Full Text

East German revolution of 1989

Subject History

Place Western Europe » Germany

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


A popular, peaceful revolution which overthrew communism in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Opposition groups in the 1980s had been small and insignificant. This changed when the revolutions of 1989–91 began in Hungary and Poland. Protest centred round the Protestant churches, particularly the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig. In late September 1989 there were peaceful marches through the city, which became protest demonstrations against the regime. On 9 October 70,000 gathered in the largest demonstration since 1953 chanting ‘we are the people’. honecker (who had approved of the tiananmen square massacre in Beijing) wanted to use force against the demonstrators but was overruled by other members of the Politburo. The marches grew in size: 300,000 on 23 October, half a million on 6 November. There were half a million too in East Berlin, as similar marches took place in other East German cities. The demonstrators were not calling for unification but for free elections and ‘socialism with a human face’ of the kind Dubcek had tried to establish in Czechoslovakia in the prague spring of 1968. The communist élite tried to recover the initiative by removing Honecker as leader on 17 October and by lifting the ban on travel to Czechoslovakia, from where East Germans were allowed to enter Austria on 3 November. On 7 November the Council of Ministers (cabinet) resigned and the next ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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