Leipzig's Monday Demonstrations
Launching the "Peaceful Revolution" of 1989
ABOVE: A news photo from the Montagsdemonstration of October 9, 1989.
"We had planned everything. We were prepared for everything. But not for
candles and prayers."
Horst Sindermann, former GDR official
Events in Fall 1989, Nikolaikirche Leipzig
"Peaceful Revolution" didn't occur overnight, but the Monday Demonstrations of
September and October, 1989 brought matters to a head in Leipzig and other
cities of the German Democratic Republic, or GDR. After months of "Peace
Prayers" in Leipzig's Nikolaikirche and other public protests, some 70,000
people gathered in the streets of downtown Leipzig on October 9 to demand reform
from the SED (German Communist Party) regime.
Thousands of police and military personnel were on hand to stop
the demonstrations, and soldiers with machine guns were posted on rooftops to
intimidate the protesters.
Fortunately for the citizens, cries of "No violence"
were heeded, and one organizer's ploy was particularly effective: The pastor of
the Nikolaikirche suggested that marchers carry candles, which require two
hands: one to hold the candle, the other to protect the flame from blowing out.
With two hands occupied, protesters wouldn't be tempted to throw rocks!
A 20th Anniversary press release by Andreas Schmidt, Leipzig's
PR Manager for Tourism, describes what happened next:
"The 8,000-strong security forces were opposed not (as
expected) by a few 'gang leaders,' but by a great part of the population.
This made violent dispersal of the demonstration impossible. In the
following weeks, the SED tried in vain to hinder the public from further
protests. The people of Leipzig were not satisfied by cosmetic changes.
Through their courage, their determination, and rejection of violence, the
people of Leipzig made history with the Monday demonstrations. Pictures of
the protests of autumn, 1989 spread throughout the world. Determined people
demanded democratic basic rights in an encrusted community. Leipzig--the
poor cousin of the GDR--used peaceful means to express itself and laid the
foundation for German reunification by means of a Peaceful Revolution."
"Every 9 October, Leipzig pays tribute to these occurrences
with many events--such as exhibitions, readings, discussions, the prayer for
peace in the Nikolaikirche, and a democracy forum in the Gewandhaus."
Other information resources:
Wikipedia: Monday Demonstrations in East Germany
Despite the title, this article focuses mainly on events in Leipzig.
(Demonstrations also took place in other East German cities, such as Erfurt,
Dresden, and Berlin.)
Peaceful revolution (German)
This article mentions early resistance to the SED government (including
demonstrations and strikes in 1953), describes external factors that facilitated
the revolution, and summarizes the demonstrations that occurred between
September, 1989 and the first free multi-party elections in 1990.
Nicolaikirche: The Events in Fall 1989
The Nicholaikirche, Leipzig's oldest church, was a center of peaceful resistance
to the GDR's totalitarian regime. This page from the church's Web site offers a
pastor's-eye view of the Monday Demonstrations and related events.