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The Peaceful Revolution (German: Friedliche Revolution) was the process of sociopolitical change that led to the opening of East Germany's borders with the west, the end of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the transition to a parliamentary democracy, which enabled the reunification of Germany in Octber 1990. This happened through non-violent initiatives and demonstrations. This period of change is also referred to in German as Die Wende (German pronunciation: [diː ˈvɛndə], "the turning point").
These events were closely linked to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to abandon Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe as well as the reformist movements that spread through Eastern Bloc countries. In addition to the Soviet Union's shift in foreign policy, the GDR's lack of competitiveness in the global market as well as its sharply rising national debt hastened the destabilization of the SED's one-party state.
Those driving the reform process within the GDR included intellectuals and church figures who had been in underground opposition for several years, people attempting to flee the country, and peaceful demonstrators who were no longer willing to yield to the threat of violence and repression.
Because of its hostile response to the reforms implemented within its "socialist brother lands", the SED leadership was already increasingly isolated within the Eastern Bloc when it permitted the opening of the border at the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Through a change in leadership and a willingness to negotiate, the SED attempted to win back the political initiative, but control of the situation increasingly lay with the West German government under Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
From December 1989, the GDR government of Prime Minister Hans Modrow was influenced by the Central Round Table, which put into action the dissolution of the Stasi and prepared free elections. After an election win for a coaltion of parties that supported German reunification, the political path within the GDR was clear.
- 1 Timeline
- 2 Soviet policy toward the Eastern Bloc
- 3 Catalysts for the crisis of 1989
- 4 Decisive events of October–November 1989
- 5 Political situation during the transition
- 6 Die Wende
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- Late 1980s - The period of Soviet bloc liberalisation (Glasnost) and reform (Perestroika).
- 27 June 1989 - The opening of Hungary's border fence with Austria.
- 19 August 1989 - The Pan-European Picnic at the Hungarian-Austrian border, when hundreds of East Germans, who were allowed to travel to Hungary but not to the west, escaped to West Germany via Austria.
- From September 1989 - Monday demonstrations in East Germany calling for the opening of the border with West Germany and greater human rights protections.
- 18 October 1989 - Eric Honecker removed as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
- 9 November 1989 - The fall of the Berlin Wall, enabling East Germans to travel freely to the west.
- 3 December 1989 - The Socialist Unity Party's stepping down.
- 4 December 1989 - Citizens' occupations of Stasi buildings across the country, starting in Erfurt. The Stasi headquarters in Berlin were occupied on 15 January 1990.
- 13 January 1990 - The dissolution of the Stasi.
- 18 March 1990 - The 1990 East German general election, which was also a quasi-referendum on reunification, in which the Alliance for Germany, which supported reunification, got the highest proportion of votes.
- 1 July 1990 - The Währungs-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialunion (Monetary, Economy and Social Union) accord between East and West Germany, came into effect. East Germany adopted the West German currency on this day.
- 31 August 1990 - The signing of the Einigungsvertrag (Treaty of Unification) between the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany on 31 August 1990 and the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany on 12 September 1990.
- 3 October 1990 - German reunification achieved with the five re-established East German states integrated into the Federal Republic of Germany.
Soviet policy toward the Eastern Bloc
A fundamental shift in Soviet policy toward the Eastern Bloc nations under Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s was the prelude to widespread demonstrations against the Socialist Unity Party, which had ruled East Germany since the country was founded on 7 October 1949. Previous uprisings - East Germany (1953), Czechoslovakia (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956) and the Prague Spring (1968) - were harshly put down by Soviet troops.  The Soviet reaction to the Polish crisis of 1980–1981 was already one of non-intervention.
Having initiated a policy of glasnost (openness) and emphasized the need for perestroika (economic restructuring), in July 1989, Gorbachev permitted the Warsaw Pact nations to initiate their own political and economic reforms within the terms of the treaty. While the Soviet reforms were met with broad approval by the other Eastern Bloc nations, in particular amongst their students and academics, the respective member states reacted with reserve and then, in part, with rejection of the reforms.
The policy of non-interference in Soviet Bloc countries' internal affairs was made official with Gorbachev's statement on 26 October 1989 that the "Soviet Union has no moral or political right to interfere in the affairs of its East European neighbors". This was dubbed the Sinatra Doctrine, by Gorbachev's spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov who joked "You know the Frank Sinatra song, 'I Did It My Way'? Hungary and Poland are doing it their way." 
East German reaction to Soviet reforms
Following the reforms, by 1988 relations had soured between between Gorbachev and Honecker, although the relationship of KGB and the Stasi was still close.
In November 1988, the distribution of the Soviet monthly magazine Sputnik, was prohibited in East Germany because its new open political criticisms annoyed upper circles of the GDR leadership. This caused a lot of resentment and helped to activate the opposition movement. After a year, the sale of the magazine was reinstated, and censored editions of the issues from the preceding year were made available in a special edition for East Germans.
Catalysts for the crisis of 1989
East Germany's economy was stronger than other Eastern Bloc countries and it was the most successful of the CMEA countries. It was the Soviet Union's most important trading partner, although it was very much subordinate. It was a net exporter of technology. Its shared language, cultural and personal connections with West Germany helped to boost its economy. Its trade with West Germany was 50 to 60 percent of its total trade with Western nations.
Although it was hailed as a communist success story, by the late 1980s its economic growth had slowed to less than 1% per annum and the government's economic goals were not reached. It had to deal with increasing global competition with run-down industrial infrastructure, and shortages of labour and raw materials. From 1986, its products were often seen as inferior and orders delivered to the Soviet Union were increasing rejected due to poor quality control standards. Other communist countries were pursuing market-led reforms, but the goverment of Erich Honecker reject such changes, claiming they contradicted Marxist ideology. More than one-fifth of the government's income was spent on subsidising the costs of housing, food and basic goods.
Poor sewage and industrial infrastructure led to major environmental problems. Half the country's domestic sewage was untreated, as was most industrial waste. Over a third of all East Germany's rivers, and almost a third of its reservoirs and half of its lakes were severely polluted. Its forests were damaged by sulphur dioxide and air pollution in cities was a problem.  Protests about these environmental problems played a large part in the Peaceful Revolution.
Workers in East Germany earned more than those in other communist countries and they had better housing than most of them, but they compared themselves with West Germans who were much better off and this was another cause of dissatisfaction.
In practice, there was no real choice in GDR elections, which consisted of citizens voting to approve a pre-selected list of "National Front" candidates. The National Front was in theory an alliance of political parties, but they were all controlled by the SED party, which controlled the Volkskammer, the East German parliament. The results of elections were generally about 99% "Yes" in favour of the list. However, prior to the 7 May 1989 election there were open signs of citizens' dissatisfaction with the government and the SED was concerned that there could be a significant number of "No" votes. The number of applications for an "Ausreiseantrag" (permission to leave the country) had increased and there was discontent about housing conditions and shortages of basic products.
In the weeks before the election, opposition activists called for it to be boycotted, and distributed a leaflet criticising Erich Honecker's regime. Neverthless, the result of the election was proclaimed as 98.5% "Yes". Clear evidence of electoral fraud was smuggled to the West German media. When this information was broadcast, it was picked up in East Germany, instigating protests.
Citizens demanded their legal right to observe the vote count. Election monitors from churches and other groups showed the figures had been falsified. About 10% of voters had put a line through every name on the list, indicating a "No" vote, and about 10% of the electorate had not voted at all. After the initial protests on 7 May, there were demonstrations on the seventh of every month in Alexanderplatz in Berlin.
Gaps in the Iron Curtain
The Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc states had strongly isolationist policies and they developed complex systems and infrastructure to restrict their citizens travel beyond the Iron Curtain. About 3.5 million people left the GDR for West Germany before the building of the Berlin Wall and the Inner German border in August 1961. After that it was still possible to leave legally, by applying for an Ausreiseantrag (permission to leave). Between 1961 and 1988 about 383,000 people left this way.[Note 1]
The government also forceably exiled people, and political prisoners and their families could be ransomed to the West German government, although those involved had no choice in the matter. Between 1964 and 1989 a recorded 33,755 political prisoners and about 250,000 of their relatives and others were "sold" to West Germany.[Note 2]
Most of those who tried to escape illegally after 1961 travelled to other Eastern Bloc countries, as they believed their western borders were easier to breach than East Germany's. Around 7,000-8,000 East Germans escaped through Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia between 1961 and 1988. However, the majority of attempts were thwarted and those caught were arrested and sent back to face the East German legal system. Some were also shot and killed by border guards. [Note 3]
Opening of the Hungarian and Czechoslovak borders
The Hungarian leader, Janos Kadar, retired on 22 May 1988 and other political parties were formed which challenged the old socialist order in Hungary, leading to a period of liberalisation. Almost a year later, on 2 May 1989, the Hungarian government began dismantling its border fence with Austria. This encouraged East German citizens to start travelling to Hungary in the hope of being able to get to the west more easily, not only over the border, but also by going to the West German embassy in Bucharest and seeking aslyum.  On 27 June 1989 the Hungarian foreign minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock symbolically cut the border fence just outside Sopron.
On 10 August 1989, Hungary announced it would be further relaxing its handling of first time East German border offenders, which had already become lenient. It stamped the passports of people caught trying to illegally cross the border, rather than arresting them or reporting them to the East German authorities; first time offenders would just get a warning, and no stamp. It also announced a proposal to downgrade illegal border crossing from a crime to a misdemeanour.
The Pan-European Picnic at the Austro-Hungarian border followed on 19 August 1989. This was a celebration of more open relationships between east and west, near Sapron, but on the Austrian side of the border. The border was temporarily opened at 3 pm, and 700-900 hundred East Germans, who had travelled there after being tipped off, rushed across, without intervention from Hungarian border guards. The West German government was already prepared for the mass escape, and trains and coaches were ready to take the escapees from Vienna to Giessen, near Frankfurt, where a refugee reception centre was waiting for the new arrivals.
About 100,000 East Germans then travelled to Hungary, hoping to also get across the border. Many people camped in the garden of the West German embassy in Budapest, in parks and around the border areas. Although the East German government asked for these people to be deported back to the GDR, Hungary, which had signed the UNHCR Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees on 14 March 1989, refused.
From 10 September 1989, the Hungarian government allowed all East Germans to cross the Austro-Hungarian border without hinderance. Tens of thousands left and many also travelled to Czechoslovakia, whose government also gave in to demands to open its western border.
The East German government gave in to pressure to allow special trains carrying East German refugees from Prague to West Germany, to travel via East Germany. Between the first and eighth of October 1989, 14 so-called "Freedom Trains" (German: Flüchtlingszüge aus Prag) carried a total of 12,000 people to Hof, in Bavaria. Large crowds gathered to cheer the trains as they passed.
Newly formed opposition
As a result of new hopes inspired by the mass exodus of East Germans via Hungary, several opposition groups formed in Autumn 1989, with the aim of bringing about the same sorts of reforms in the GDR that had been instituted in Poland and Hungary.
The largest of these was the New Forum. It was founded by the artist Bärbel Bohley along with the Jens Reich and Jutta Seidel. It had over 200,000 members within a few weeks of being set up. On 20 September 1989 it applied to field candidates in the May 1990 general election. New Forum acted as an umbrella organisation for activist groups across the country. Other new political organisations included Democratic Awakening, United Left, and the Socialist Democratic Party. They all had similar aims, wanting greater democracy and environmental reforms.
Decisive events of October–November 1989
The forming of opposition groups across the GDR and the growing willingness of the populace to demonstrate became an additional threat to those in power, already overburdened with the problem of those fleeing the country.
The SED attempted to scare protesters with the events in China, where a student movement had demonstrated on 17 April 1989 in Beijing. With a state visit from Gorbachev, a million people protested on 15–18 May 1989. Martial law was declared, and during the night of 3–4 June 1989 the Chinese military was deployed against the opposition, leading to the Tiananmen Square massacre. The violent suppression left thousands dead and tens of thousands injured.
The SED regime viewed the Chinese response to the protesters positively. The official party newspaper Neues Deutschland on 5 June 1989 carried the headline "China's Liberation Army Defeats Counter-Revolutionary Rioting". A statement read in the Peoples Chamber announced that law and order in China had been restored following disorder created by elements acting against the constitution.
In the weeks from October to the opening of the border in November, it was unclear to both those affected and those watching whether the GDR leadership would seek to save itself using the "Chinese solution". As a precaution, the national army of the GDR was placed on high combat readiness during 6–9 October 1989.
GDR's 40th anniversary
The SED wanted the jubilee celebrations on 7 October 1989 to pass smoothly. They therefore allowed the speedy deportation of embassy refugees and also permitted their family members to follow.
However, problems had already arisen during the run-up to the day: guests rejected invitations, those selected to receive honors stayed away, and many events were abandoned. On the day of the anniversary, Western journalists were denied entry to the country. Scattered anti-celebratory events took place. At peace prayers, the 40th-anniversary celebrations were critically mentioned; in Gotha, for example, forty candles were extinguished as a symbol of extinguished hope.
Aside from the official celebrations, there were also demonstrations of protest across the GDR. Protesters congregated on the 7th of each month at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin to remember the electoral fraud. A protest march headed toward the Palace of the Republic, where the main celebratory banquet was taking place. The crowd of around 3,000 chanted "Gorbi, Gorbi", "no violence" and "democracy, now or never". However, security forces guarded the venue, and the crowd could not reach it and instead swerved away to Prenzlauer Berg, where over 2,000 people were gathered in the Gethsemane Church.
In total, 1,200 arrests were made, including people completely uninvolved. The majority were released from custody within 24 hours but reported being beaten, kicked, spat at, or denied usage of a toilet. Unlike other protests across the GDR, the events in East Berlin were directly reported in Western media. While GDR citizens were prohibited from receiving Western media, only a small portion of the population abstained for ideological reasons. Some regions in the north-east and south-east were closed off from West German television because they lay outside the transmitter range (satirically known as the Valley of the Clueless).
Of all the events of the uprising against the SED, the mass demonstrations in Leipzig were the most pivotal. There, over 8,000 people had forced past police lines on 9 October 1989 and marched to the St Thomas Church after peace prayers in the St Nicholas Church and the Reformed Church. They countered Honecker's verbal attacks with the chant "We're no hooligans". This spontaneously turned from a denial to a positive statement, which became the slogan of this revolution: "We are the people!".
At the following Monday demonstration in Leipzig on 9 October 1989, two days after the 40th-anniversary celebrations, the SED hoped to restore its authority against the protesters. In addition to 8,000 armed security personnel, a further 5,000 plain-clothes people connected to the SED were supposed to mix themselves in among the demonstrators and cause disruption.
The planned suppression of the Monday demonstration was not seriously attempted. Not only were the planned police tactics unlikely to have succeeded due to the scale of the crowd, but also the atmosphere of the demonstration was influenced by an appeal for no violence by the three prominent Leipzig figures who had agreed with three SED local party functionaries, an appeal that had been broadcast over local radio during the day.
Opinion among the SED chiefs was split. Egon Krenz declared in advance of the event in Leipzig that it could not use violent means, even if the security forces themselves became attacked. When chief officer Helmut Hackenberg in Leipzig call Krenz at 18:30 to confirm that there should be no action taken, he assured Hackenberg that he would call him back swiftly. While he did indeed confirm that, 45 minutes had passed, during which time most demonstrators had departed.
The peaceful passing of this demonstration encouraged many that reforms could be peacefully reached in the GDR, and people became ever more willing to go to the street. On 4 November 1989 the largest protest demonstration in GDR history took place at the Berlin Alexanderplatz. An estimated 500,000 attended the event, where civil rights campaigners, poets, actors, and some political figures broke from the SED regime and declared their reform demands.
SED loss of power
Leading up the 40th-anniversary celebrations, the SED leadership had used all means to curtail the wave of people leaving the country and the pressure (both domestically and internationally) to reform. When the celebrations of 7 October 1989 failed to create the desired effect, the disillusionment was resounding. Ever since Honecker's health began to decline during the Bucharest summit in July 1989, an overriding sense of helplessness had set into the SED Politburo in the face of the growing opposition to their leadership and the dictatorial status of the party.
As Honecker rejected each of Krenz's proposed changes following the flawed anniversary celebrations, Krenz secured the support of other Politburo members to overthrow Honecker and became his successor on 18 October 1989. His first keynote speech before the SED's Central Committee was broadcast on East German television. In it he abstained from the popular terms "glasnost" and "perestroika" and instead set a future course of reforms on his own terms: "I must find a German term that both allows a turning to the proven ways of the GDR for 40 years but that also makes clear that we turn away from all that has brought our country to the current situation. With today's congress we will begin a turning point. Above all, we will regain the political and ideological offensive."
Krenz himself admitted in hindsight that this speech took the wrong tone: "The people don't want to hear any more long speeches that sound like party reports. They want to know: Who is responsible for the country standing in the abyss? What are the causes? How should it go forward?" The change of power from Honecker to Krenz failed to quell the discontent and Krenz's offer of a dialogue that should win the SED back "the political and ideological offensive" fizzled within a few weeks.
After Krenz had called for an "unvarnished picture of the economic situation", the report of a commission led by Gerhard Schürer offered little comfort. For a country to be credit-worthy, its debt service ratio should not be over 25%. In 1989, the GDR's debt service ratio was 150%. The commission was unable to suggest any way out of the situation and reported that an end to debt would mean an expected 25% to 30% decline in living standards in 1990 and make the country ungovernable.
On 1 December 1989, the People's Chamber struck the SED's right to govern from the GDR constitution. The Politburo and SED Central Committee resigned en masse under mounting internal and external pressure on 3 December 1989, and three days later Krenz also resigned as chairman of the privy council.
Fall of the Berlin Wall and border opening
Most of the SED recognized that there couldn't remain the makeshift exit from the GDR across Czechoslovakia and that a travel law was now needed.
A draft travel law published in Neues Deutschland on 6 November 1989 was negatively received by the people and in the People's Chamber. A new bill by the head of the passport department Gerhard Lauter was put before the Central Committee by Krenz and quickly debated and rubber-stamped. On 9 November 1989, with some additional changes to the bill from the Central Committee session, Günter Schabowski attended a press conference with the international media that was broadcast on East German television. Responding to a question by ANSA correspondent Riccardo Ehrman, Schabowski answered that the possibility to travel across the border into West German territory "without the existence of preconditions" existed "immediately, without delay". The new conditions were only meant to come into effect on 4 am the following day, but this information had only been verbally shared at the Politburo sitting, at which Schabowski had not been present.
The reaction to the statement was instantaneous. The West German parliament in Bonn interrupted its evening session to sing the national anthem. In East Berlin, people made their way to the inner-city border checkpoints. No information had been conveyed to staff at the checkpoints though, and it was only under pressure from the crowd that the first East Berliners were permitted to pass into West Berlin. Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger ordered all passports to be stamped as henceforth invalid, thereby expatriating those leaving the GDR without their knowledge. The first crossings occurred at Bornholmer Strasse at 9:20 pm. By 11:30 pm, attempts to stamp passports were abandoned, and the remaining checkpoints in Berlin were also being opened.
During the following hours, Berliners from both sides of the city celebrated at the wall after 28 years of separation. Checkpoints along the inner German border were passable. The following weekend brought a huge wave of travelers as the East German authorities issued more than four million visas for travel into the West.
Political situation during the transition
The fall of the Berlin Wall and opening of the inner German border set new challenges for both the government and the opposition in the GDR as well as those in power in the FRG. General opinion was that the fate of the GDR rested with the attitude of the Soviet Union. In his memoirs, West German chancellor Helmut Kohl wrote that he had confronted Gorbachev in June 1989 with the view that German unity would arrive as surely as the Rhine would arrive at the sea; Gorbachev did not dispute this.
After 9 November there was not only a wave of demonstrations across the GDR but also a strong shift in the prevailing attitude to solutions. Instead of the chant "we are the people", the new refrain was "we are one people!" A problem for both the East and the West remained the continually high numbers moving from the GDR to the FRG, which created a destabilizing effect in the GDR while also placing a larger burden on the FRG to handle and integrate such large numbers.
Kohl's reunification plan
On the day the Berlin Wall fell, West German chancellor Kohl and his foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher were on a state visit to Poland, which was cut short for the new situation. Only a day earlier, Kohl had set out new conditions for closer collaboration with the GDR leadership: the SED's abandonment of its monopoly on power, the allowing of independent parties, free elections, and the building up of a market economy. During a telephone conversation on 11 November 1989 with SED General Secretary Egon Krenz, who insisted that reunification was not on the agenda, Kohl conceded that the creation of "reasonable relations" was currently most pressing.
At first Kohl refrained from pushing for reunification to avoid raising annoyance abroad. His closest foreign adviser, Horst Teltschik, took heart though from opinion polls on 20 November 1989, which showed 70% of West Germans in favor of reunification and 48% considered it possible within ten years. More than 75% approved of financial aid for the GDR, though without tax increases. From Nikolai Portugalow, an emissary of Gorbachev's, Teilschik learned that Hans Modrow's suggestion of a treaty between the German states had prompted the Soviets to plan for "the unthinkable".
With Kohl's blessing, Teltschik developed a path for German unification. To his "Ten Point Program for Overcoming the Division of Germany and Europe", Kohl made some additions and read it aloud in parliament on 28 November 1989. Starting with immediate measures, the path included a contractual arrangement and the development of confederative structures to conclude with one federation.
The plan was broadly accepted in parliament with the exception of the Green Party, which endorsed the independence of the GDR in "a third way". The SPD was skeptical and divided. Former chancellor Willy Brandt coined the expression "What now grows together, belongs together" on 10 November 1989. Oscar Lafontaine, soon to be the SPD's chancellor candidate, emphasised the incalculable financial risks and the curtailment of the number of those leaving.
International reactions to developments
The sudden announcement of Kohl's plan irritated European heads of states and Soviet chief Gorbachev. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher saw international stability becoming endangered and raised doubts about the peacefulness of a united and restrengthened Germany. French President François Mitterrand was concerned that the German government could give up its commitment to the European integration process and instead focus on its national interests and ambitions for power. In early December 1989, he and Gorbachev sought to ensure "that the whole European process develops faster than the German question and that it overtakes the German development. We must form pan-European structures." Gorbachev informed West German foreign minister Genscher that Kohl was behaving "like a bull in a china shop".
In light of these frosty reactions, the West German government viewed a meeting of the four Allied powers on 11 December 1989 as a demonstrative affront. Only the United States government, under George H. W. Bush, offered the West German chancellor support by setting out its own interests in any potential German reunification the day after Kohl's plan.
Kohl stressed that the driving factor behind the developments was the GDR populace and not the FRG government, which was itself surprised by the events and had to react. He aimed to preempt a state visit by Mitterrand on 20–22 December 1989 and planned talks with Minister President Modrow. In Dresden on 19 December, Kohl spoke before a crowd of 100,000, who broke out into cheers when he stated: "My goal remains—if the historical hour allows—the uniting of our nation".
When Mitterrand realized that controlling development from outside was not possible, he sought to commit the West German government to a foreseeable united Germany on two matters: on the recognition of Poland's western border and on hastened European integration through the establishment of a currency union. In January 1990, the Soviet Union sent understanding signals by appealing to West Germany for food deliveries. On 10 February 1990, Kohl and his advisers had positive talks with Gorbachev in Moscow.
Situation in the GDR
After his election as Minister President in the People's Chamber on 13 November 1989, Hans Modrow affirmed on 16 November that, from the GDR viewpoint, reunification was not on the agenda.
Since the end of October, opposition groups had called for the creation of a round table. They released a communal statement: "In light of the critical situation in our country, which can no longer be controlled by the previous power and responsibility structures, we demand that representatives of the GDR population come together to negotiate at a round table, to established conditions for constitutional reform and for free elections."
East German author Christa Wolf, who on the night before the opening of the border had called for people to remain in the GDR, read an appeal titled "For Our Country" on 28 November 1989; it was supported by GDR artists and civil liberties campaigners as well as critical SED members. During a press conference the same day, the author Stefan Heym also read the appeal, and within a few days it had received 1.17 million signatures. It called for "a separate identity for the GDR" to be established and warned against a "sell-out of our material and moral values" through reunification, stating there was still "the chance to develop a socialist alternative to the FRG as an equal partner amongst the states of Europe".
At the first meeting of the Central Round Table on 7 December 1989, the participants defined the new body as an advisory and decision-making institution. Unlike the Polish example, where the Solidarity delegates confronted the government, the Central Round Table was formed from representatives of numerous new opposition groups and delegates in equal number from the SED, bloc parties, and the SED-linked mass organizations. Church representatives acted as moderators.
The socialist reform program of Modrow's government lacked support both domestically and internationally. On a visit to Moscow in January 1990, Modrow admitted 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 sustain this idea. … If we don't grasp the initiative now, then the process already set in motion will spontaneously and eruptively continue onward without us being able to have any influence upon it".
To expand the trust in his own government for the transitional phase until free elections, on 22 January 1990 Modrow offered the opposition groups the chance to participate in government. The majority of these groups agreed to a counteroffer of placing candidates from the Central Round Table in a non-party transitional government. Modrow considered this an attempt to dismantle his government and rejected int on 28 January. After lengthy negotiations and Modrow's threatening to resign, the opposition relented and accepted a place in the government as "ministers without portfolio". However, when Modrow committed to a one-nation Germany a few days later, the United Left withdrew its acceptance due to "a breach of trust" and rejected being involving in the government.
After the entry into the cabinet on 5 February 1990, all nine new "ministers" traveled with Modrow to Bonn for talks with the West German government on 13 February. As with Kohl's visit to Dresden two months earlier, Modrow was denied immediate financial support to avoid the threat of insolvency (although a prospective currency union had been on offer for several days). The talks were largely unproductive, with Kohl unwilling to make any decisive appointments with the pivotal election only weeks away.
Die Wende mean "the turn" or "the turning point". It was first used[verification needed] in reference to the Peaceful Revolution on 16 October 1989 in Der Spiegel. The term was first used publicly in East Germany on 18 October in a speech by interim GDR leader Egon Krenz.[verification needed]
- Applications to leave were often not approved and could take years to process. Making the application was risky as the applicants were considered disloyal "enemies of the state". It was common for people to lose their jobs after making an application and to be harrassed by the Stasi. Retired people were more likely to have their applications accepted as the state would avoid the burden of paying their pensions.
- The price paid varied but on average it was about 40,000 Deutsche Marks per person. It was a lucrative way for the East German government to get western currency.
- Between 1963 and 1988, the Stasi recorded that 14,737 people were returned to East Germany after failed escape attempts via the borders of other Soviet bloc countries. It is not known how many East Germans were shot and killed while trying to escape to the west via these borders. The last one killed was a 19-year-old man, shot at the Bulgarian-Turkish border in July 1989.
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