Peaceful Revolution

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Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate, 10 November 1989

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 a sweeping and surprising election win[a] for the conservative and nationalist[b] Alliance for Germany coalition, the political path within the GDR was clear for a reunification of the two German states.


Significant events:

Soviet policy toward the Eastern Bloc[edit]

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.[1] Previous uprisings - East Germany (1953), Czechoslovakia (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956) and the Prague Spring (1968) - were harshly put down by Soviet troops. [10] The Soviet reaction to the Polish crisis of 1980–1981 was already one of non-intervention.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

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." [14]

East German reaction to Soviet reforms[edit]

Following the reforms, by 1988 relations had soured between between Gorbachev and Honecker, although the relationship of KGB and the Stasi was still close.[15]

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.[16]

Catalysts for the crisis of 1989[edit]

Economic situation[edit]

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.[17] Its trade with West Germany was 50 to 60 percent of its total trade with Western nations.[18]

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.[18]

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. [19] Protests about these environmental problems played a large part in the Peaceful Revolution.[20]

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.[18]

Electoral fraud[edit]

Because of the already heated political mood, the planned local elections of May 1989 took on greater significance. GDR citizens had become accustomed to casting their vote by simply folding their ballot containing the confirmed candidate list. However, after falsified electoral results in 1986 was noted by opposition observers, controls were supposed to be systematically carried out in all regions. Since the previous summer, different groups—mostly religious—had called on Christians in the GDR to intervene in the preparations for the election on 7 May 1989.

In the face of rising unrest, the SED wanted an impressive election result and took precautionary actions. People who had applied to travel abroad, known opponents of the regime, and those who had failed to vote in past elections were all removed from the electoral roll. By mid-April 1989, more than 80,000 people declared their non-participation in the election. Under the codename "Symbol 89", the Stasi undertook measures to hinder non-participation. There was also an attempt to give the election a notably democratic feel. People were asked to raise their concerns with the National Front and to get involved in the selection of the candidates. Almost all attempts to select different candidates, however, failed.

On election day, 7 May 1989, in many places individuals only handed their voting cards in at the polling stations to demonstrate their refusal to vote; this added to large queues. Electoral observers identified an estimated electoral turnout of around 60% to 80% in their voting spots and abstentions of 3% to 30%. When Chairman of the Electoral Commission Egon Krenz announced a 98.85% approval vote for the National Front candidates, this was viewed as evidence of electoral fraud. There were districts in East Berlin where independent election observers reported clearly counted more "no" votes at a selection of polling stations than the official result reported for the entire area; a subsequent 1993 trial found Hans Modrow and three other associates guilty of altering the results.

Over the following weeks, a multitude of criminal complaints, petitions, and protest actions against the suspected fraud led to a large number of disputes and arrests. The public opposition was on a never-before-seen scale, bringing together opponents at events such as the Alexanderplatz demonstration in Berlin on 4 November 1989.

Gap in the Iron Curtain[edit]

The ability to travel freely from the GDR to non-socialist nations was granted only to select groups such as pensioners, performers considered loyal to the party, as well as athletes going to competitions. Otherwise, travel was permitted only for urgent family situations, and then generally granted only to individuals whose families would remain in the GDR. Requests to leave the GDR with one's family and belongings, aside from highly restricted "humanitarian reasons", were not tolerated and would result in social marginalization and discrimination. Those who submitted such applications had a waiting list lasting years or until West Germany "bought them out".

By 1989, there was effectively an understanding between the Warsaw Pact members that each would prevent citizens from exiting the Eastern bloc. Discovered attempts to flee, such as via Hungary into Austria, resulted in people being returned to the GDR, which would impose lengthy prison terms for "attempted illegal border crossing". However, in the course of a reformist agenda and for economic reasons, in April 1989 Hungary began to relax, then eventually cease, military control of its borders, creating the first gap in the Iron Curtain.[2]

When summer holidays began in the GDR in July 1989, more than 200,000 people, the majority simply as holiday-makers, but thousands also with the intention to flee, made their way to Hungary. A Pan-European Picnic on 19 August 1989 at Sopron, Hungary, supposedly dedicated to the new perspectives for Europe, was used by 800 to 900 people to flee into Austria.[3] By August, word had spread that Hungary would not make any record of any person attempting to flee, removing the potential risk of future sanction by the GDR. Many traveled to Hungary, often simply abandoning their cars once they neared the border.

Once Hungary opened its borders to GDR citizens on 11 September 1989, some 15,000 people fled within the first three days, and almost 20,000 by the end of the month. In response, travel to Hungary was no longer permitted by the GDR authorities. Upon this decision, the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw became overfilled with GDR citizens claiming their right to leave. When this congestion brought hygiene problems and the threat of disease, and with the refusal of the Czech government to deal with the problems of the GDR, Honecker felt compelled to allow the GDR refugees to travel as they wished. On 30 September 1989 the West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher announced that those within the embassy grounds would be allowed to travel into the FRG via train through the GDR; around 4,700 people left the Prague embassy and a further 809 from Warsaw.

On 3 October 1989, 6,000 people had forced themselves into the Prague embassy, with thousands more en route there. The GDR leadership permitted their exit by special trains through the GDR. Attempting to limit the exodus, the GDR closed its border with Czechoslovakia, which led to further outrage, particularly from those who had been depending on that border. Those already close to the border headed to Dresden, where the trains were expected to pass through. There, protests and violent confrontations with police and special forces broke out.

Chaplain Frank Richter attempted to deescalate the situation on 8 October 1989 by convincing demonstrators and police to negotiate. Twenty demonstrators were chosen to take part in talks with Dresden Mayor Berghofer, who had declared himself prepared to talk after church intervention. Events in Dresden showed the unity between the two opposition forces, as "we want out" was countered with "we're staying here".

Newly formed opposition[edit]

Also during the summer of 1989, opposition groups focused on reforming the GDR formed and expanded. A number of new and (for the SED) subversive political organizations were created, beginning with the New Forum on 9–10 September 1989. Among its most noted members were Katja Havemann, Rolf Henrich, and Bärbel Bohley.

Expressly constituted not as a party but as a "political platform", the New Forum focused on the collapsed lines of communication between the state and society. It demanded an open dialogue about "the functions of the constitutional state, the economy and culture". They advocated for better goods and supply, but were also concerned by the costs and economic consequences. They called for economic initiatives but wanted to counter an "elbow society".

The calls of the New Forum prompted other opposition groups to bring their own demands and political visions. "Democracy Now" emerged with its democratically reformed socialism with a Christian and critical accent — similarly against the Western consumer society. On 1 October 1989 a political group "Democratic Awakening" with regime critics Rainer Eppelmann and Friedrich Schorlemmer entered the fray.

Many of these new groups consciously formed themselves not as political parties, but instead as forums, leagues, or movements, which placed them within the concept of a civil movement. They placed value on basic democracy, openness, and transparency in decision-making, in which interested non-members should also be able to participate.

The Social Democratic Party reformed on 7 October 1989 and soon came under the leadership of the evangelical theologians Martin Gutzeit and Markus Meckel.

Decisive events of October–November 1989[edit]

A demonstration on 30 October 1989 in front of the town hall in Plauen

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[edit]

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).

Large-scale demonstrations[edit]

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.[21] 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!".[4]

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[edit]

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%.[citation needed] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[22] 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[edit]

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[edit]

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".[23]

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[edit]

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.[24] The term was first used publicly in East Germany on 18 October in a speech by interim GDR leader Egon Krenz.[verification needed]


The peaceful revolution is regularly commemorated and celebrated in Germany and other countries. On 18 September 2014, German president Joachim Gauck welcomed the leaders of German-speaking countries Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein to Mecklenburg. They met in Bad Doberan, Warnemünde, and Rostock to commemorate the revolution and to address the challenges of demographic change in Europe.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A clear win for the newly founded Social Democratic Party was awaited according to the polls, and a strong result for the renamed Party of Democratic Socialism because of its advantage as long-governing party, while the conservative and liberal bloc parties had the flaw of decade-long opportunism.
  2. ^ in terms of calling for German reunification


  1. ^ a b c d Childs, David (2014) The Fall of the GDR. Abingdon: Routledge.
  2. ^ a b "On this day: 27 June - the Iron Curtain was breached". European Parliament. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Walker, Shaun (18 August 2019) How a pan-European picnic brought down the iron curtain on Guardian Online. Retrieved 20 August 2019
  4. ^ a b "Geschichte der Bundesrepublik". www.hdg.de (in German). Stiftung Deutsches Historisches Museum. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  5. ^ Tomforde, Anna (19 Oct 1989) East Germans oust Honecker in The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2019
  6. ^ a b How ordinary people smashed the Stasi in The Local.de, 4 December 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2019
  7. ^ Vilasi, Antonella Colonna (2015). The History of the Stasi. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse
  8. ^ Illmer, Andreas (18 March 2010) The vote that set the course for German reunification, 18 March 2010 on DW.com. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  9. ^ a b c Bromley,Joyce E. (2017) German Reunification: Unfinished Business. Abingdon-on-Thames:Routledge on Google Books. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  10. ^ Kramer, Mark (2011) ((December 2011) "Contemporary Issues in Historical Perspective: The Demise of the Soviet Bloc". In The Journal of Modern History 83 (December 2011), pp. 788-854. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  11. ^ Mastny, Vojtech (1998) The Soviet Non-Invasion of Poland in 1980/81 and the End of the Cold War. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (PDF). Retrieved 22 August 2019
  12. ^ Nelsson, Richard (10 Jul 2019) Gorbachev's vision for a 'common European home'- archive, July 1989. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  13. ^ The collapse of the Communist bloc. Digital Research in European Studies website. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  14. ^ Keller, Bill (26 October 1989) Gorbachev, in Finland, Disavows Any Right of Regional Intervention. in New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  15. ^ Alexander, Martin S. (1998) Knowing Your Friends: Intelligence Inside Alliances and Coalitions from 1914 to the Cold War. London: Frank Cass. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  16. ^ DDR Museum. The magazine "Sputnik" as a paper based ambassador of the USSR. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  17. ^ Baylis, Thomas A. (1986) Explaining the GDR's Economic Strategy in International Organization, Vol. 40, No. 2, "Power, Purpose, and Collective Choice: Economic Strategy in Socialist States" (Spring, 1986), pp. 381-420. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  18. ^ a b c Protzman, Ferdinand (15 May 1989) (East Germany Losing Its Edge in New York Times. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  19. ^ Bryer, Keith (11 November 2015) East Germany provides bleak ideological lesson in Business Report. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  20. ^ Der Bundespräsident. The 25th anniversary of the peaceful revolution, 9 October 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2019
  21. ^ Curry, Andrew (9 October 2009) We Are the People' A Peaceful Revolution in Leipzigin Spiegel Online. Retrieved 20 August 2019
  22. ^ "Report on the state of the nation in divided Germany" by Helmut Kohl
  23. ^ "For Our Land". Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  24. ^ "Der Spiegel 42/1989".
  25. ^ "Joachim Gauck welcomes presidents to Mecklenburg to address demographic change and commemorate the Wende". Official Presidential Website. Retrieved 18 September 2014.