Turnaround and peaceful revolution in the GDR

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Monday Demonstration in Leipzig (December 18, 1989)

When turning and peaceful revolution in the GDR (even turning time ) the process sociopolitical change is referred to, in the Democratic German Republic at the end of the SED led -Herrschaft, the transition to a parliamentary democracy accompanied and German reunification has made possible. These fundamental changes in the GDR, which, with emphasis on the non-violent initiatives, protests and demonstration successes emanating from parts of the GDR population, are also referred to as the peaceful revolution, took place in the period between the local elections in May 1989 and the only actually free one Election to the People's Chamber in March 1990 .

Beginning of all political changes

Berlin Wall on October 3, 1990
Memorial stele Peaceful Revolution 1989/90 in Zeulenroda in front of the Dreieinigkeitskirche , erected in October 2009

These processes were closely connected with the renunciation of Soviet supremacy in East Central Europe initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev , General Secretary of the CPSU since 1985 , and with the reform movements and the like. a. in Poland , Hungary and Czechoslovakia . In addition to the opening up of foreign policy in the Soviet Union, which was associated with glasnost and perestroika , the deficiencies of the socialist central administration economy, the low competitiveness of the GDR economy on world markets and the dramatically growing national debt of the GDR in the West destabilized the SED dictatorship and accelerated political change.

In addition to the increasing mass exodus of GDR citizens from the summer of 1989 via other Eastern Bloc states such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia to the West, there was an increasing protest movement in the GDR. The internal social driving forces behind the reform process included intellectuals and church-bound people who came together to protest and citizens' initiatives , determined willing emigrants who, in increasing numbers, are clearly showing dissatisfaction with the SED regime, as well as the growing number of peaceful demonstrators, who were no longer prepared to give way to the experienced and increasingly threatened confrontation with state violence and repression.

The SED leadership, which was increasingly isolated, apparently delegitimized and largely helpless because of its anti-reform attitude among the “ socialist brother countries ”, finally renounced the use of force against the people, who were gathering in ever larger demonstrations, and on November 9, 1989, the border was opened at the Berlin Wall closed . Through a change in party and state leadership and through readiness for dialogue with the opposition forces, the SED leadership tried in vain to win back the political initiative which, due to ongoing political instability and an impending collapse of the GDR's state finances, is increasingly falling on the federal government under Chancellor Helmut Kohl passed over.

The government of Prime Minister Hans Modrow has been controlled by the Central Round Table since the beginning of December 1989 , which, in cooperation with nationwide spontaneous mass actions, ensured the dissolution of the Ministry for State Security (MfS) with its spying and repression apparatus and the elections for a freely elected representative body with prepared. The strong election victory of the Alliance for Germany then set the course for a quick unification of the two German states.

Eastern bloc in transition

The peaceful revolution of large parts of the GDR population against the SED regime resulted in a fundamental change in relations between the so-called Eastern bloc states and the Soviet Union, triggered by Mikhail Gorbachev. The foreign policy equivalent of his reform approaches for the USSR consisted in deviating from the Brezhnev doctrine, allowing all states united under Soviet leadership in the Warsaw Pact their own path of internal reforms.

The impetus for such a policy change resulted in particular from the economic development of the Eastern Bloc countries that was lagging behind in comparison to the western industrialized countries, which persisted in increasingly less world-market-compatible production structures and missed the connection to service orientation, microelectronics and globalization.

With this, however, there was also an increasing lack of resources to continue the arms race on the Soviet side that brought about the “ balance of horror ” and was promoted by the American side in the Reagan era. "Huge armies, gigantic missiles, and a defense budget twice that of the United States' total budget were still not enough to ensure equality." With his economic and socio-political reform program and his disarmament initiatives, Gorbachev and his comrades-in-arms consequences.

Glasnost and Perestroika

The southern Russian Gorbachev, who was brought into the Moscow leadership by Yuri Andropov in 1978, was in fact responsible for the political bureau and secretariat of the CPSU during the absence of General Secretary Konstantin Tschernenko due to illness . When proposed as his successor at the crucial meeting of the Politburo, he declared:

“We are experiencing an extremely difficult time, a time of change. Our economy needs more dynamism, and our democracy needs this dynamism, our foreign policy needs. "

A new openness (glasnost) and transparency in the party structures, administrative bodies, media and economic organization, which from then on were exposed to freedom of expression and criticism, were to serve as an important driving force behind the change within society. However, Gorbachev intended to keep the CPSU's claim to the political leadership of the Soviet Union. Elements of the innovations aimed at far-reaching restructuring (perestroika) of Soviet society were an intensely initiated but ultimately failed campaign against alcohol abuse, a critical revision of the party and state history, and various economic reforms after the recruitment of important functionaries (cadres). In addition to the planned process optimization as direct self-help in an emergency, the latter also aimed at strengthening personal responsibility and individual performance as well as market-oriented measures.

While the reforms under way in the Soviet Union met with broad approval from the population of other Eastern Bloc countries, especially among students and academics, the respective leaderships reacted at first with reserve and then in some cases clearly negative: “Their attitude showed polite curiosity and even condescending irony: Not for the first time a new Soviet leader began to work with criticism from his predecessors; and then everything stayed the same. Only when it became clear that this Soviet reform was meant seriously was it rejected, especially with regard to democratization and the new openness, glasnost. "( Mikhail Gorbachev )

Turning away from the Brezhnev doctrine

Already immediately with his assumption of office, Gorbachev linked the lifting of the Soviet claim to leadership with regard to the internal development of socialist "brother states". During the consultations accompanying Chernenko's funeral, he emphasized "respect for the sovereignty and independence of every country" and deduced from this that "each party should take full responsibility for the situation in their country." He was agreed without hesitation, perhaps without really taking what has been said seriously. “In fact, however, the declaration that we formulated at the end of our meeting marked a turning point in our relations and the abandonment of the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, which, although never officially proclaimed, was in practice the policy of the USSR towards allied countries for a long time had determined. "( Gorbachev )

When Gorbachev traveled to Berlin for the SED party congress in 1986, he was also presented with the wall. Edgar Wolfrum wrote that he had made such a disgruntled expression like no other state guest of the GDR before him . When he visited journalists on October 7, 1989, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, Gorbachev said: "Dangers await only those who do not react to life." When Egon Krenz flew to Moscow on November 1, 1989, to under pressure from the rebellious GDR population to clarify Gorbachev's course regarding the future of both German states for himself, he implored his counterpart: “The GDR is a child of the Soviet Union. It is important for us to know whether you stand by your fatherhood. ”Gorbachev then described the“ preservation of the realities of the post-war period, including the existence of two German states ”as an important element of equilibrium in Europe and assured him, according to his impressions of the conversation seen by the heads of government of the western powers.

Gorbachev did not want the end of the GDR, confirms the contemporary historian Wolfrum, “but he did not use the might of bayonets to oppose it when the course of events could no longer be changed [...] the fundamental principles of 'New Thought' were shaken Mikhail Gorbachev was not, for him national self-determination and non-interference in internal affairs were important. "

Solidarność and civil rights activists on the rise

On October 25, 1989, during a state visit to Finland, Gorbachev proclaimed the so-called " Sinatra Doctrine " as a replacement for the Brezhnev Doctrine , which had made it easier for those in power in the Eastern Bloc states loyal to Moscow to suppress opposition currents. Thus, the chances of success of the respective regime-critical forces improved. The "big brother" Soviet Union no longer acted as a repressive reserve of the ruling class, as it had been the case with the suppression of the uprising of June 17, 1953 or the Hungarian popular uprising in 1956 , or as a potential intervention force against a model of socialism such as that of the Prague Spring from 1968, which promised more self-determination and civil liberty. Instead, encouraging signs of a similar kind came from the Moscow Kremlin itself.

In the People's Republic of Poland , this gave the independent trade union movement Solidarność new impetus, which had only been able to exist underground since the ban and the imposition of martial law in 1981 , but still enjoyed broad support among the Polish population. At the beginning of 1988, Solidarność reported back to Polish politics. With wildcat strikes against repeated price increases, in January / February 1989 it forced the start of official round table talks with the government and achieved outstanding success in the parliamentary elections on June 4 and 18, 1989 . On August 24, 1989, Tadeusz Mazowiecki , the closest advisor to the union leader Lech Wałęsa , was elected Prime Minister of Poland. The Third Polish Republic was born.

The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (USAP) renounced its constitutional leadership role in January 1989; Party leader János Kádár had resigned in May 1988. From June 1989 there was also a round table in Hungary, and in October the USAP split.

In the second half of the 1980s, too, there was an initially restrained upswing in human and civil rights initiatives, often protected and linked to church institutions, which were also used as refuge and interest representation for those wishing to leave the country. While individual pastors such as Rainer Eppelmann and Friedrich Schorlemmer themselves emerged as critics of the regime, others distinguished their Christian missionary mandate from markedly oppositional activities. Important church officials tried to stabilize the always precarious situation of the “ Church in Socialism ” through contacts with the MfS and a reconciliation of interests with SED leaders. The most important church-independent opposition group for a long time was the " Initiative Peace and Human Rights " (IFM) founded in 1985 . a. Wolfgang Templin , Ulrike and Gerd Poppe as well as Bärbel Bohley belonged. The organizational model for this initiative was the Czechoslovak Charter 77 .

For a long time, the work of the opposition forces observed and partly infiltrated by unofficial employees of the MfS (IM) remained manageable for the state power. With around 160 local groups of dissidents and ten umbrella organizations, the MfS reckoned in the spring of 1989 that there would only be around 2500 permanent activists, of which around 60 were counted among the “hard core”.

Olof Palme Peace March 1987

Activities that were perceived as significant outside of the region included the Olof Palme peace march for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free corridor in Central Europe in September 1987 (for which the SED also mobilized because it matched the model it propagated of a preliminary peaceful coexistence of capitalist and socialist states) , the vigils and protest actions in November 1987 against the arrests and confiscation of the environmental library in the Berlin Zionskirche , the solidarity actions in January 1988, when civil rights activists from the opposition were arrested with their own banners on the sidelines of the annual SED demonstration in memory of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were imprisoned, as well as the subsequent deportation of opposition activists from the GDR to the West, including Stephan Krawczyk , Freya Klier , Bärbel Bohley and Vera Wollenberger . Widespread protest sparked in the autumn of 1988 the expulsion of students from the East Berlin Carl von Ossietzky School , who stood up for Solidarność to participate in power in Poland and for a waiver of the annual military parade to celebrate the GDR on October 7th with notices and signatures .

With the Leipzig spring fair in 1988, the peace devotions there became known through reports in ARD and ZDF . They had an influx of people wishing to leave the country and were increasingly caught up in an area of ​​tension, not only in church politics, after the collection for the peace prayer on June 27, 1988 was intended to pay a fine of several thousand marks against Jürgen Tallig, who left a Gorbachev quote in a pedestrian tunnel had: "We need democracy like the air we breathe."

GDR as a special case

The GDR was subject to Western recognition reservations and various influences from West Germany. Until Gorbachev changed course, the Soviet Union paid special attention to it among all Eastern Bloc countries. As the unstable outpost of the Eastern Alliance on the " Iron Curtain ", the GDR benefited from special economic relations with the USSR and from a relatively stable supply situation. In contrast to the other Warsaw Pact states, large units of the Soviet armed forces were permanently stationed only on their territory . Until 1986, around 40% of the GDR was a restricted military area .

Outstanding features of the GDR for outsiders were "public self-congratulation" and the all-pervasive state control, writes the American contemporary historian Charles S. Maier . “At the borders you were treated roughly and harassed, there was this arrogant and arrogant security apparatus, this terrifying love for empty, asphalted squares, fear as a consciously used means of domination, this relentless exultation of mediocre achievements both in one's own country and like-minded authoritarian Regimes elsewhere, the equally steadfast demonization of the West as militaristic and revanchist. At the same time, however, some people tried with the best of intentions to build up their East German fatherland. "( After Maier )

Socialist nation?

The "art product" GDR (Kowalczuk), which was funded with billions in subsidy packages after multiple Soviet post-war dismantling operations, lacked legitimacy as a nation-state, unlike Poland or Hungary . After a reunification of Germany on Soviet terms had long since proven hopeless, the SED leadership under Erich Honecker provided a new state formula in the GDR constitution in 1974: "The GDR is a socialist state of workers and peasants " (still in 1968: " ... a socialist state of the German nation ”). In a report by the SED Central Committee already in 1971:

“In contrast to the FRG, where the bourgeois nation continues and where the national question is determined by the irreconcilable class contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the working masses, which - we are convinced - its solution in the course of the world-historical process of the transition from capitalism to socialism will find, the socialist nation is developing here in the German Democratic Republic, in the socialist German state. "

The Marxist-Leninist philosopher Alfred Kosing drafted the theory of two German nations, which was based on Lenin's theory of the two lines in the nation - the exploiters and the exploited. As a result of the war, these lines were divided by the emergence of the two German states, the Federal Republic (society of exploitation) and the GDR (society of workers and peasants). This theory was incorporated into the new GDR constitution of 1968 in 1974 . In 1975, Kosing took the view that even after the socialist revolution, the nation would remain a legal form of development of social life, which would only lose its necessity for existence when global communist humanity took the place of nations on the basis of a unified communist world economy. The socialist nation of the GDR still had typical German ethnic characteristics and traits. The difference to the FRG concerns the social foundations and contents, through which there are two qualitatively different historical types of the nation: "The nation of the GDR is the socialist German nation, and the nation of the FRG is the capitalist German nation." In his memoirs published in 2008 Kosing vacillates between amusement and indignation that in the course of the new party line he once had to deal with an instruction "from above" to consistently eliminate the term German from a manuscript that was already ready for printing.

At the turn of the year 1988/1989, Honecker brought the formula of a “ socialism in the colors of the GDR ” into play - now to distinguish it from the reforms in the Soviet Union . If the socialist ideology itself was called into question, according to Rödder, “then in the GDR it was not just a regime or a form of state that was up for discussion, but the state itself.” The specific doctrine of the two independent German states, Brezhnev and Gromyko in Gorbachev and his foreign policy special advisor Anatoly Tschernjajew had already developed in cooperation with GDR ideologues in the 1970s as artificial and outdated.

Ideological hardening instead of opening

The first hopes of greater scope for freedom of expression and extended civil rights for the GDR population as well as for the citizens of other Eastern Bloc states were linked to the adoption of the human rights section of the CSCE agreements in 1975. For the SED, the coin had two sides. While the Minister for State Security Erich Mielke considered the domestic political consequences to be incalculable and warned against the CSCE process, Honecker was primarily concerned with promoting the recognition and equal rights of the GDR on an international scale. Up to the beginning of the Gorbachev era, his calculations also largely paid off: the opposition critical of the regime remained fragmented and controllable under pressure from the state apparatus.

This changed, however, with the increasingly clear demarcation course of the SED superiors from the reforms of Gorbachev. If the slogan had previously been: “To learn from the Soviet Union means to learn to win!”, The aim was now to reverse the hierarchy. Information about developments in the USSR was also now strictly censored. Gorbachev stated: “In any case, orders from the highest authority have now been given to analyze every one of my speeches or public statements in order to identify deviations from Marxism-Leninism and thus to emphatically underpin the criticism of Soviet perestroika. The balance sheet was presented to Honecker personally and then distributed in a special way. Of course, such analyzes also reached Moscow. Of course, we would have liked to oppose the sophisticated dogmatism of these documents with our own arguments, but there was no addressee to whom we could turn. After all, we were not officially invited to a dispute. ”( Gorbachev ) In a written interview with the Hamburg weekly magazine“ Stern ” in March 1987, SED chief ideologist Kurt Hager made a demonstrative disparaging view of Soviet perestroika:“ Would you say by the way if your neighbor is repackaging his apartment and feels obliged to repackage your apartment as well? "

Another escalation of the SED's isolationist policy against the new thinking in Moscow was the ban imposed by the SED in autumn 1988 on the Soviet monthly magazine " Sputnik ", which was read by 190,000 subscribers and buyers in the GDR , and which was justified with allegedly distorting articles on history. This triggered a wave of protests that reached far into the GDR population and also affected many SED members.

Public finances before the revelation

Equipment of households in West and East Germany 1991 in percent
domestic appliances west east
Washing machine 98 73
dishwasher 62 01
Microwave oven 49 05
phone 98 18th
Color television 96 95
Video recorder 97 94
automobile 97 94

FDGB boss Harry Tisch justified the persistent rejection of the Soviet reform course on August 29, 1989 in the SED Politburo in classic Marxist language: "If the economic basis is capitalist, the socialist superstructure cannot hold."

At this point in time, even those familiar with the situation did not dare to address the actual economic and financial situation in the GDR. Since the beginning of the 1970s, under Honecker, a debt-based social policy u. a. started with wage and pension increases, heavily subsidized consumer prices and large-scale housing programs to strengthen ties with the party and the state. As of the time leading financial expert of the SED Central Committee, Günter Ehrensperger , Honecker proceeded to calculate in November 1973 that the sovereign debt of the GDR while maintaining the chosen path to 1980 from two to 20 billion currency market would rise, he forbade this now working on such scenarios and ordered the destruction of all existing documents.

In the 1980s, the GDR was only able to avoid insolvency thanks to Western loans. A reduction in Soviet oil deliveries on special terms that occurred in 1981 brought the GDR planned economy additional difficulties. At the end of the 1980s, their productivity was only 30 percent in real terms compared to the Federal Republic of Germany . Attempts were made at great expense to connect to the world market in the field of microelectronics. Even the first 1-megabit memory developed in the GDR, officially presented in September 1988 , could not hide the fact that the pace of Western development was lagging behind by years. At the symbolic handover of the first 32-bit chip produced in the GDR in August 1989, Honecker gave a humorous assurance: "Socialism in its course does not stop neither ox nor donkey."

Gerhard Schürer , head of the State Planning Commission , who was most likely to survey the real economic situation within the SED leadership , urged Egon Krenz in a three-hour conversation in February 1989 to stand by for Honecker's successor if he, Schürer, after relentlessly explaining the situation in Politburo demanded Honecker's replacement and proposed him, Krenz, as the new SED leader. Krenz had refused on the grounds that he was unable to remove his foster father and political teacher.

Driving forces of the 1989 system crisis

The foundations of SED rule had already been undermined in several respects before the GDR population finally brought it to an end: In terms of foreign policy, the GDR leadership was isolated, the state finances were largely ruined, the social policy stabilizing the system could hardly be continued and economic development among the more and more crucial world market conditions are very dubious.

Outdated production facilities and processes in many parts of the GDR were a burden on the environment and the health of the population. The GDR was the leader in sulfur dioxide and dust emissions, and was also among the main emitters for many other pollutants. There were hardly any more ecologically intact rivers and lakes; There was a lack of funds for more effective environmental protection. In appropriate external conditions, for example, in the particularly polluted region of Leipzig-Halle-Bitterfeld, instructions were distributed via loudspeaker trucks to keep windows and doors closed. A state environmental policy that was anchored in law, but counterproductive, and the oppositional environmental protection movement also became “a nail in the coffin of the regime”.

“If you wanted to find out something about the conditions in the GDR,” writes the contemporary historian Kowalczuk, who grew up there, “you couldn't avoid switching on German television and radio stations.” Only a very small part of the GDR population voluntarily renounced it for ideological reasons. Some regions in the north-east and south-east, the so-called “ valley of the unsuspecting ”, were excluded from western television due to a lack of broadcaster coverage, unless the partially tolerated establishment of community antennas remedied the deficiency. Reports in the Western media about the activities of GDR opposition members made a decisive contribution to making important events known throughout the country before and during the fall of the Wall.

The decisive prerequisite for the success of the peaceful revolution against the SED regime, however, was that the opposing and protesting people in the GDR managed to “maintain public space and thus provoke a government crisis and set greater forces in motion around them. [...] The place of the decisive confrontations were city blocks and city quarters. "Public space for demands for change in the GDR was offered in particular by the churches, whose" Ecumenical Assembly for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in the GDR "on February 2nd, 1988 admitted to the fear of the Central Committee (ZK) of the SED that "a politically hostile platform could be made up". In autumn 1989, several delegates and advisors to this Ecumenical Assembly were to be among the founders of the new political alliances and parties, for example Erika Drees , Hans-Jürgen Fischbeck , Markus Meckel , Rudi-Karl Pahnke , Sebastian Pflugbeil and Friedrich Schorlemmer , and Karl-Heinz Ducke became one of the moderators of the Central Round Table of the GDR.

Targeted public protest against fraudulent local elections

The regular GDR municipal elections in May 1989 fell out of the usual framework due to the already charged political mood. In the normalcy of the GDR, citizens were strongly encouraged and - with a few exceptions - had got used to going to the polling stations and casting their votes by folding the slip of paper with the fixed list of candidates and putting it in the ballot box without using the voting booth. After oppositional observers observed falsifications of election results in some polling stations as early as 1986, such controls should now be carried out systematically in all regions of the GDR. As early as the early summer of 1988, various groups, including mainly church groups, such as the initiative group “Rejection of Practice and Principle of Demarcation” of the Berlin Bartholomew Community or the “Solidarity Church” working group, called on Christians in the GDR to actively participate in the preparation of the local elections on September 7th May 1989 to interfere.

Conversely, the SED relied on an election confirmation that was as impressive as possible and made provisions for this. For example, applicants for leaving the country, well-known opposition members and non-voters from previous elections were removed from the electoral roll, as well as more than 80,000 women and men who had announced their non-participation in the elections by mid-April 1989. In addition, since January there has been an increase in the number of people willing to leave Germany who were expected to take public action against the elections and mobilize like-minded people. On the other hand, there was an effort in advance to give this election a special democratic look. Citizens were asked to bring their concerns to the national front committees and to participate in drawing up election proposals. Attempts by independent groups to actually have other candidates nominated then failed almost without exception.

On election day itself, May 7, 1989, there were unusual occurrences: in many places, individuals only gave their voting notification cards at the polling station to demonstrate their refusal to vote; There was also an increasing number of new queues in front of the otherwise mostly unused voting booths. The election observers determined an estimated turnout of 60 to 80 percent at their locations (excluding special polling stations, to which they were illegally denied access) and votes against between three and 30 percent. When the chairman of the election commission, Egon Krenz, announced, as usual, a voter turnout of almost 99 percent and a good one percent dissenting votes as the election result, this was clear evidence of the practice of election fraud, not only for critics of the regime. There were districts in various large cities (including East Berlin , Leipzig, Dresden) in which the independent observers counted significantly more no-votes in a selection of the polling stations than there had been according to the official result in the entire district.

The consequences over the next few weeks were a large number of criminal charges, petitions and protests against the election fraud . Despite numerous arrests, the publicly presented resistance took on unprecedented proportions, brought together those willing to leave and internal opposition forces and became a long-runner critical of the regime. B. in the form of the protest demonstration organized on every seventh of the month on Berlin's Alexanderplatz. “Obviously, the threat potential of the regime was partly exhausted by the open use of force. At the same time, the election control movement gave the impetus to overcome individual dissatisfaction and isolation in favor of collective action. With the local elections, the regime sought confirmation and instead promoted its downfall. "

Departure movement via Hungary and Czechoslovakia

In the GDR, trips to “ non-socialist foreign countries ” were among those privileges that were granted to pensioners, mainly SED-affiliated travel cadres as well as artists and high-performance athletes who were more or less loyal to the line, for appearances and competitions. In addition, there was occasionally a travel permit for urgent family matters - after examination by government agencies, usually as individual trips leaving the rest of the family in the GDR. “Almost all of the travelers reached the Federal Republic as social tourism events. Once a year, travelers were allowed to exchange 15  Ostmarks for 15  DM at the State Bank of the GDR. “Otherwise, one was dependent on the support of German government agencies ( welcome money ) and above all on relatives, friends and acquaintances in the West.

20 years of opening the border between Hungary and Austria: German postage stamp from 2009 , a joint issue with Austria and Hungary

The serious desire to leave the GDR with family and belongings permanently, the "permanent departure" in parlance in the GDR , was not suffered except in the case of extremely restrictive "humanitarian reasons" such as mainly family reunification and resulted in those concerned to social exclusion and disadvantage. An exit application submitted with reference to the UN Charter of Human Rights or the corresponding CSCE guarantees was not processed in the sense of an administrative procedure and was considered unlawful until a corresponding legal basis was fixed on November 30, 1988. Anyone who accepted the well-known harassment-like consequences of such an application would normally have to expect years of waiting or allow the Federal Republic to buy them out .

Until 1989 there was an effective agreement between the countries of the Eastern Bloc to deny citizens of the "brother states" the right to travel to third countries. Travelers from the GDR came to the Black Sea , to the Caucasus and perhaps far beyond Moscow to the east, but also from there not to the “West”. Discovered escape attempts, e.g. B. via Hungary to Austria , ended with the extradition of those arrested to the GDR, which usually imposed several years' imprisonment for "attempted illegal border crossing" or "flight from the republic". On the other hand, anyone who, as a GDR citizen , managed to reach an embassy representation of the Federal Republic of Germany in an Eastern Bloc country hoped to be able to leave the country sooner or later, because the Federal Republic did not officially recognize their own GDR citizenship and this was responsible Representations also still applied to these Germans.

When Hungary, which was in the process of reforms, initially loosened and finally gave up the military security of its own borders in the course of 1989 - also because of its own economic interests - this opened a floodgate for those wishing to leave East Germany.

“The 'Iron Curtain' between East and West rose, slowly, but irreversibly from now on. The Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock symbolically cut the Hungarian barbed wire fence on the border near Sopron on June 27 . Border controls remained in place, but the symbolic act documented the opening to the world public. "

When the two-month summer vacation began in the GDR at the beginning of July, more than 200,000 GDR citizens made their way to Hungary, most of them just for vacation, but thousands also looking for an opportunity to escape. A “ Pan-European Picnic ” on August 19 at Sopron, which was dedicated to new perspectives for all of Europe, was used by 800 to 900 East Germans to flee to Austria. In the first half of August, word got around that the Hungarians no longer entered a note in the passports of intercepted refugees and that there was consequently no subsequent risk of sanctions from the GDR. So many came to Hungary, "just left their plywood and plastic-clad two-stroke Trabants and made their way through the woods."

After Hungary officially opened the border to GDR refugees in the country on September 11, 15,000 people fled within three days and another 20,000 by the end of the month. But now trips to Hungary were no longer approved by the GDR authorities, whereupon the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw were overcrowded with people who wanted to flee. Since the rush soon brought with it considerable hygienic problems and even the risk of epidemics and the Czechoslovak government finally also refused to be used by the GDR to solve the problems, Honecker finally agreed to let the GDR refugees leave the country. Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher announced on September 30, 1989 on the balcony of the Prague embassy that the embassy refugees were leaving - by train across GDR territory . About 4,700 people left the GDR from Prague, 809 from the Warsaw embassy.

Memorial plaque at Dresden Central Station

On October 3, 6,000 people crowded onto the premises of the Prague embassy, ​​and thousands more were on their way there. The GDR leadership again resorted to the solution of leaving the country by train via the GDR. But they now also had the border between the GDR and ČSSR closed, which led to renewed outrage, especially among those rejected at the border. From Bad Schandau they returned to Dresden , where the trains carrying the embassy refugees were expected. Here there were protests and violent clashes with police forces and specially requested NVA special units, in which not only those willing to leave but also those willing to stay were involved.

The chaplain Frank Richter gave a groundbreaking impetus for de-escalation on October 8th , when he was able to win over police officers and demonstrators to sit down from the confrontation in order to facilitate negotiations. 20 demonstrators were selected for talks with Dresden's Lord Mayor Berghofer , who - also on the basis of church mediation - agreed to do so.

The events in Dresden showed both great oppositional currents united; one pursued the goal: “We want to get out!”, the other opposed: “We stay here!” Charles S. Maier concludes: “The increasing number of those fleeing brought those who were not ready to uproot themselves, to call for reforms that would justify staying. "

A newly forming opposition

Parallel to the swelling stream of GDR refugees in the summer of 1989 and the loophole situation that was constantly changing under the eyes of the world public, the reform-oriented opposition forces in the GDR were reorganized and expanded considerably. As a result, a large number of new and, from the SED's point of view, politically subversive organizations emerged, beginning with the establishment of the New Forum on 9/10. September 1989, which quickly enjoyed unexpectedly large support. Katja Havemann , Rolf Henrich and Bärbel Bohley were among the founders known at the time .

The New Forum was expressly constituted not as a party, but as a “political platform” and in its call for founding it pointed to a disturbed communication between state and society. It called for a public dialogue "on the tasks of the rule of law, the economy and culture". They wanted an expansion of the range of goods and a better supply, but at the same time they had concerns about the costs and the ecological consequences. Economic initiative had to be promoted, but an elbow society had to be countered. The sentence contained sharp criticism: "We want to be protected from violence and not have to endure a state of bailiffs and informers."

The appeal of the New Forum meant that further opposition groups now appeared in public in an organized manner with their specific demands and political visions for the future. For a democratically reformed GDR socialism with Christian and anti-civilization accents, also directed against the western consumer society, the newly founded Democracy Now stood up . a. Wolfgang Ullmann and Konrad Weiß were members. As a further political formation, the Democratic Awakening began on October 1st with the theologians Rainer Eppelmann and Friedrich Schorlemmer , who had already been tried and tested as critics of the regime . The starting program, essentially determined by Edelbert Richter , is characterized by co-founder Ehrhart Neubert as "a balancing act between consistent liberalization, the separation of powers, the de-ideologization of the state as well as the pluralization of property forms and the insistence on a socialist character of the desired democratic social order". Many of the new groupings were deliberately not founded as parties , but used terms such as forum, league, association or movement, which was then reflected in the concept of the citizens' movement. Value was placed on grassroots democracy , publicity and the transparency of decision-making, and interested non-members should also be able to participate and, in some cases, participate in decision-making. Calls, often combined with contact addresses and signature lists, were initially passed on from hand to hand, and in some companies they were soon posted.

The re-establishment of a Social Democratic Party (SDP) on October 7, 1989, the 40th anniversary of the GDR's founding, was of its own importance and came about after a long start-up phase under the leadership of Protestant theologians Martin Gutzeit and Markus Meckel :

“October 7th was deliberately chosen as the foundation day. The small group of members of the opposition who had decided to take this daring step rightly suspected that the security organs would be mainly busy in Berlin that day. They went into hiding a few days earlier to avoid possible arrest, and then met again in Schwante on October 7th. It worked out. Nobody was arrested. A program was passed, a board of directors was elected and new members wanted to be accepted as quickly as possible. It should be a party, not just a platform like the New Forum. This was an open challenge to the SED, on incorporation in 1946, the then SPD in East Germany by the Communist Party had been recognized . "

In fact, from the first days of October the GDR security and surveillance organs had been fully occupied with the “departure” of the embassy refugees and the increasing extent and scope of the protest actions.

Weeks of decision in October and November

The GDR-wide formation of an opposition to the SED regime, which manifested itself in new organizations, but above all in the growing willingness of the people to demonstrate, became an additional threat to those in charge of the government, who were already overloaded with the emigration problem. State Security Chief Mielke asked in a service meeting with officers on August 31, 1989: “Is it the case that June 17 will break out tomorrow ?” Conversely, there were similar fears on the part of the opposition, and in the SED leadership everything was done to help to give them plenty of food as a deterrent.

Tiananmen Square, Beijing (2004)

In doing so, use was made primarily of the events that had occurred in the People's Republic of China in the context of the GDR local elections . On April 17, 1989, an opposition student movement demonstrated on Tian'anmen Square in Beijing for reforms. On the occasion of Gorbachev's state visit to Beijing, which attracted press representatives from all over the world, almost a million people gathered for protests from May 15 to 18. One day after Gorbachev's departure, however, martial law was declared, and on the night of June 3rd to 4th, 1989, the Chinese military deployed tanks against the opposition and carried out the Tian'anmen massacre . The violent elimination of the opposition resulted in thousands of deaths and tens of thousands injured across the country.

This type of conflict resolution was officially welcomed in the GDR. The " New Germany " headline on June 5: "China's People's Liberation Army put down counterrevolutionary uprising". In a statement by the People's Chamber it was said that order and security had been restored against the excesses of anti-constitutional elements. For the SED party leadership Egon Krenz publicly affirmed the class struggle steadfastness of the Chinese communists several times.

“A Chinese propaganda film that documented the bloody suppression was broadcast twice on GDR television with terrible, inhuman comments. Many people were amazed because they knew most of the pictures shown on western television - only that they had been commented differently, in accordance with the truth. "

In the weeks from the beginning of October until the opening of the border in November 1989, it was by no means clear to those involved and observers whether the GDR leadership would ultimately seek salvation in a “Chinese solution”. As a precautionary measure, the GDR's National People's Army was put into "increased combat readiness " for October 6th to 9th .

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the GDR

Participants in the FDJ torchlight procession on October 7th, East Berlin, Unter den Linden

The SED leaders wanted to enjoy the upcoming anniversary celebrations on October 7, 1989 with their state guests as free as possible. That is why the deportation of the embassy refugees was ultimately in a hurry and their family members were also allowed to follow immediately.

“On 'Republic Day' the country is spruced up with large posters '40 Years of the GDR '. The reports of economic and political success are immense. Folk festivals are prepared for the smallest of towns. A rain of awards and medals pours over the republic. There is sausage and beer for the good mood and a huge military parade to strengthen class consciousness. "

However, there had already been breakdowns in advance: the cancellation of invited guests, the absence of those intended for medals, canceled event plans in some places. On the day of the anniversary, Western journalists were refused entry. Counter-events were popular here and there. In prayers for peace, the 40th anniversary of the Republic's birthday was sometimes referred to critically, in Gotha, for example, 40 candles were extinguished as a sign of the hopes that had died out. After the impression of Gorbachev, who had traveled to the festival, the torchlight procession of the Free German Youth (FDJ) became a sign for the SED regime:

“Marching blocks from all districts of the republic passed in front of the stands where the leadership of the GDR and the foreign guests had taken their seats. An impressive sight: orchestra played, drum rolls sounded, headlights shone. When the torches flickered, you could see - perhaps most impressive - thousands upon thousands of young faces. I was told that the participants in this torchlight procession had been carefully selected and that they were mainly activists of the Free German Youth, young members of the SED and related parties and social organizations. The slogans and chants in their ranks were all the more informative: 'Perestroika!', 'Gorbachev! Help! ' Excited stepped Mieczyslaw Rakowski (he and Jaruzelski were also on the rostrum) approached me: Mikhail Sergeyevich, you understand what slogans they shout there? ' Then he interpreted: 'They demand:' Gorbachev, save us! 'That is the party's activity! This is the end!'"

In addition to the official celebrations, there were protest-laden demonstrations in many parts of the GDR. From the already practiced, always on the seventh of the month on the Berlin Alexanderplatz to commemorate the local election fraud in May, a protest march to the Palace of the Republic , where the banquet was taking place. The crowd, which has grown to around 3,000 people, was z. B. chanting "Gorby, Gorby", "No violence", "Democracy - now or never" vociferously noticeable, but did not reach directly to the sealed off by security forces venue, but waved under the pressure of the resources deployed security forces to Prenzlauer Berg on where over 2,000 people were gathered in the Gethsemane Church at the same time.

“The emergency services had only been waiting for this. Once pushed out of the city center, a clear signal should now be set. Although the protesters kept saying 'No violence!' demanded - and in principle none exercised - the state power now struck brutally in accordance with the previously worked out plans. Individual groups were surrounded, painted with batons and water cannons and rudely arrested. Several hundred people shared this fate. "

A total of 1,200 " feeds " (in this case the shipment detainee in police facilities) registered Kowalczuk in this context, including completely innocent bystanders. Most of those affected, who were released within 24 hours, reported terrible abuse such as hitting, kicking, spitting at or refusing to urinate for hours. In contrast to other protest venues in the GDR, the East Berlin events of the republic's birthday were the subject of direct reporting by the western media. The SED production turned out to be a fiasco for a large part of the GDR population.

Triumph of the peaceful demonstrators

The events in the Vogtland town of Plauen, away from the big scenes and from the media focus, proved to be trend indicators for important aspects of the course of the time of change . A banner was installed on the railway line for the Prague embassy refugees on their way to the Federal Republic of Germany: " Vogtland greets the freedom train." On October 4th and 5th, 1989, a crowd of people formed at the train station, entire workforce waved to those passing through, before security forces evacuated the station by force. A few typewritten copies of a call for a meeting circulated for October 7th, which attacked the SED regime in a sharp tone and, among other things, accused it of a previously unprecedented "incitement and slander campaign against all democratically-minded forces in Europe". “For 40 years the people in our state were denied any say, politically and ideologically they were dumbfounded, lulled, rendered immature and intimidated. [...] And finally, the unity of Germany as a natural, never to be denied wish of all Germans, is only possible in a united and equal European house. "

Demonstration in front of the Plauen town hall on October 30, 1989

The response to the call was enormous. On the Plauen Theaterplatz, the crowd grew from a few hundred to several thousand. In chants, calls for freedom, "Germany" and "Gorbi" were chanted, with the slogan: "We stay here!" When riot police and combat groups surrounded the demonstration participants, a police helicopter approached them from above and the fire brigade sprayed water into the crowd, an escalation threatened. However, the security forces were hardly able to counter the sheer crowd, and there was no clear order. This gave Superintendent Thomas Küttler the chance to mediate, which led to an offer from the mayor to the demonstrators for the next week. The demonstrators went home, chanting 'We'll be back!' And they did: every Saturday until March 17, 1990 before the People's Chamber elections.

The GDR-wide preliminary decision for a peaceful and successful outcome of the popular uprising against the SED rulers, however, should above all be the mass demonstrations in Leipzig, which have meanwhile become the focus of the international public. Already on October 2, after the prayers for peace in the Nikolaikirche and the Reformed Church , over 10,000 people forced their way to the Thomaskirche despite police cordon chains. They countered Honecker's verbal attacks, which were widespread in the press, directly with chanting: “We are not rowdies!” This “bumpy linguistic negation” was then spontaneously turned positive and thus, according to Neubert, the logos of this revolution emerged: “We are the people! "

Detail of a mural by Michael Fischer-Art in downtown Leipzig

At the following Monday demonstration in Leipzig on October 9, 1989, two days after the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR state, the SED leadership initially hoped to restore state authority against the rebels. In addition to 8,000 armed forces, another 5,000 “social forces” in civilian clothes, particularly close to the SED, were called up to interfere with the demonstrators.

“The emergency services had tried to break up the demonstration. But then they were almost overwhelmed by the sheer mass, the unexpectedly high number of demonstrators who, after the end of the peace prayers, set in motion between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. without any recognizable guidance. 70,000 people marched across the entire inner city ring of Leipzig, calling for the approval of the New Forum, reforms, free elections and changes in leadership, without the state power preventing them from doing so. At 6:35 p.m., the operations management went over to 'self-protection of the emergency services'. "

The fact that the prepared asphyxiation of the Monday demonstration on October 9th was not seriously attempted is probably not only due to the fact that planned police measures such as pushing away, splitting up, encircling and isolating “ringleaders” could hardly succeed in view of the sheer mass. The atmosphere of this demonstration was also influenced by an appeal for non-violence. Members of the Justice Working Group and the Human Rights Working Group had printed a call for nonviolence on the previous weekend in the Lukas parish at Christoph Wonneberger's . The distribution of around 25,000 leaflets began in the city center at noon. The text was addressed both to the “emergency services” and to 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 first peaceful outcome of a major Leipzig demonstration . 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 Call of the Six with two prominent artists, the cabaret artist Bernd-Lutz Lange and the Gewandhauskapellmeister Kurt Masur . It propagated dialogue, prudence and the continuation of socialism.

Until recently, the attitude of the East Berlin SED leadership remained unclear, where after Gorbachev's influence between Krenz and Honecker considerable differences regarding the further course were revealed. When Krenz was called from Leipzig by Operations Manager Helmut Hackenberg at around 6:30 p.m. to clarify whether the non-intervention would be approved, he promised a quick recall, but only confirmed the correctness of the action on site 45 minutes later than the most of the protesters had already started their way home.

The non-violent outcome of this demonstration, which was eagerly awaited by many people outside the GDR, was generally understood as a sign that there were now opportunities for peaceful reforms in the GDR as well. The willingness of the population to actively advocate this on the street and in public subsequently picked up speed.

The Alexanderplatz demonstration in East Berlin on November 4, 1989

The largest protest rally that the GDR has ever recorded in its history was the Alexanderplatz demonstration on November 4, 1989. An estimated 500,000 people came when civil rights activists, poets, actors and some self-critical GDR officials settled accounts with the SED regime put forward their reform demands. The wide range of slogans carried by the demonstrators on banners caused a stir, including: “Visa-free to Hawaii”, “Turn instead of walls”, “Legal security is the best state security”, “Saw the bigwigs - not the trees”, “Resignation is Progress".

SED leadership in agony

Until the anniversary of the founding of the state, the SED leadership had tried with all means at its disposal to contain waves of refugees and reform pressure from inside and outside. When the celebrations on October 7, 1989 failed to achieve the desired effect, the disillusionment was resounding. Ever since Honecker's health collapse due to a gall disease at the Bucharest summit of the Warsaw Pact heads of government at the beginning of July, where the departure from the Brezhnev Doctrine and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the individual states had been officially decided upon, the SED Politburo had decided In the face of growing opposition to the government and party dictatorship, there was only a phrase-like disguise of helplessness.

At the regular meeting of the Politburo on October 10 and 11, 1989, the demonstrations, the mass exodus and the precarious economic situation were on the agenda. Kurt Hager felt reminded of the uprising of June 17, 1953 and proposed a public statement in order to initiate a dialogue about the problems that he believed were partly homemade. Krenz, Mielke and Willi Stoph agreed with him; Alfred Neumann combined his approval with a sharp criticism of Günter Mittag , whom he believed to be responsible for the precarious foreign exchange situation. Honecker, on the other hand, defended the unity of economic and social policy adopted in 1971 and spoke out strictly against a dialogue with what he believed was a counter-revolutionary opposition movement. Like Hermann Axen and Joachim Herrmann , he attributed the difficult situation to the work of external enemies. It was finally agreed on a text that appeared on October 11th in Neues Deutschland . It announced a dialogue in order to “discuss all fundamental questions of our society that are to be resolved today and tomorrow”. There was just as little talk of reforms as there was of mass demonstrations, opposition groups and citizens' initiatives. The people in the GDR reacted to this half-hearted conversation offer only with ridicule. As a result, Krenz secured the support of other Politburo members for the fall of Honecker and succeeded him on October 18, 1989. In the evening he gave his inaugural speech to the SED Central Committee, verbatim, to the GDR population on GDR television. He had thought about the key term when preparing the speech with Wolfgang Herger and Günter Schabowski . He renounced the meanwhile popular terms glasnost and perestroika for the future reform course, according to his own admission: “I have to find a German term that allows us to turn to what has been tried and tested from 40 years of the GDR and also makes it clear that we are turning away from everything, what has brought our country into the current situation. ”The speech then said:“ With today's conference we will initiate a turnaround, above all we will regain the political and ideological offensive. ”

This speech became an own goal, as Krenz himself said in retrospect: “People no longer want to hear long speeches that are reminiscent of party reports. They want to know: who is responsible for keeping the country on the brink? What are the causes? How should it go on? ”( Krenz ) However, the new SED General Secretary Krenz - as well as his term of change - was not shown any trust in useful answers. In the offer of dialogue propagated by Krenz in his speech, which the SED was supposed to win back "the political and ideological offensive", the party representatives with their practiced formal language often failed miserably towards the citizens who were now bluntly expressing criticism, be it in assembly halls or in public places . In Dresden there were posters: “Ulbricht lied, Honecker lied, Krenz lied, Dialog.” At the beginning of November 1989 the SED abandoned this initiative, which accelerated its loss of authority.

There was also no prospect of prospects, which only a few top comrades were able to gather from the papers of a commission headed by Schürer at the end of October after Krenz had requested an "unvarnished picture of the economic situation". Accordingly, disclosure of the GDR national debt was to be avoided at all costs, because otherwise the GDR would be viewed internationally as insolvent. In order for a country to be creditworthy, it was necessary that the debt service rate did not exceed 25%. In 1989 the GDR debt service rate was 150% according to Schürer's account. The commission was unable to find a way out of the misery: a debt freeze meant that the standard of living could be expected to fall by 25–30% in 1990 and would make the GDR ungovernable, it said.

The internal SED accusations and dismissal measures were meanwhile not limited to the closest Honecker loyalists, but were directed against the entire leadership, driven from outside by demonstration slogans such as “Forward to new resignations!”. On December 1, 1989, the People's Chamber deleted the SED's claim to leadership from the GDR constitution. The Politburo and Central Committee of the SED resigned on December 3rd under increasing pressure from outside and inside, and on December 6th Egon Krenz as chairman of the State Council resigned.

Fall of the wall and opening of the border

Visa to leave the GDR after the fall of the Berlin Wall

Matthias Platzeck from Potsdam, who was active as a civil rights activist and environmentalist at the time, classified the opening of the GDR borders on the evening of November 9, 1989 as a spectacular, but nevertheless predictable event . After the GDR once again permitted visa-free travel to the Czechoslovakia on November 1 and agreed to the opening of the Czechoslovak border to the Federal Republic two days later , “every East German in Erfurt, Dresden or Potsdam could get into his Trabi and take a detour via the ČSSR to Stuttgart, Cologne or Hamburg. The wall was just the inoperative relic of a bygone era. "

Queuing to exchange GDR marks for German marks in front of the Sparkasse in Ludwigslust

Seen in this way, the unexpected of what happened lay in the way, place and time of the occurrence. The SED power apparatus, which had fallen apart, contributed significantly to this. It was now clear to most of the SED leaders that the makeshift exit via the ČSSR could not remain and that a travel law was needed that also had to offer reasonably reasonable conditions to those wishing to return. A draft travel law published in “New Germany” on November 6th met with rejection from the people and the People's Chamber. A new draft law by the head of passport and registration systems, Gerhard Lauter (with a blocking period on November 10, 4 a.m.) was presented by Krenz to the SED Central Committee, hastily discussed and approved. On November 9, 1989, Schabowski, who had recently been responsible for press questions and who was not present at the Central Committee meeting, appeared before the international press and the live East German press with a note provided by Krenz with some changes from the Central Committee meeting. Watch TV. At around 7 p.m., Schabowski, when asked by the Italian ANSA correspondent Riccardo Ehrman , said that the possibility of travel “without the existence of prerequisites (reasons for travel and family relationships)” due to permits issued at short notice via border crossings into the federal territory and to West Berlin apply “immediately, immediately” - although the The new conditions had not yet been approved by the Council of Ministers and should not have come into force until 10 a.m. the following day.

The reactions to this started promptly everywhere, as it was also broadcast on West German television that the GDR had given up the border regime. The German Bundestag in Bonn interrupted its evening session for statements by the Federal Government and parliamentary group leaders to restore freedom of movement in the GDR and sang " Unity and Law and Freedom ... ". In East Berlin, more and more people made their way to the inner-city border crossings and, first on Bornholmer Strasse , pushed more and more people to open up. Here the border opened for the first time after 9 p.m. By midnight the barriers at all Berlin crossings had opened. In these and the following hours, Berliners from both parts of the city celebrated the fall of the wall as well as their reunification festival on both sides of the border after 28 years of separation by the wall and death strip.

The wall crumbles in Berlin, 1990

Border crossings into the federal territory also turned out to be passable for spontaneously determined GDR citizens that night. The following weekend brought the big rush there too, when the responsible government agencies of the GDR issued more than four million visas for trips to the West.

“There were traffic jams up to 100 kilometers long on the motorways going west. Children and young people rode their skateboards between the stationary cars. Radio DDR reported 'two hundred percent utilization of trains' in the direction of Hanover. Long queues formed in front of the savings banks and banks in the cities of the Federal Republic near the border. Everyone wanted to collect the 100 DM ' welcome money ' that, according to an old rule, every GDR citizen received on his first trip to the West. [...] The Golden West with its abundant consumer range had opened up. The vision of change in the GDR was swept away by the dream of living as quickly as possible like in the West. "

Political constellations of transition

The opening of the GDR borders to the west presented the government and opposition in both east and west Germany with new challenges and perspectives. In addition, the world event of the fall of the Berlin Wall also brought neighboring European countries and the four victorious powers of the Second World War, which were still jointly responsible for Germany as a whole, into the game of political forces. It was generally believed that the fate of the GDR state continued to depend largely on the attitude of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev to possible future options. Chancellor Kohl, as he writes in his memoirs, confronted the Soviet head of state when he visited the Federal Republic in June 1989 with the prospect that German unity would come to the sea as safely as the Rhine, which both were looking at, even against resistance flow; and Gorbachev no longer contradicted this.

After November 9th, the GDR-wide demonstrations not only saw a growing influx of people, but also a strong shift in weight with regard to the prevailing slogans: Instead of the slogan “ We are the people! "Now more and more" We are one people! "Came to the fore. An unsolved problem for East and West alike was the persistently high number of emigrants from the GDR to the Federal Republic, which on the one hand tore destabilizing gaps and on the other hand required a considerable effort to catch up and integrate. Addressed to her fellow citizens, the writer Christa Wolf , who was well-known beyond the GDR and who had already asked to stay in the GDR on the eve of the opening of the border , read an appeal on television on November 28, " For our country ", to which the 31 first signatories of the GDR Artists and civil rights activists as well as critical SED members were included. During the press conference on the same day, the writer Stefan Heym read out the appeal. Within a few weeks, 1.17 million signatures were collected.

The core passage read:

“Either we can insist on the independence of the GDR and try, with all our strengths and in cooperation with those states and interest groups that are ready to develop a solidary community in our country, in which peace and social justice, freedom of the individual , Free movement of all and the preservation of the environment are guaranteed. Or we have to tolerate that, caused by strong economic constraints and unreasonable conditions, to which influential circles from business and politics in the Federal Republic tie their aid for the GDR, a sellout of our material and moral values ​​begins and, sooner or later, the Germans Democratic Republic is taken over by the Federal Republic of Germany. We still have the chance to develop a socialist alternative to the Federal Republic in equal neighborhood to the states of Europe. We can still reflect on the anti-fascist and humanist ideals from which we once started. "

The Kohl / Genscher government in the game of forces

On the day the Berlin Wall opened, Federal Chancellor Kohl and Foreign Minister Genscher were on a state visit to Poland, which was then interrupted at short notice so that Kohl could respond to the new situation directly on site. In the immediate run-up to these events on November 8th, in the “Report on the State of the Nation in Divided Germany”, he formulated new conditions for closer cooperation with the GDR leadership: renouncing the SED's monopoly on power, allowing independent parties, free elections and development a market economy order. In a telephone conversation on November 11 with SED General Secretary Krenz, who positively emphasized the opening of the border and “radical reforms” but stated that reunification was not on the agenda, Kohl referred to the Basic Law , but admitted the establishment of “sensible relationships “Is currently a priority.

Initially, Kohl did not force the reunification concern in any way, in order not to feed the anticipated resentment abroad. His closest foreign policy advisor at the time, Horst Teltschik , was confident in this regard from survey results from November 20, according to which 70 percent of German citizens were in favor of reunification and 48 percent believed it was possible within ten years. More than 75 percent supported financial aid for the GDR, albeit without tax increases. From a conversation with Nikolai Portugalov , a high-ranking emissary of Gorbachev, Teltschik learned on the following day that Modrow's proposal for a treaty between the two German states had already initiated simulation games on the “unthinkable” on the Soviet side: questions about German reunification and the accession of the GDR to the EC and to the alliance.

Teltschik now believed the time had come to develop a concept for the path to German unity and thereby give Kohl the "opinion leadership" on the reunification issue. In the 10-point plan developed with his consent , Kohl made corrections and presented it to almost everyone, surprisingly, on November 28, 1989 in the German Bundestag: From immediate measures, the path through a contractual community and the development of confederate structures should ultimately become one Federation.

The plan initially sparked broad approval in the Bundestag , including the opposition, with the exception of the Greens , who, like most GDR civil rights activists, approved the GDR's independence on a “ third way ”. The SPD was sometimes skeptical and divided . While the former governing mayor and former chancellor of Berlin, Willy Brandt , coined the formula on November 10, 1989: “Now what belongs together will grow together”, Oskar Lafontaine , who was soon to be named SPD candidate for chancellor, addressed the GDR primarily under the aspect of incalculable financial risks and those that could be contained Relocation numbers. Foreign Minister Genscher ( FDP ) believed that a cautious approach to the German question was primarily necessary with a view to multilateral involvement and European integration and, on behalf of the Federal Chancellor, had to listen to a tough statement by Gorbachev on this uncoordinated solo attempt by Kohl.

At the private and regional level, in 1989, mediated through countless encounters and contacts, the first aid measures by West German church and communal initiatives began, which led to many East-West partnerships at the lower level: restoration of rotten roads and bridges in the border crossing area, technical assistance for communal Administrations; at the provincial level first the so-called “Hessen-Hilfe” for Thuringia and a similar commitment from Bavaria for Saxony (federal states that did not even exist in the sense of the legal entity at that time (December 1989)).

GDR development under international observation

In addition to the Moscow leadership, developments in the GDR also preoccupied the three Western Allied victorious powers, France, Great Britain and the USA. Even with the British Prime Minister and the French President, Kohl's 10-point plan initiative initially caused serious irritation. Margaret Thatcher saw international stability at risk and fueled suspicion about the peacefulness of a united and re-strengthened Germany . François Mitterrand saw the danger that the federal government could give up its close ties to the European integration process and only focus on national concerns and ambitions for power. At the beginning of December 1989 he tried to reach agreement with Gorbachev that “the pan-European process would develop faster than the German question and that it would overtake German developments. We have to create pan-European structures. "

In view of frosty encounters, including within the EC framework, the Federal Government saw an ambassadorial meeting of the four victorious Allied powers held on the Soviet initiative in the Berlin building of the Allied Control Council on December 11, 1989 as a demonstrative affront. At this point in time, the Federal Chancellor was only supported by the US administration under George Bush , which warned that Gorbachev should not be overwhelmed at the pace, but which, on the day after Kohl's 10-point plan, defended the foreign minister's interests for a possible German reunification James Baker summarized it in four principles:

  1. open-ended realization of the principle of self-determination;
  2. gradual process without rush;
  3. Inviolability of borders in Europe;
  4. Belonging of a united Germany to NATO and the European Community.

Ultimately, the decisive factor in all directions was how people in the GDR exercised their right to self-determination. In polls, a clear majority of the French and English spoke out in favor of allowing the Germans to reunify, if they wished. The driving force behind the development was the GDR population and not the federal government, which was surprised by the dynamics of the events and had to react. Chancellor Kohl could always refer to this in the further development without giving up his own creative freedom. Kohl deliberately anticipated Mitterrand's state visit to the GDR from December 20 to 22, 1989 and its consultations with Prime Minister Modrow. During his visit to Dresden on December 19, which served to exchange views and clarify positions vis-à-vis Modrow, Kohl spoke that evening in front of 100,000 people who burst into jubilation when he insisted on his foreign policy-conscious speech: “My goal remains - if The historical hour allows it - the unity of our nation. ”Today, the speech is considered a key event to convince the political powers abroad.

When Mitterrand realized, in view of the rapidly changing conditions in the GDR, that the momentum of the development could hardly be controlled from outside, he sought through the federal government to oblige a foreseeable unified Germany in two ways, above all, to final recognition the Polish western border and accelerated European integration through the creation of a currency union. The Soviet leadership sent communication signals in January 1990, when the Federal Republic of Germany was requested to deliver food due to acute supply bottlenecks. When a month later, on February 10, 1990, Chancellor Kohl and his advisers flew to Moscow for consultations with Gorbachev, the latter cleared the way for German unity. Horst Teltschik noted: “There are no differences of opinion between the Soviet Union, the Federal Republic and the GDR about unity and about the right of people to strive for it. They would have to know for themselves which way they wanted to go. The Germans in East and West have already proven that they have learned the lessons of history and that no more war will start from German soil. "

Modrow Government and Round Table

After his election as Prime Minister in the People's Chamber on November 13, 1989, Hans Modrow affirmed in his government statement of November 16 that reunification was not on the agenda for the GDR. But he too was quickly driven by the new constellations; In addition, the old resources and cadres proved to be an obstacle to solving the pressing problems:

“The departments of the apparatus in the Central Committee were completely unsettled. Relieved of leadership by the Politburo and, above all, the Secretariat of the Central Committee, helplessness and nervousness spread within the inflated structures. The old subject of work had evaporated; that usual rhythm had been lost of tinkering with a single template for weeks, deliberating it painfully with the ministries and ministers before it was submitted to the party leadership in a further meaningless procedure - only to be formally acknowledged by the government to become. This style neither suited the changed situation, nor did we have time for this cherished ritual. The result was resentment, insulted waiting, uncomprehending defiance. There was an atmosphere between stubborn praying for health and headless hectic. Annoyed quarreling, lively-motionless pounding, forcing and blocking, neglect and dullness; All around believers who had given up their hopes. "

From a different perspective, the opposition groups came to a similar finding, which had been calling for a round table to be set up since the end of October. In a joint statement on November 11, it said:

“In view of the critical situation in our country, which can no longer be managed with the current power and responsibility structures, we demand that representatives of the population of the GDR sit down for round table negotiations in order to establish the conditions for constitutional reform and for free elections create."

At the first meeting of the Central Round Table (ZRT) - also at local level, numerous round tables were set up for the purpose of reform and control of the local administrations - on December 7th, those involved defined the function of the new institution as that of an advisory and decision-making body. "In view of the unsecured legitimacy relationships in this transitional period, [comments Rödder,] the institutional competition between the round table, the government and the People's Chamber was inevitable." Unlike the Polish model for this institution, where the Solidarność delegates confronted the government with one another, the ZRT sat down in the GDR made up of representatives of the various opposition start-ups on the one hand and delegates from the SED, block parties and mass organizations close to the SED on the other. Church representatives acted as moderators to everyone's satisfaction. The church people had experience in conflict regulation and often played an important role in politics during the time of the fall, also because they were trained in handling rules of procedure and in negotiating applications.

There was neither enough domestic nor foreign political support for the Modrow government's reform socialist program. During a visit to Moscow at the end of January 1990, Modrow confessed to Gorbachev: “The growing majority of the GDR population no longer supports the idea of ​​the existence of two German states; it no longer seems possible to maintain this idea. [...] If we do not take the initiative now, then the initiated process will continue spontaneously and eruptively without our being able to influence it. "( Gorbachev )

In order to increase the basis of trust in his own government, at least for the transition phase to free elections, Modrow offered the opposition groups represented at the ZRT to join the government on January 22nd. The majority of these groups then agreed on a counter-offer to submit candidates for a non-party transitional government from the ZRT. Modrow saw this as an attempt to dismantle his government and on January 28th rejected the proposal. After lengthy negotiations and a threat to resign from Modrow, the opposition gave in and accepted entry into government with "ministers without portfolio". After Modrow's commitment to “Germany united in his fatherland” a few days later, however, the United Left withdrew its commitment because of “breach of trust” and refused to participate in the government.

Among the eight ministers finally nominated was Matthias Platzeck, who sat for the Green League at the ZRT. The request reached him by phone at a conference in Tutzing with the stipulation “Mainly a Green”, because Platzeck was not a member of the Green Party in the GDR , which was supposed to provide the minister: “If they hadn't got me on the phone in Tutzing, it would be I probably didn't become a minister. Political careers began like this or similar at this time - or not. At all levels people were desperately looking for people who were willing to get involved politically. "

After joining the cabinet on February 5, 1990, all eight new members, Hans Modrow and nine other ministerial colleagues, set out on February 13 for negotiations with the federal government in Bonn. As with Kohl's visit to Dresden two months earlier, Modrow was denied the immediate financial aid he requested to avert the impending insolvency. (However, for a few days the prospect of an imminent monetary union had been in the room.) Horst Teltschik noted: “The atmosphere of the conversation remains pretty cool. The Chancellor is no longer interested in making important appointments with a helpless Modrow. Election day is just around the corner. The subsequent conversation with the huge GDR delegation also remains fruitless. ”When Platzeck criticized the Chancellor on behalf of all opposition groups for the distortion of competition that resulted from the financial support for the Alliance for Germany with regard to the Volkskammer elections, Kohl turned instead of a direct answer to Modrow: "The Prime Minister should please forbid his cheeky young minister to shut up: 'I don't need to be taught by this young gentleman.'" ( Platzeck )

In view of an unification process that was becoming apparent in the meantime and which would come about on German terms, the Modrow government received in its final phase u. a. a mandate from the Central Round Table to “guarantee the property rights of GDR citizens to land and buildings.” As a result, legal regulations “should clarify the interests of GDR citizens”, including the “Modrow- Law “on the purchase of houses and land on which homes have stood. In this area, as well as with urgent vacancies before the end of his government, Modrow met sharp criticism for favoring "deserving comrades" and old cadres of all kinds. Neubert describes him as a "master of retreat" and mentions that dismissed GDR functionaries for life after the Wende, severance payments and financial distributions as well as the cheap acquisition of land and apartments from state property were granted. On the other hand, Modrow, as head of government during this transitional period, gained recognition from all eight opposition ministers in his cabinet.

Dissolution of the Stasi apparatus

The focus of the Central Round Table has been the Stasi problem from the start. The MfS had set up four million files on GDR residents and two million on West Germans and foreigners for surveillance purposes. Informers, management and administrative staff added up to 265,000 official and unofficial employees (IM), a good 1.6 percent of the population.

Compared to the opposition demand for complete dissolution of the MfS (demonstration slogan: “Stasi in die Produktion!”), Modrow tried to maintain a reduced “Office for National Security” (AfNS) under the leadership of Mielke's deputy Wolfgang Schwanitz , referring to the intelligence services abroad . “At the same time, the members of the MfS began to destroy files on a large scale and to“ cover up ”traces of the surveillance measures - on unofficial employees, operations, identity checks and postal surveillance - which was stopped on December 4, 1989 under pressure from the opposition , after almost all district and district offices had been occupied by opposition members since the beginning of December. The headquarters in Berlin's Normannenstrasse continued monitoring work and shredding files. "( Rödder )

A defacement of the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park on December 27, 1989, caused by unknown sprayers and accompanied by anti-communist slogans, became politically significant in two ways. On the one hand, it led to an immediate activation of the anti-fascist creed, which the SED regime had always positioned as a fundamental ideological pillar of the GDR's self-image to defend the building of the wall (" anti-fascist protective wall ") against the Federal Republic and Western powers. On January 3rd, more than 200,000 people gathered for a "combat demonstration" at the Treptower Memorial. Tens of thousands called loudly in chorus "Protection of the Constitution!" On the other hand, this also intensified the dispute over a complete dissolution of the state security apparatus, from which two separate institutions had meanwhile been formed with the protection of the constitution and the intelligence service. The opposition gave the impression that the SED / PDS, with the support of the Modrow government, wanted to take advantage of the situation to restore their former power and instruments of rule.

At the central round table on January 8, 1990, the Modrow government was asked to submit a step-by-step plan for the complete dissolution of the secret police by January 15. When Modrow declared the continued existence of a secret service to be necessary in a government declaration of January 11, 1990, he triggered a new wave of protest demonstrations and was confronted with threats to withdraw from his government by the former bloc parties CDU and LDPD, which had set out for new independence. Modrow then gave in. On January 15 at the ZRT he admitted the dissolution of the AfNS under civilian control and gave an overview of the number of employees there. On the same day, around 100,000 people gathered in Normannenstrasse in front of the MfS headquarters in Berlin to end all activity in this facility. In an unexplained manner, the gates were opened and the headquarters were stormed . When the masses poured into the extensive complex, Prime Minister Modrow hurried directly from the Central Round Table to Normannenstrasse and was able to have a calming effect by demanding that violence be avoided. The immediate result was the founding of a citizens' committee to dissolve the MfS in East Berlin, which was supposed to discuss the practical implementation of this mandate with government agencies after the Modrow government had ended.

Voting decision in free self-determination

While the course for the dissolution of the MfS was successfully set in cooperation with the round table and the citizens' movement, the goal set was not achieved with the creation of a new GDR constitution. A social charter was concluded with the confirmation of the People's Chamber, which was intended to secure and expand social standards in the GDR that were considered worth preserving. The results of the deliberations of a “working group on the new constitution of the GDR”, on the other hand, were no longer passed for resolution within the ZRT's three-month period. The fact that the elections originally planned for May 1990 on January 28, 1990 in negotiations between representatives of the ZRT and the Modrow government were brought forward to March 18 , because otherwise there was a risk of a premature collapse of the residual financial and political stability of the GDR, there were orderly processes in the constitutional question undoubtedly made more difficult. Preparing for the March election now had priority for those involved.

At the beginning of February there were disputes at the ZRT over Gerd Poppe's motion from the Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, according to which all parties should be obliged “to refrain from guest speakers from the Federal Republic and West Berlin at all public events until March 1990. “The SPD, CDU and Democratic Awakening opposed it, lost the vote, but did not feel bound by the majority decision of the ZRT. The upcoming election campaign undermined the consensus principle of the round table. The involvement of prominent West German politicians in the GDR election campaign did not only take place against the background of the unification discussion regarding the two German states, but also before the Bundestag election that was due later in the year.

Reorganized party system in the GDR

The election date, which was brought forward at short notice, not only caused an intensive election campaign without a start, as it were, which the political parties and applicants started with very different requirements in terms of established organizational structures and practical political experience, but also meant overcoming the attributes and identifying marks discredited by the participation in the SED regime in order to optimize opportunities Near. The SED itself not only got rid of particularly burdened functionaries in advance, but also changed the party name SED in two steps to SED / PDS and then PDS .

But we also had problems with the name identity. a. CDU and LDPD , the former Volkskammer block parties , which were apostrophized as "recorders" because of the SED proximity that had been imposed since the beginning of the GDR. However, both parties had developed organizational structures and human resources, which made them interesting partners for election campaign purposes for the Christian Democratic and liberal western parties. The bypassing of negative connotations for the Eastern CDU by founding the electoral alliance " Alliance for Germany ", which was entirely under the leadership of Chancellor Kohl, proved to be an extremely clever move in the interests of the Western Union parties . In addition to the Eastern CDU, the Democratic Awakening (with the well-known civil rights activist Rainer Eppelmann and a then still unknown Angela Merkel responsible for public relations ) and the DSU , which was only founded in Leipzig on January 20, were represented in this alliance Bavarian CSU oriented and was extensively supported by it.

An electoral alliance that had the full support of the western FDP was formed in association with the old LDPD, now called the "Liberal Democratic Party", the newly founded FDP of the GDR and the German Forum party, which was split off from the New Forum . The electoral alliance traded as the Bund Free Democrats .

The Social Democrats of the GDR, newly founded at the turn of the century, presented themselves free of any previous burden of a GDR past, who in January 1990 adapted the party name SDP to the western SPD and were able to hold similarly large mass rallies with their party celebrities, including former German Chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt like the alliance for Germany, especially with Helmut Kohl and the liberals with Vice Chancellor and Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Only the PDS possessed GDR politicians in the new party chairman Gregor Gysi and in Prime Minister Modrow, who were able to develop an approximately comparable effect as draft horses in the election campaign.

The other party foundations or electoral alliances that had emerged from the SED opposition and the citizens' movement, which had to contest the election campaign without well-known big names and who were also not equally available to the West for election advertising, suffered in this regard. This also applied to Bündnis 90 , in which a large part of the remaining opposition citizens' movement from the New Forum, the Peace and Human Rights Initiative and Democracy Now gathered. (Social Democrats and Democratic Awakening also took part in the founding of Alliance 90 on January 3, 1990.)

The D-Mark in sight

The attitude towards the unity of Germany and questions about the structure of the state unification process were at the center of the election campaign of the parties and electoral alliances until March 18, 1990. The Alliance for Germany, the Liberals and the Eastern SPD clearly committed to the aim of unifying the two German states soon . The main concern of the PDS was to save as much as possible of what was worth preserving from 40 years of GDR history. And the civil rights activists united in Alliance 90 continued to search for a third way between capitalism and communism.

In the fall of 1989, when the New Forum was the largest reservoir of opposition civil rights activists in the GDR, it did not even attempt to seize power that was supposedly on the streets. The aim was to initiate changes in the social dialogue and to reform the GDR on a democratic basis, although the objectives of those involved also differed from one another and required time for clarification, which was then not available. In November 1989, a Potsdam research group closely related to “Democracy Now” distributed a position paper “Future through Self-Organization” which, when the GDR was renewed, relied on “moving from the solidification of self-administered objects in subject monopoly to self-organization in subject plurality”. "The socialization of the means of production is the singular world-historical achievement of socialism and should be taken over to a higher evolutionary level of integration under new modalities ... but there it should be linked with the equally singular achievement of capitalism to have maximized the development of productive forces and unleashed the scientific and technical revolution. “One imagined a capitalist engine working in a socialist vehicle.

According to Reinhard Höppner , at a Monday demonstration in Magdeburg in early December 1989, a new, very tangible and soon powerful demand arose in the speaking choir: "If the D-Mark does not come to us, we will go to the D-Mark." ( Höppner ) In January 1990 The impatience widened and intensified with regard to the demand for approximately western living conditions at demonstrations. A poster variant of this motif said: “If the DM comes, we stay, it doesn't come, let's go to it!” ( According to Rödder ) On January 10, 1990, Horst Teltschik noted: “Since January 1, there have already been more than 20,000 trips Emigrants [...] Concern about these skyrocketing numbers is growing. Nobody knows a right answer to it. "( Teltschik :)

With this and the March elections in mind, the Kohl government decided, deviating from the 10-point plan, to skip the intermediate steps of contracting community and federation in the unification process and to move on to a “policy of big steps”. On February 7th, the GDR was given the prospect of negotiations on "joining together the two economies through a currency union on the basis of far-reaching market-economy reforms to be introduced in the GDR." According to Rödder, the offer was initially aimed at the two days after the establishment of the alliance for Germany in the media public already as lost for the CDU people chamber elections. At the same time, the East Germans who were thinking of moving were given the prospect of staying. “The alliance”, says Kowalski, “stood for the fastest way to unity. Their formula was: 'Immediate introduction of the DM.' Nobody could offer more. "

A mandate for state reunification

“From the Baltic Sea to the Thuringian Forest, the GDR was plastered with election posters. The decaying and sooty cities had put on a colorful political dress. ”( Neubert ) 93.2 percent of the GDR citizens eligible to vote cast their vote in the first free Volkskammer election . In addition to the high voter turnout, which had now come about without the pressure of the SED regime, the unexpected outcome of the election was also surprising.

From the end of 1989 and until the end of the year, the polls indicated a clear victory for the Social Democrats, which made understandable both their special commitment to the March election and their departure from Alliance 90. Counted on the full support of the West SPD you alone have the greatest opportunities. The election result of 21.9% of the vote was therefore a major disappointment. The clear winner was the alliance for Germany with 48% of the vote, 40.8% of which went to the CDU. The PDS was the third strongest force in the new People's Chamber with 16.4%, ahead of the Liberals with 5.3% and Alliance 90 with 2.9%. For this group, which, so to speak, had set the stone of opposition against the SED regime rolling, the performance turned out to be a sudden loss of importance.

The logical consequence of this election result was that the East CDU would provide Lothar de Maizière, the first freely elected Prime Minister of the GDR. In addition, it was important that those in favor of unity, which included Social Democrats and Liberals, had a majority that would change the constitution. The way was clear for an "accelerated unity under the dominance of the West German executive", especially since the GDR only had a government capable of acting again after the coalition of the Alliance for Germany, Liberals and Social Democrats, which was concluded with the Prime Minister's election on April 12, 1990.

Peaceful revolution in the time of change - aspects of interpretation of the event

“No historian ever reaches a well-defined country”, writes Charles S. Maier in his account The Disappearance of the GDR and the Fall of Communism : “It is in the nature of things that written history is provisional.” This is subject to such a reservation in addition to the description of the event, its conceptual classification. The terms “turning point” and “peaceful revolution”, which are sometimes opposed and defended in the public debate with considerable argumentative effort, can in Maier's sense also achieve nothing more than a perspective-bound, preliminary summary of the historical events in question under a seemingly appropriate one Terminus . The present presentation refrains from exclusively setting either of the two terms, which appear politically charged in contrast.

Epochal turn as an overarching framework

The scope of the change in foreign policy initiated by Gorbachev, which released Central and Eastern European states from Soviet domination into national and internal social responsibility, passed its most serious test with the fall of the SED regime and its rise through the peaceful revolution of the GDR population of the GDR in the Federal Republic of Germany. Just as the events that led to the end of the GDR were initiated and promoted on the one hand by new political developments in neighboring countries to the east, on the other hand the shaking off of the SED dictatorship and the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the main symbol of the Cold War and European division, had an accelerating effect on the replacement of the party dictatorships in Czechoslovakia and Romania, for example .

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the regaining of German national unity thus became special features at the culmination point of an epochal turning point: the “short” 20th century ended in 1989/90 : “The collapse of the Soviet empire, the end of the SED regime and the GDR, and finally the reunification of the two German states, ended within a few months an era that had held Europe and the world under the iron grip of the East-West conflict after the devastating wars and crises of the first half of the century. "( Rödder )

Eckhard Jesse puts the events in autumn 1989, which led to the overthrow of the communist dictatorships in East Central Europe and beyond, on a par with the beginning of the French Revolution : "1789 and 1989 stand for world-historical turning points, are epoch years."

Features of a largely peaceful revolution

According to Kowalczuk, the contemporary documents from 1989/90 result in an almost natural use of the term “revolution” for the events of the time. "Although it always competed with 'upheaval', 'turning point', 'collapse', 'erosion', 'failure', 'implosion' or 'downfall', these terms were not mutually exclusive in 1989/90." Only since then with '1989' conceptually "politics of history" are being pursued. He sums up: “The old order was incapable of acting, delegitimized and morally compromised; the values ​​and beliefs it advocated tattered; Citizens and mass movements opposed it and demanded new political, social, economic and cultural structures; a new order was established; Within a few months, the movement eliminated old structures, values, ideas, cultures and ruling elites, almost nothing was in public space as before, what speaks against the designation as a revolution? "

Rödder also sees the revolutionary criterion of a fundamental change in the political and social order as fulfilled, even more so than in 1848 and 1918, and calls the fall of the SED regime, which resulted in the reunification of Germany, “a German revolution”. Winkler speaks of a “new kind of revolution” based on renouncing violence, in which conscious and unconscious participants have to be distinguished: “The conscious ones were the founders of the civil rights groups and the demonstrators, who began to become a mass on October 2nd, the unconscious ones who left the GDR en masse at the same time. "

Ehrhart Neubert, as an active civil rights activist at the time, put his presentation under the title “Our Revolution” and joined Ralf Dahrendorf: “Revolutions, including the revolution of 1989, succeed insofar as they finally eliminate the old regime. Revolutions fail, however, insofar as they fail to create the completely different world of a fundamental democracy. In this sense, they inevitably disappoint the extravagant hopes that they have awakened. "Neubert relativizes the talk of the peaceful revolution:" The revolution was not peaceful until October 9, 1989 and the rulers only at the end of their political art, what does not necessarily have to be interpreted as peaceful. "

The external requirements of the autumn revolution are weighted differently. While Kowalczuk does not consider it appropriate to relativize the concept of revolution because it would not get very far who wanted to explain the 1848 revolutions , the Russian revolution and the German November revolution without the international context, Jesse says that with the loss of the foreign policy pillar, the ailing GDR would be -System collapsed like a house of cards in autumn 1989. “Because when the bayonets of the Soviet Union no longer protected the GDR, it was done for them. In this respect, the characterization of the revolution as an implosion, a kind of collapse, has more than a grain of legitimacy. "

From Winkler's point of view, the fact that the demonstration slogan “No violence!” Was successful was due to the express renunciation of force by the USSR as the GDR founding and guaranteeing power. “Without the backing of the Soviet Union, none of the dictatorships dependent on it could hold its own against the revolting masses in the long term. Because the Soviet leadership, due to political insight and economic weakness, was no longer prepared to intervene along the lines of 1953, 1956 and 1968, the emancipation movements of 1989, beginning with the Polish, were largely able to assert themselves peacefully. "

Variants, development and criticism of the term Wende

As a political term, "Wende" had been in use in West Germany since the change of power in 1982 from the SPD - to the CDU- led federal government under Helmut Kohl , after he had proclaimed a " spiritual and moral turn ".

The Böhlener platform , from which the United Left emerged , called for a left, alternative concept for a turnaround in its founding appeal in September 1989 . The Wende formula by Egon Krenz had already used the magazine Der Spiegel in the headline "GDR - Die Wende" on October 16, 1989 , with which the editors interpreted the popular protests ( Monday demonstrations ) as a victory against the state power of the GDR.

The new catchphrase was also received critically by the general public with reference to Krenz. In her speech at the large demonstration in Berlin on November 4, 1989, the writer Christa Wolf ironically compared it to the turnaround in sailing , where the captain shouts "Clear to turn" because the wind has turned and the team ducks because of it Sailing tree sweeps over the boat. The popularity of the term " turning neck " goes back to the same speech . It then became a term for the former supporters of the GDR system, who quickly adapted to the new situation in order to get the best out of themselves.

On the anniversary of “20 Years since the Fall of the Wall”, the German Federal Government published an article entitled “Wende”? "Peaceful revolution"? "Fall of the Wall"? . While the term “Peaceful Revolution” is favored there, about the turnaround it says: “The new catchphrase is short and catchy. [...] Nevertheless, the term 'turning point' is not welcome everywhere. Many see it as an attempt at linguistic capture. "

The civil rights activist at the time, Rainer Eppelmann, criticizes the current use of the term Wende because it suggests that the upheaval actually came about "from above" by the word creator Krenz and not "from below" through a revolution. He complains that the term "Wende" colloquially "has long since become a synonym for the peaceful revolution and the reunification of Germany ". The last and only democratically elected GDR Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière said: “Even today I am angry that the fall of 1989 is called the 'turning point' and that a term from Krenz is used instead of what it is really was, namely the time of a peaceful revolution. "

The word “Wende” is now also used in German to denote the comparable upheaval in other countries of the former Eastern Bloc , such as the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia . In Austria in particular , this upheaval is known as the opening of the East . Occasionally, the term "Wende" can also be identified as a foreign word in other languages, for example in English for the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The term Wende is followed by other word creations, such as the term post-reunification , which describes the time after the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the term post-reunification , which characterizes the generation of people born or emerging after the reunification.

Results and processing

The immediate consequences of the turnaround and the peaceful revolution included a. the replacement of the SED dictatorship with a pluralism of political drafts and parties competing in free elections, the dissolution of the MfS and the establishment of freedom of movement and freedom of travel for the GDR population. In addition, there were new consumption opportunities through the introduction of the D-Mark and a process of approximation of living conditions that was beginning in the course of the unification of the two German states. November 9, 1989 appears in some representations as a kind of crossroads within the overall event:

“The opening of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 was for the GDR what the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 had been for the French ancien régime : the blow from which the previous order could no longer recover. The wall was no less a symbol of bondage than the Bastille. When the symbol fell, the old rule had come to an end. "

Exhibition in the memorial for the freedom movements in German history , Rastatt (Baden-Württemberg)

While there is broad agreement on the significance of the demolition of the Wall and the border regime for the irrevocable end of SED rule, the significance of November 9, 1989 and its immediate consequences for the progress of the restructuring process in the GDR is not without controversy. In this context, Stefan Bollinger speaks of a “turning point in the turn” : “Just a disciplined, albeit dissatisfied and demonstrating majority of the population, now a nation-wide crowd streaming across the borders, their main concern - unhindered travel - themselves in hand. "With that, the GDR civil rights activists" stood in front of the shambles of their attempt at socialist renewal, "Bollinger judges and quotes Konrad Weiß :" I think the upheaval, the revolution, if you will, is from the mountains of goods, who saw the unprepared GDR citizens were crushed. ”For Bollinger, the overall picture is that the revolution has broken off, since the GDR's own alternatives and executives have now fallen behind compared to the impulses and course-setting emanating from the Federal Republic.

With a different accentuation, Winkler also sees a “turning point in the turning point” connected with the fall of the wall. The peaceful revolution had now entered a new, national democratic phase under the demonstration motto “Germany, united fatherland!”. On the other hand, Wolfgang Schuller's summary in his presentation “The German Revolution 1989” stands for the image of a continuous, holistic development : “an independent revolution in which the whole people, including the average citizen, effectively participated, who after forty years of isolation shared an externally determined ideological party dictatorship brought down their secret police, which penetrated all areas of society, without the use of force; a revolution that lasted for months, which began and ended with mass demonstrations, but gradually gave itself to forms of political organization and nevertheless opted for parliamentary democracy. "

The "liquidation of the GDR" as a result of the election results of March 18, 1990 corresponded to the will of the masses, notes Winkler, not to that of the intellectual civil rights activists as initiators of the peaceful revolution. Even with the judicial treatment of GDR injustice that extended until 2005, the GDR oppositionists from the very beginning are z. T. disagree. “Only a few high officials in the GDR were sentenced to imprisonment. For most of the members of the nomenklatura , removal from office was the toughest sanction. ”Although the Federal Court of Justice ruled with regard to the order to shoot z. B. stated that both the wall riflemen and the Politburo members had made themselves liable to prosecution; but mostly only suspended sentences were imposed. This gave the impression that the injustice had largely only been recorded, but not punished.

The protagonists of the peaceful revolution in the GDR remain the extensive efforts to document and come to terms with the SED dictatorship as a lasting success in their struggle against the SED regime . For this purpose, the German Bundestag set up two study commissions in 1992 and 1995 , which compiled extensive reporting material. With the Stasi Records Act 1991, the files of the MfS were opened, so that personal inspection as well as scientific and journalistic evaluation have been possible since then. The federal foundation to come to terms with the SED dictatorship , established in 1998 by a resolution of the Bundestag, supports numerous scientific projects and also looks after victims of the dictatorship.

See also




  • Silvia Kabus, Reinhard Bernhof : Environment sheets . Reprint of an illegal small magazine, published in Samizdat 1988/89, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-86660-082-9 .
  • Reinhard Bernhof, Silke Brohm: In the shadow of the colossal figures . Basic documents on the Peaceful Revolution 1989 in Leipzig, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-86660-081-2
  • Christian Dietrich , Martin Jander : The expansion to the mass protest in Saxony and Thuringia. In: Eberhardt Kuhrt u. a. (Ed.): Opposition in the GDR from the 1970s until the collapse of SED rule (Volume 3 of the series: At the end of real socialism, published on behalf of the Federal Minister of the Interior). Opladen 1999, p. 737 ff.
  • Martin Jankowski : The day that changed Germany - October 9, 1989 . Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-374-02506-0 .
  • Thomas Küttler , Jean Curt Röder (ed.): The turning point in Plauen. Vogtländischer Heimatverlag Neupert, Plauen 1991, ISBN 3-929039-15-X .
  • Detlef Pollack, Wolf-Jürgen Grabner, Christiane Heinze (eds.): Leipzig in October. Churches and alternative groups in the upheaval of the GDR - analyzes of the turnaround . With a foreword by Friedrich Magirius . Berlin: Wichern, 1990. 2nd edition. 1994, ISBN 3-88981-050-0 .
  • Alfred W. Radeloff: The peaceful revolution in Dessau. Manuela Kinzel Verlag, Dessau 1999, ISBN 3-934071-00-7 .
  • Rolf Schwanitz , Curt Röder (ed.): Moral courage. The peaceful revolution in Plauen based on Stasi files as well as retrospectives on the events in autumn 1989. Vogtländischer Heimatverlag Neupert, Plauen 1998, ISBN 3-929039-65-6 .
  • Peaceful Revolution 1989/90 in Saxony. Special map 1: 400 000. (Atlas for the history and regional studies of Saxony, No. D – V 3), with a booklet by Hartmut Zwahr , Uwe Schwabe, Michael Richter and Tobias Hollitzer, Staatsbetrieb Geobasisinformation und Vermessung Sachsen and Saxon Academy of Sciences Leipzig, Dresden / Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-89679-599-1 .
  • Michael Heinz: "The battle for the minds and hearts of people is raging ...". Peaceful revolution and democratic transition in the Bad Doberan and Rostock-Land districts . Ostsee Druck Rostock, Rostock 2009.
  • Sebastian Stude: The Peaceful Revolution 1989/90 in Halle / Saale . Events, actors and backgrounds . Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaft Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-58706-5 .
  • Christoph Wunnicke: The district of Neubrandenburg in 1989. 2010, ISBN 978-3-933255-32-7 .
  • Stephan Diller / Christoph Wunnicke (eds.): Prenzlau and the Peaceful Revolution - a city in upheaval: 1985–1995, accompanying publication for the exhibition in the Kulturhistorisches Museum, Dominican Monastery Prenzlau, Prenzlau 2011.
  • Autumn 1989 in the GDR province. Case studies: Pritzwalk, Halberstadt and Gotha , with contributions by: Alexander Amberger, Renate Hürtgen, Sebastian Stude, Matthias Wenzel; Helle Panke e. V. (Ed.), Series “hefte zur gdr-geschichte”, issue 137, Berlin 2015
  • Thomas Balzer, Siv Stippekohl, Siegfried Wittenburg : Atlas of departure: Stories from 25 years of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (book and DVD). Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86153-847-9 .

Sound carrier

  • On the brink: original sounds at the turn of 1989/90. 1998, DeutschlandRadio, 2 audio cassettes; other edition: 2 CDs; New edition 2001, in the holdings of the ZLB
  • Walter Roller: The Wall falls: The turning point in Germany from January 1989 to October 3, 1990 , 1999, German Historical Museum, in the holdings of the ZLB
  • Götterdämmerung in the Central Committee . Audio transcripts from the last meetings of the SED Central Committee October to December 1989, edited by DeutschlandRadio: Michael Roth, 1997.


  • The GDR between Wende and Wahl , 2 VHS cassettes, a total of 65 minutes, published: FWU Institute for Film and Image in Science and Education, Grünwald, approx. 1993, in the holdings of the ZLB
  • Chronicle of the turning point , six episodes: 7-18. October 1989, 19.-31. October, 1-12 November 13–24 November 25th - November 6th December 7-18 December; Production: ORB , published: EuroVideo, in the inventory of the ZLB
  • Awakening - A people overthrows its state power , SFB 1990. By Rainer KG Ott, Ralf-J. Egert et al. a., Documentation of the events around the fall of the Berlin Wall.
  • German-German History: Youth in East and West . Ed. V. FWU / Federal Foundation to Process the SED Dictatorship, Grünwald 2008.
  • The turning point of 1989/90: From the peaceful revolution to German unity . Ed. V. FWU / Federal Foundation to Process the SED Dictatorship, Grünwald 2008.
  • Opposition in the GDR - Biographies of the Rebellion . Ed. V. FWU / Federal Foundation to Process the SED Dictatorship, Grünwald 2009.
  • “Don't be afraid” - Christians in the GDR . Ed. V. FWU Institute for Film and Image in Science and Education, Grünwald 2009.

Web links

Commons : Die Wende  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. On the role of the security organs, especially the NVA, cf. Horst Klein: The National People's Army of the GDR in the peaceful revolution in autumn 1989. In: Yearbook for research on the history of the workers' movement , Volume III / 2009.
  2. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 172 ff. “Bolshevism, Lenin said, is Soviet power plus electrification. Stalinism, we could say today, was steelworks plus secret police. […] In 1970 the great era of steel production and its post-war expansion was over. [...] The countries of the CMEA , however, until the middle of "made-eighties it to restructure their industries new. (Charles S. Maier 1999, p 173/176)
  3. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 184.
  4. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 260.
  5. In his memoirs Gorbachev writes: “Perestroika began from above, and under the conditions of totalitarianism it could not be otherwise . But past experience taught us that if the impulses for reforms are not taken up by the masses, they are doomed to failure. It was therefore important to lead society out of lethargy and indifference as quickly as possible and to involve it in the process of change. "( Michail Gorbatschow: Quellen. Berlin 1995, p. 271 )
  6. When the physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, who was brought back to Moscow by Gorbachev in December 1986 from the exile Gorky, called for the abolition of the leading role of the party at the 1989 Congress of People's Deputies, the microphone was turned off. (Kowalczuk 2009, p. 33; the presentation of this process by Gorbachev in his memoirs is different . Berlin 1995, p. 433–436)
  7. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, pp. 325 f./390 f .; Rödder 1989, p. 16 f.
  8. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 845.
  9. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 839.
  10. Edgar Wolfrum: The Wall. History of a division. Munich 2009, p. 124.
  11. Egon Krenz: Autumn '89. Berlin 1999, p. 195 f.
  12. Edgar Wolfrum: The Wall. History of a division. Munich 2009, p. 127 f.
  13. Rödder 2009, p. 55 f.
  14. A detailed description from a personal and jointly responsible point of view can be found in Manfred Stolpe : Schwieriger Aufbruch. Berlin 1992, pp. 87-170.
  15. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 236.
  16. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 280.
  17. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 308. In the chapter “Opposition in the SED State”, Kowalsky gives a detailed overview of the activities of regime critics (ibid, pp. 332–311).
  18. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 67 f.
  19. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 24.
  20. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 68.
  21. ^ Report of the Central Committee to the 8th Party Congress of the SED, Berlin 1971, p. 31 f .; quoted n. Alfred Kosing: Theoretical problems of the development of the socialist nation in the GDR. Berlin 1975, p. 6.
  22. Werner Schulz: "What is fermenting for a long time becomes anger" - The run-up of the GDR opposition to the peaceful revolution. In: Eckart Conze, Katharina Gajdukowa and Sigrid Koch-Baumgarten: The democratic revolution in 1989 in the GDR. Böhlau Verlag, Cologne Weimar Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-412-20462-4 , p. 115.
  23. ^ Alfred Kosing: Theoretical problems of the development of the socialist nation in the GDR. Berlin 1975, pp. 21, 47.
  24. Alfred Kosing: Interior views as evidence of the times. Philosophy and Politics in the GDR. Memories and reflections. Berlin 2008, p. 346 f.
  25. Neubert 2008, p. 29. Neubert passed on the joke that was circulating at the time: “Say another word for sour cucumber. - Banana in the colors of the GDR. "
  26. Rödder 2009, p. 21.
  27. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 347; Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 701.
  28. Alexander von Plato: The Unification of Germany - A Global Power Game: Bush, Kohl, Gorbachev and the Secret Moscow Protocols , 2002.
  29. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 85.
  30. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 932.
  31. Quotation from Kowalczuk 2009, p. 12 f.
  32. ^ According to Rödder, the reason for the ban was a report on the Secret Additional Protocol to the Hitler-Stalin Pact (Rödder 2009, p. 64). Von Honecker is said to have been upset about the "croaking of wild bourgeois who wanted to rewrite the history of the CPSU and the Soviet Union". (Neubert 2008, p. 32)
  33. Kowalczuk 2009, pp. 74 ff.
  34. ^ Eva Kolinsky: Women in 20th-century Germany , (German), Manchester University Press, New York, 1995, ISBN 0-7190-4654-8 , p. 18, some of which can be viewed at Google Books
  35. Quotation from Rödder 2009, p. 21.
  36. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 119.
  37. Neubert 2008, p. 62. On the overall problem: Charles S. Maier 1999, pp. 138–187; Kowalczuk 2009, pp. 109-127.
  38. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 210.
  39. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 126 f.
  40. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 137 f.
  41. ^ Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 26.
  42. The MfS called the first drafts of the text "the most current, complex catalog of demands with regard to socio-political changes in the GDR". (Christof Ziemer: The conciliar process in the colors of the GDR. Expertise for the Enquete Commission of the German Bundestag Processing of the history and consequences of the SED dictatorship in Germany , quoted in: Heino Falcke: Where is freedom? Being a Christian in times of Wende. Kreuz-Verlag, Freiburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7831-3408-7 , p. 94)
  43. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 319.
  44. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 324: "In mid-April 1989 the central electoral commission already had figures according to which 82,560 men and women had announced that they would not participate in the elections."
  45. According to the MDR, Matthias Klipp's successful candidacy is an exception to this rule.
  46. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 326 f.
  47. Rödder 2009, p. 66.
  48. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 184.
  49. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 188.
  50. Rödder 2009, p. 73.
  51. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 346.
  52. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 350.
  53. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 213 f.
  54. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 378.
  55. October 3, 1989 - The GDR actually closes its borders by "suspending" visa-free travel to the CSSR ... ; "Based on the reports available to the GDR, certain circles in the FRG are preparing further provocations for the 40th Anniversary of the GDR, which are directed against peace and order. ”Source: Neues Deutschland, October 4, 1989 , chronik-der-mauer.de (from the Federal Agency for Civic Education , Deutschlandradio and Leibniz Center for Contemporary Research ), accessed on 5th October 2019.
  56. Reinhard Höppner: You have to try miracles. The way to German unity. Berlin 2009, p. 52 f.
  57. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 229.
  58. Details on the founding phase at Jens Reich : The time is ripe. September 9, 1989: Thirty courageous GDR citizens found the “New Forum”. They have no idea what avalanche they will trigger. In: Die Zeit No. 29, July 9, 2009, p. 17.
  59. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 362; confirming the limited ambition of the New Forum: Rödder 1989, p. 67 f.
  60. Neubert 2008, p. 90, which gives an overview including further start-ups (ibid, pp. 70–91)
  61. Reinhard Höppner: You have to try miracles. The way to German unity. Berlin 2009, p. 56 f.
  62. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 62.
  63. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 337 f .; Schuller 2009, p. 48.
  64. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 339.
  65. Especially for the Leipzig Monday demonstration: Roland Mey, Der Schießbefehl on October 9, 1989. Online shop offer. Table of contents , Osiris Online-Verlag, 2011.
  66. Neubert 2008, p. 122.
  67. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 123.
  68. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 934.
  69. a b Kowalczuk 2009, p. 391 f.
  70. Schöne 2008, p. 12.
  71. Schuller 2009, p. 108.
  72. Quotation from Kowalczuk 2009, p. 396 f.
  73. Schuller 2009, p. 112; Kowalczuk 2009, p. 398.
  74. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 114.
  75. Rödder 2009, p. 88.
  76. 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.
  77. 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.
  78. Krenz claims to have clarified the procedure in Leipzig in advance so that no violent intervention could occur unless the security forces themselves were attacked. (Egon Krenz: Herbst '89. Berlin 1999, p. 90 f.)
  79. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 136 f .; Schuller 2009, p. 122; Krenz himself does not mention this contact in his description of October 9, 1989; he had posted his security officer within sight of Honecker's conference room, where he had just received foreign state guests: “He should tell me immediately when the guests leave Honecker, because I have to be the first to inform him about the situation. Honecker is General Secretary of the SED and Commander in Chief of our armed forces. Nobody should be able to misinform him. Uniform action must be guaranteed. Anything else would be dangerous in this situation. ”(Egon Krenz: Herbst '89. Berlin 1999, p. 92)
  80. Schuller 2009, pp. 133–177, gives an overview of the multitude of activities that are also increasing in the north and west of the GDR. Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first independent newspapers appeared, such as the “ Weimarer Wochenblatt ” in the city of Weimar (first edition on November 8, 1989). (Axel Stefek: November 1989. Das Weimarer Wochenblatt. In: Axel Stefek: Weimar ungepasst. Resistant behavior 1950–1989. Weimar: Stadtmuseum Weimar, 2014. pp. 167–172.)
  81. Generally critical of the mass estimates: Kowalczuk 2009, p. 371 f .; For the rally on the "Alex" on November 4, 1989, Kowalczuk considers more than 200,000 participants to be very unlikely (ibid, p. 452)
  82. For a chronology of the demonstration and self-assessment of the protagonists see: “Aufbruch im November” (DT, 2014, 45 minutes), documentary by Gabriele Denecke for RBB and MDR. First broadcast on November 4th, 2014.
  83. Edgar Wolfrum: The Wall. History of a division. Munich 2009, p. 134; Reinhard Höppner: You have to try miracles. The way to German unity. Berlin 2009, p. 69.
  84. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 337; Schuller 2009, p. 89 ff.
  85. Andreas Malycha: The SED in the Honecker era. Power structures, decision-making mechanisms and areas of conflict in the state party 1971 to 1989. De Gruyter / Oldenbourg, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-486-74709-6 , pp. 392–396 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  86. Egon Krenz: Autumn '89. Berlin 1999, p. 120.
  87. Quotation from Kowalczuk 2009, p. 427; Krenz himself only quotes the first half-sentence (cf. Krenz 2009, p. 120). At the Central Committee meeting of the SED on November 8, 1989, Modrow opposed this: “The turning point came from the street, and we must not forget Lenin's principle that a party that does not recognize and recognize its mistakes has the power to lead loses. “Hans Modrow: I wanted a new Germany. Berlin 1998, p. 319.
  88. Egon Krenz: Autumn '89. Berlin 1999, p. 133.
  89. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 161.
  90. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 432 f.
  91. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 211.
  92. On the same day, according to Wolfgang Berghofer, at the initiative of Modrow, top officials discussed "shifting the blame for the dictatorial crimes of the SED onto the Stasi". In: Die Welt , April 17, 2007: The SED stab in the back , interview with Manfred Wilke .
  93. Matthias Platzeck: The future needs a past. German questions, East German answers. Hamburg 2009, p. 45.
  94. ^ Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 261 ff .; Kowalczuk 2009, p. 456 ff .; Schuller 2009, p. 187 ff .; Egon Krenz: Autumn '89. Berlin 1999, p. 241 ff; Günter Schabowski announces freedom of travel for GDR citizens in a press conference.
  95. The driving role of moderation and reporting in the ARD Tagesthemen of November 9, 1989, emphasizes Hans-Hermann Hertle : “Those television viewers and radio listeners who don't miss the historic moment and actually just want to 'watch' and be there therefore rushing to the border crossings and the Brandenburg Gate, basically brought about the event that would otherwise not have taken place. A fiction spread by the media mobilized the masses and thus became reality. ”(In: Der Tagesspiegel , November 8, 2009, p. 4)
  96. Reinhard Höppner: You have to try miracles. The way to German unity. Berlin 2009, p. 75 ff.
  97. Helmut Kohl: Memories 1982–1990. Munich 2005, p. 889 f. Regarding the results of Gorbachev's visit to the Rhine, his chief foreign policy advisor, Chernayev, noted: “In the GDR, too, it was understood above and below that the Federal Republic would now have priority in Soviet Germany policy. It would also become the most important partner in building a new Europe. ”Quoted from Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 348 f.
  98. ^ Call of November 26, 1989 'For our country' - complete text with the first signatories
  99. Rödder 2009, p. 129 f.
  100. Egon Krenz: Autumn '89. Berlin 1999, p. 265; Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 27.
  101. Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 41.
  102. Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 43 f.
  103. Helmut Kohl: Memories 1982–1990. Munich 2005, p. 990 ff .; Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 49 ff. “The Federal Chancellor estimated that it would take five to ten years to achieve unity. We agreed: Even if unity were not achieved until the end of this century, that would be a stroke of luck in history. ”Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 52.
  104. Rödder 2009, p. 171 ff .; Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 712 ff.
  105. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 315.
  106. Rödder 2009, p. 161.
  107. Rödder 2009, p. 150.
  108. Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, pp. 47/60
  109. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 312 f .; Helmut Kohl: Memoirs 1982–1990. Munich 2005, p. 1025.
  110. Jan CL König: About the power of speech. Strategies of political eloquence in literature and everyday life. Göttingen 2011, pp. 245-256.
  111. Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 140.
  112. Hans Modrow: I wanted a new Germany. Berlin 1998, p. 349.
  113. Quotation from Neubert 2008, p. 250.
  114. Rödder 2009, p. 180 f.
  115. “In the GDR you could only learn that in the area of ​​the church. The Protestant Church was the only organization that was still fundamentally democratically organized. ”Reinhard Höppner: You have to try miracles. The way to German unity. Berlin 2009, p. 102.
  116. Mikhail Gorbachev: Memories. Berlin 1995, p. 714.
  117. ^ Karl-Heinz Arnold: Hans Modrow. The first hundred days . Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1990, p. 77 f.
  118. ^ Declaration by the United Left dated February 2, 1990
  119. Matthias Platzeck: The future needs a past. German questions, East German answers. Hamburg 2009, p. 56.
  120. Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 145. Rödder 2009, p. 190 f .: "Kohl let Modrow starve to death on his outstretched arm."
  121. Matthias Platzeck: The future needs a past. German questions, East German answers. Hamburg 2009, p. 59; see. Hans Modrow: I wanted a new Germany. Berlin 1998, p. 420 f.
  122. Hans Modrow: I wanted a new Germany. Berlin 1998, p. 426 f.
  123. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 333 f.
  124. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 524; Platzeck writes: “Despite everything that divides and differentiates us, I still respect Hans Modrow today. In the difficult months of upheaval, he did everything possible to prevent the situation from escalating and to prevent bloodshed. ”Matthias Platzeck: The future needs a past. German questions, East German answers. Hamburg 2009, p. 50.
  125. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 498.
  126. Rödder 2009, p. 182 f .; Hans Modrow: I wanted a new Germany. Berlin 1998, p. 324.
  127. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 317 f .; Kowalczuk 2009, p. 511.
  128. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 320 ff .; Kowalczuk 2009, p. 512 f .; Hans Modrow: I wanted a new Germany. Berlin 1998, p. 407 f.
  129. Rödder 2009, p. 187: "It represented a combination of the high level of Federal German social benefits and social co-determination rights with the social security of the GDR - the question of financing remained open."
  130. An overall draft presented in April 1990 was rejected in the People's Chamber, which was newly composed after the March elections, with 179 to 167 votes. (Matthias Platzeck: The future needs an origin. German questions, East German answers. Hamburg 2009, p. 66 f.)
  131. Rödder 2009, p. 188 f.
  132. Neubert 2008, p. 332.
  133. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 345 ff .; Rödder 2009, p. 216 ff.
  134. Quotation from Neubert 2008, p. 235 f.
  135. Reinhard Höppner: You have to try miracles. The way to German unity. Berlin 2009, p. 79 f.
  136. Quotation from Rödder 2009, p. 193.
  137. Horst Teltschik: 329 days. Inside views of the agreement. Berlin 1991, p. 103.
  138. Rödder 2009, pp. 208/210.
  139. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 527.
  140. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 364.
  141. Rödder 2009, p. 225.
  142. Charles S. Maier 1999, p. 29.
  143. “In the beginning there was Gorbachev.” This is how Rödder begins his “Tour d'horizon 1989: East and West on the eve of the new era”. Rödder 2009, p. 15.
  144. Timothy Garton Ash: A century is voted out. From the centers of Central Europe 1980–1990. Munich / Vienna 1990, p. 401 ff.
  145. Rödder 2009, p. 12.
  146. Eckhard Jesse: Introduction. In: ders. (Ed.): Peaceful Revolution and German Unity. Saxon civil rights activists take stock. Berlin 2006, p. 281.
  147. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 536f.
  148. Kowalczuk 2009, p. 540.
  149. Rödder 2009, p. 117.
  150. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : The long way to the west . Second volume: German history from the “Third Reich” to reunification . Fifth revised edition. Munich 2002, p. 513.
  151. Ralf Dahrendorf : Do revolutions have to fail? In: History begins again. From the fall of the wall to the war in Iraq. Speeches and essays. Munich 2004, p. 23; quoted n. Neubert 2008, p. 16.
  152. ^ Neubert 2008, p. 17.
  153. Eckhard Jesse. In: ders. (Ed.): Peaceful Revolution and German Unity. Saxon civil rights activists take stock. Berlin 2006, p. 7, 282.
  154. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : The long way to the west . Second volume: German history from the “Third Reich” to reunification . Fifth revised edition. Munich 2002, p. 561.
  155. Böhlener platform
  156. Excerpts from Krenz's televised address. German Broadcasting Archive; Retrieved June 21, 2009.
  157. "turning point"? "Peaceful revolution"? "Fall of the Wall"? ( Memento of June 23, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), Press and Information Office of the Federal Government of October 19, 2009. Most recently, it wrote about the fall of the Wall: “The term is correct if you translate it like this: The people in the GDR have the Wall brought down with their Peaceful Revolution. "
  158. Cf. Rainer Eppelmann / Robert Grünbaum: Are we the fans of Egon Krenz? The revolution was not a "turning point". In: Deutschland Archiv 5/2004, pp. 864–869 ( online ).
  159. Here comes the process of reunification, which is referred to in politics and history as a post-revolutionary transformation process, for example in history for today. Journal for historical and political education. Vol. 2 (2009), Volume 2: “Twenty Years of Peaceful Revolution”. In this perspective, it is combined with the Peaceful Revolution at the turn: Turning time = Peaceful Revolution + Transformation (until October 3, 1990).
  160. Lothar de Maizière: “I want my children no longer to have to lie”: My story of German unity. Freiburg 2010, p. 52.
  161. Article in the Duden online portal , accessed on December 18, 2011.
  162. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west . Second volume: German history from the “Third Reich” to reunification . Fifth revised edition. Munich 2002, p. 517.
  163. Stefan Bollinger: 1989 - a broken off revolution. Obstructed ways not only to a better GDR? Berlin 1999, pp. 105, 233.
  164. Quotation from Stefan Bollinger: 1989 - a broken off revolution. Obstructed ways not only to a better GDR? Berlin 1999, p. 240.
  165. Stefan Bollinger: 1989 - a broken off revolution. Obstructed ways not only to a better GDR? Berlin 1999, p. 311.
  166. "November 9th became what Hartmut Zwahr called 'the turning point in the turn' and the transition to a new phase of the 'peaceful revolution', namely the 'national democratic revolution'." (Heinrich August Winkler: The long way west . Volume two: German history from the "Third Reich" to reunification . Fifth, revised edition. Munich 2002, p. 520)
  167. Schuller 2009, p. 307.
  168. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west . Second volume: German history from the “Third Reich” to reunification . Fifth revised edition. Munich 2002, p. 560.
  169. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west . Second volume: German history from the “Third Reich” to reunification . Fifth revised edition. Munich 2002, p. 618.
  170. Edgar Wolfrum: The Wall. History of a division. Munich 2009, p. 152.