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German Reunification

Leipzig to Get Own German Unity Monument

Chancellor Merkel's government says it's reached agreement to set up a monument to celebrate German unity and freedom in the eastern city of Leipzig where peaceful demonstrations in 1989 helped bring down communism.

Thousands take to the streets at Monday demonstration in Leipzig in 1989

The 1989 Monday demonstrations in Leipzig encouraged more peaceful protests against the Communist regime

German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said on Thursday, Jan 29, that the government had reached agreement with representatives of the eastern state of Saxony to set up a memorial to mark German unity and freedom in Leipzig by 2014 as the country gears up to mark 20 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"We want to take shared responsibility to honor the outstanding contribution of the citizens of East Germany in the peaceful revolution of 1989," Neumann said after the meeting in Berlin.

The federal government will put up five million euros ($6.58 million) to fund the memorial, the minister said.

The decision to build a unity monument in the eastern German city follows years of controversy. In 2007, when the German parliament agreed to erect a monument in Berlin to remember the country's fraught Cold War divisions and celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, about 70 parliamentarians revolted and insisted on building a second monument in Leipzig.

At the time, Neumann rejected the initiative.

Leipzig at the vanguard of peaceful revolution

Leipzig's role in helping bring down the East German Communist regime is well-documented. The so-called "Monday demonstrations" saw some 70,000 people take to the streets on Oct 9, 1989 with the famous chants of "We are the people."

In an interview with Deutsche Welle earlier this month, Christian Fuehrer, pastor of the Nikolai Church in Leipzig and a leading figure in the Monday demonstrations, remembered the extraordinary night.

Leipzig pastor Christian Fuehrer

Christian Fuehrer say the enormity of the Monday demonstrations only sank in later

"Everyone was holding a candle, a symbol of non-violence -- you need to hold a candle with both hands to keep it from going out, which makes it impossible to throw stones," Fueher said. "We had a sense that something extraordinary had happened, but we only really understood the enormity of it later."

The Monday demonstrations proved to be a turning point in the peaceful revolution against the East German rulers, encouraging more protests and hastening the opening of the country.

Neumann said the monument was designed to give the non-violent demonstrations in Leipzig "an own face" and highlight the civil courage of the citizens of the city in fighting a repressive system.

The German capital too is slated to get its own memorial to commemorate German unity.

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