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Germany

East German democracy campaigner Baerbel Bohley dies, aged 65

A prominent campaigner credited with helping to bring about the demise of East Germany's communist regime has died. Baerbel Bohley organized influential peaceful protests in the final days of the Soviet-backed state.

Baerbel Bohley

Bohley was praised for her courage and sense of decency

Prominent pro-democracy campaigner Baerbel Bohley, credited with helping to oust the communist leadership of East Germany, died on Saturday.

The Robert Havemann Society - which keeps the records of opposition movements against the Soviet-backed regime - said Bohley, aged 65, died of cancer.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, said that she was "deeply affected" by the news of Bohley's death.

"She was a major voice of freedom," who helped clear the path for "a peaceful revolution and German unification", Merkel said. "For many, including myself, and others, her courage and directness were exemplary."

The fall of Berlin Wall

Pressure for reform grew, and the wall fell

German President Christian Wulff praised Bohley for her "sense of decency and unshakeable position against despotism and injustice" and said that her calls for a peaceful revolution had changed the course of history.

Founding of democracy group

Bohley, a painter who endured harassment by East Germany's secret police, was among the most prominent activists in the last days of the state. She set up the "New Forum" democracy group with several other activists in September 1989.

The forum pushed for greater openness in East German society, as well as democratic elections, and also mounted peaceful protests that undermined the communist government.

The border was opened on November 9, 1989, with reunification coming the following year.

In September 1990, Bohley took part in a peaceful occupation of secret police archives in East Berlin, which led to legislation allowing citizens to see files that where held about them. From 1996 she worked in the former Yugoslavia, on aid projects for children.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Mark Hallam

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