 1st secretary of the SED district leadership in Leipzig Horst Schumann was ill and not involved in the decisions.

This decision was apparently made due to a gross misjudgment of the dynamics that the events had developed in the past few weeks.

Leipzig, October 16, 1989

Demonstration on October 16, 1989 in Leipzig

On October 16, 1989, 120,000 demonstrators took part (military units were still held in reserve), a week later the number rose to 320,000. This was the largest Monday demonstration in Leipzig until then. The protest marches ended in March 1990, shortly before or after the first free parliamentary elections .

Further development of the Monday demonstrations

During the Monday demonstrations, there was often a dialogue with those in power from the state and the party. Many sections of the population took part in the Monday demonstrations.

Significantly involved were newly formed democratic groups such as the “ New Forum ” and new or emerging parties such as the Social Democratic Party in the GDR and groups from which Alliance 90 would later emerge. But many dissatisfied SED members also demonstrated. The new democratic groups and parties should play a decisive role in shaping the time after the peaceful revolution with the talks at the “ round table ”.

During the demonstrations, informational materials were distributed by various parties .

The basic aim of the demonstrations was the establishment of basic democratic rights and their peaceful implementation. “No violence” was the overarching slogan . At the later rallies, calls for a reunification of Germany and more prosperity were made.

Development of the number of participants in Leipzig

date Attendees particularities source
09/04/1989 1,200 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
09/11/1989 ?? 55 arrests Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
09/18/1989 1,500 some arrests Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
09/25/1989 8,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
10/02/1989 10,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
09.10.1989 approx. 130,000 Opp, KD The production of historical "facts" . In: Soziologie 41st Vol. 2, 2012, pp. 143–157
10/16/1989 120,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
10/23/1989 300,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
10/30/1989 300,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
11/06/1989 500,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
11/13/1989 Hundreds of thousands Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online
11/20/1989 more than 100,000 Hamburger Abendblatt, no longer online

See also


  • Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk : Endgame. The 1989 revolution in the GDR. CH Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58357-5 .
  • Ehrhart Neubert : Our revolution. The history of the years 1989/90. Piper, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-492-05155-2 .
  • Wolfgang Schuller : The German Revolution 1989. Rowohlt, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-87134-573-9 .
  • Detlef Pollack, Wolf-Jürgen Grabner and Christiane Heinze (eds.): Leipzig in October: Churches and alternative groups in the upheaval of the GDR - analyzes of the turnaround. Foreword by Friedrich Magirius. Wichern, Berlin 1990. 2nd edition 1994.
  • Wolfgang Schneider et al. (Ed.): Leipziger Demontagebuch. Demo - Monday - Diary - Disassembly. Gustav Kiepenheuer, Leipzig / Weimar 1990.
  • Norbert Heber: No violence! The peaceful way to democracy - a chronology in pictures. Verbum, Berlin 1990.
  • Now or never - democracy! Leipzig autumn '89. Preface by Rolf Henrich. Forum Verlag, Leipzig 1989. Later editions: C. Bertelsmann, Munich 1990.
  • Ekkehard Kuhn: The day of the decision. Leipzig, October 9, 1989. Ullstein, Berlin 1992.
  • Christian Dietrich, Uwe Schwabe (ed.): Friends and enemies. Prayers for peace in Leipzig between 1981 and October 9, 1989. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 1994.
  • Uwe Schwabe : “For an open country with free people.” The story of a slogan. In: Bernd Lindner (ed.): For autumn '89. Democratic movement in the GDR. Forum Verlag, Leipzig 1994. pp. 9-10. ISBN 978-3-86151-062-8 .
  • Karl Czok: Nikolaikirche - open to everyone. A community in the center of the turning point . Evangelical Publishing House, Leipzig 1999.
  • Tobias Hollitzer: The peaceful course of October 9, 1989 in Leipzig - capitulation or readiness for reform? Prehistory, course and aftermath. In: Günther Heydemann, Gunther Mai, Werner Müller (eds.): Revolution and Transformation in the GDR 1989/90. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1999, pp. 247-288.
  • Thomas Küttler, Jean Curt Röder (ed.): The turning point in Plauen . Vogtländischer Heimatverlag Neupert, Plauen 1991, ISBN 3-929039-15-X .
  • Rolf Schwanitz (Ed. Curt Röder): Civil courage - the peaceful revolution in Plauen on the basis of Stasi files and reviews of the events in autumn 1989. Vogtländischer Heimatverlag Neupert, Plauen 1998, ISBN 3-929039-65-6 .
  • Martin Jankowski: The day that changed Germany - October 9, 1989. Essay. Series of publications by the Saxon State Commissioner for the Stasi documents No. 7, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-374-02506-0 .
  • Thomas Mayer: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution. 18 portraits of pioneers from Leipzig. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt , Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-374-02712-5 .
  • Thomas Rudolph , Oliver Kloss , Rainer Müller , Christoph Wonneberger (eds.): Way in the uprising. Chronicle of opposition and resistance in the GDR from 1987–1989. Leipzig, October 2014, ISBN 978-3-941848-17-7 .
  • Achim Beier and Uwe Schwabe (eds.): "We only have the road". The speeches at the Leipzig Monday demonstrations in 1989/90. A documentation. Mitteldeutscher Verlag 2016, Halle (Saale), ISBN 978-3-95462-606-9 .
  • Peter Wensierski : The uncanny ease of revolution. How a group of Leipzigers dared to rebel in the GDR . DVA, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-421-04751-9 .

Web links

Commons : Monday demonstrations in the GDR  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See Path to Insurrection. Chronicle of Opposition and Resistance , Vol. 1, pp. 125 f, pp. 206, 220 (3.10.), 222 (10.10. Last section), 224 (17.10.).
  2. ^ Prayers for peace and Monday demonstrations on ( Federal Agency for Civic Education / Robert Havemann Society ). Retrieved March 8, 2017. As well as: Thomas Rudolph / Oliver Kloss / Rainer Müller / Christoph Wonneberger (eds.): Weg in den Aufstand. Chronicle of opposition and resistance in the GDR from 1987–1989. Leipzig, October 2014, ISBN 978-3-941848-17-7
  3. ^ Contrasts report: The Leipzig Monday demonstration on September 4, 1989 Video on . Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  4. Leipzig article, contemporary witness interviews, audio and video contributions on . Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Demonstration on October 7, 1989 in Plauen Photos and documents on
  6. ^ Photo documentation for the large demonstration on October 7, 1989 in Plauen. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on July 3, 2009 ; Retrieved June 27, 2009 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Rolf Schwanitz in civil courage p. 359 (see literature): "It was the first time that the citizens of the GDR came together without 'instructions from above' and expressed their united will against the system in the GDR."
  8. Statutes of the city of Plauen for the introduction of the local commemorative day on October 7th as "Democracy Day" (city bulletin (p. 16)). Retrieved September 4, 2014 .
  9. ^ Report on the planned monument in Plauen on the city page. Retrieved March 19, 2009 .
  10. ^ Report on the planned memorial in Plauen in the Berliner Zeitung. Retrieved March 19, 2009 .
  11. Official site of the planned turnaround monument in Plauen. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on July 9, 2009 ; Retrieved June 27, 2009 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. Eckhard Bahr: Seven days in October. Departure in Dresden. With a preface by Christof Ziemer , Leipzig, Forum Verlag, 1990, ISBN 3-86151-007-3 .
  13. ^ The Group of 20. Retrieved October 9, 2009 .
  14. Martin Jankowski : The day that changed Germany - October 9, 1989. Essay. Series of publications by the Saxon State Commissioner for Stasi documents No. 7, Leipzig Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2007, ISBN 978-3-374-02506-0 , p. 85.
  15. Leipzig Justice Working Group / Human Rights Working Group / Environmental Protection Working Group : Appeal of Organized Resistance to Nonviolence on October 9, 1989 , digital copies of the IFM archive, accessed on October 9, 2009.
  16. Cf. Oliver Kloss : "No violence!" The candle - a symbol of non-violence. In: Jörg Augsburg, Tobias Prüwer, Tommy Schwarwel (Eds.): 1989 - "Our homeland, that's not just the cities and villages". The Almanac on the Peaceful Revolution. Leipzig, Happy Monday, 2014, ISBN 978-3-9815274-6-9 , p. 63.
  17. Bernd Hahlweg: Appeal of conscience . Report of the GDR monthly magazine Das Magazin , January 1990 issue (editorial deadline: November 23, 1989), pages 26–32 - Note: Probably one of the first such detailed and GDR-wide articles about the Monday demonstrations in Leipzig.
  18. See Bahrmann, Hannes; Left, Christoph: Chronicle of the turning point. The GDR between October 7 and December 18, 1989. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 1994, pp. 32 and 47, there the number of visitors to the second demonstration is estimated at "over 300,000".