Pastor Christian Führer, one of the most important figures in the peaceful revolution to end the dictatorship in East Germany, has died. He was 71 years old and had long battled respiratory problems.
Born in Leipzig in 1943, Führer began to organize weekly Monday "peace prayers" in the city's St. Nicholas Church, where he began work in 1980. Attendance grew every week, and, despite Stasi efforts to clamp down on the gatherings, they were to continue right up into the protests that would eventually bring down the East German regime.
Following the news of Führer's death on Monday, Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung, a Social Democrat, called the pastor a man "who, with strong faith in his beliefs, did not simply think the impossible - but dared it, too." Jung added that Führer gave Leipzig "much to be grateful for": "His courage was and is exemplary."
Führer's work did not stop once the Berlin Wall came down: The pastor would go on to criticize the social system and business-friendly politics of a united Germany - and their effects on the poor and unemployed in the former East such as the benefits cuts introduced under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
He retired from actively working as a pastor in 2008 and, because of his illness, rarely appeared in public again.
With the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaching, Führer was awarded Germany's National Prize just last week for his role in the peaceful protests. Because of his illness, he was unable to accept in person and his daughter appeared at the ceremony for him.
mkg/tj (AFP, dpa, kna, epd)