Alexanderplatz demonstration

Alexanderplatz demonstration

The Alexanderplatz demonstration on 4 November 1989 in East Berlin
Begin of Demonstration at Alexanderplatz

The Alexanderplatz demonstration (Marianne Birthler and Jens Reich, the writer Stefan Heym, the actor Ulrich Mühe, the head of the East German foreign intelligence service Markus Wolf and Politburo member Günter Schabowski.

Background and preparations

The original pamphlet distributed by the organizers[B]

In early October 1989 East German authorities celebrated the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic. At the same time they had to face increasing protests across the country and a mass exodus of their citizens to West Germany via Hungary and the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw. On 18 October reformist members of the Politburo forced Erich Honecker to resign as the chair of the council of state and general secretary of the Socialist Unity Party (SED). He was replaced by the slightly less hardline Egon Krenz who became the new party leader and the chair of the council of state a few days later.[1] In his inaugural address he used the term Die Wende (lit. turnaround) and promised political reforms. He later ordered to stop all police actions against protesters and reopened the previously closed border to Czechoslovakia, but a few days later, on 23 October, more than 300,000 people joined the Monday demonstration in Leipzig and many more at other protests throughout the country.[2]

The Alexanderplatz demonstration was the first officially permitted demonstration in East Germany that was organized by individuals and not by the authorities. The first idea for a demonstration on the [6]

Demonstration

Protesters referring to paragraph 27 and 28 of the East German constitution

On 4 November 1989 the demonstration started at 9:30 with a protest march to the Alexanderplatz in the center of East Berlin. At 11:00 the first protesters arrived at the Alexanderplatz. The more than 500,000 protesters came not only from East Berlin but from all over East Germany. Thousands of banners showed the slogans that were already used by hundred of thousands of protesters in other East German cities during the still illegal Monday demonstrations. Neither the opening of the Berlin wall nor a possible German reunification were among the demands. Instead the protesters concentrated on the democratization of East Germany, with references to paragraphs 27 and 28 of the East German constitution which in theory but not in practice guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.[3]

Stage actors Ulrich Mühe and Johanna Schall during the demonstration
The opening speeches were held by Marion van de Kamp, Johanna Schall, Ulrich Mühe and Jan Josef Liefers, who were stage actors from East Berlin. Ulrich Mühe, actor at the Deutsches Theater demanded in his speech the abolition of the first paragraph of the East German constitution which guaranteed the leading role of the Socialist Unity Party. In the next three hours a series of speakers voiced their demands for democratic reforms in East Germany. The three-hour-long demonstration was televised live on East German television, including the scenes of representatives of the regime being jeered and booed by the protesters.[3] Later the dissident Bärbel Bohley would say about Markus Wolf, head of the East German foreign intelligence service and speaker during the demonstration:

The speakers were, in order of appearance: lawyer Gregor Gysi, Marianne Birthler of the opposition group Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, Markus Wolf, Jens Reich of the opposition group New Forum, LDPD politician Manfred Gerlach, actor Ekkehard Schall, SED Politburo member Günter Schabowski, writer Stefan Heym, theologian and dissident Friedrich Schorlemmer, writer Christa Wolf, actor Tobias Langhoff, film director Joachim Tschirner, dramatist Heiner Müller, university rector Lothar Bisky, university student Ronald Freytag, writer Christoph Hein, Hungarian student Robert Juhoras, and actress Steffie Spira.[4][8]

Banners

The most often used protest slogan of the Monday demonstrations as well as the Alexanderplatz demonstration was "We are the people" (German: Wir sind das Volk) which became "We are one people" (German: Wir sind ein Volk) after the fall of the Berlin Wall, thus changing the nature of the demonstrations. Many other slogans and banners have been documented by photographs and by an exhibition in the Deutsches Historisches Museum:[4]

Commemorations

In spring 1990 banners of the demonstration were used to decorate and cover the exhibits of the by then politically outdated permanent exhibition "Socialist mother country GDR" at the Deutsches Historisches Museum. In the summer of 1994 banners and other artifacts of the demonstration were permanently added to the collection of the museum and were shown in an exhibition on the Alexanderplatz demonstration. The banners were preserved by Henning Schaller, stage designer at the Maxim-Gorki-Theater, who asked participants to leave the banners so that they could be collected for an art exhibition.[4] To mark the tenth anniversary in 1999 a series of events under the title "We were the people" (German: Wir waren das Volk) were held in Berlin.[9]

Notes

A^ : The number of participants differs across sources. Initially media reported numbers of around 500,000, as for example did the [8]
B^ : The pamphlet reads: "Information by the association of theater workers. Demonstration against violence and for constitutionally guaranteed rights. Demonstration is officially registered. Time: 4 November 1989 10:00 am. Meeting point: ADN-building. Mollstrasse/Prenzlauer Allee. Banners are welcome.

References

  1. ^ Solsten, Eric (August 1999). Germany: A Country Study. Diane Publishing. pp. 120–124.  
  2. ^ Hancock, M. Donald; Helga A. Welsh (January 1994). German unification: process and outcomes. Westview Press. pp. 78&ndash:81.  
  3. ^ a b c d e Timmer, Karsten (January 2000). Vom Aufbruch zum Umbruch: Die Bürgerbewegung in der DDR 1989 (in German). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. pp. 276–279.  
  4. ^ a b c d e "In guter Verfassung (4. November 1989. Berlin/Alexanderplatz)". DHM-Magazin (in German) (Deutsches Historisches Museum) 11: 1–24. Fall 1994. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  5. ^ Heinke, Lothar (3 November 2009). "Das Ende der Angst" (in German). Der Tagesspiegel. Archived from the original on 6 November 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  6. ^ "Bühne der Freiheit". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). 4 November 2009. Archived from the original on 8 November 2009. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  7. ^   (German: Als ich sah, daß seine Hände zitterten, weil die Leute gepfiffen haben, da sagte ich zu Jens Reich: So, jetzt können wir gehen, jetzt ist alles gelaufen. Die Revolution ist unumkehrbar.)
  8. ^ a b Kowalczuk, Ilko-Sascha (August 2009). Endspiel: die Revolution von 1989 in der DDR (in German). C.H. Beck. pp. 446–453.  
  9. ^ Flierl, Thomas (1999). "Wir waren das Volk" (in German). Bezirksamtes Mitte von Berlin. Retrieved 9 November 2009. 
  10. ^ Schmemann, Serge (5 November 1989). "500,000 in East Berlin rally for Change". New York Times. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  11. ^ Schmidt, Helmut (10 November 1989). "Ein Aufstand gegen Zwang und Lüge" (in German). Die Zeit. Retrieved 10 November 2009. 
  12. ^ Cammann, Alexander (April 2008). "1929–1989. Eine Revolution frisst einen Jahrgang". Magazin der Kulturstiftung des Bundes (in German) (Kulturstiftung des Bundes) 11. 

External links