I am among those who believe that the fate of the GDR was sealed on, not on November 9, 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but rather on October 9, 1989 when 70,000 East Germans overcame their fears to march peacefully through the streets of Leipzig to call for change in their country. Coming just two days after the brutal suppression of protests in Berlin during celebrations marking the state’s 40th birthday, Leipzigers ignored the ominous signs that a violent crackdown was imminent and asserted their agency with the chants “We Are the People!” and “We Are Staying Here!”, cries that must have sent shudders down the spines of Socialist Unity Party leaders as they sat in East Berlin receiving reports on the situation.
Below is a brief German-language report telling the story of October 9 in Leipzig. Even if you don’t speak the language, it is worth watching for the images of that night, a genuine turning point in world history:
At the centre of the Leipzig protests, were a small group of civil rights activists, the core of whom had been working to change the GDR for years. With resolve, persistence and creativity, these few individuals managed to change the world, theirs and ours and without their efforts, the East German regime would have undoubtedly remained in place. Given this, October 9th is an appropriate day to write, if only briefly, on one of the grassroots activists who has gone on to play a central role in the united Germany, Joachim Gauck. Read More