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A milestone for freedom

Alexander Kudascheff / esOctober 9, 2014

The Monday demonstrations in 1989 heralded the end of East Germany. The protest on October 9 in Leipzig was not the first, but the biggest and represented a turning point, DW's Alexander Kudascheff says in retrospect.

Montagsdemonstration auf dem Karl-Marx-Platz in Leipzig am 30.10.1989
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

October 9, 1989 is an important day in the history of freedom both in Germany and in Europe. Some 70,000 people gathered together on this Monday in Leipzig to protest against the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), then the ruling party of the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany.

They chanted against the communist powerbrokers: "Wir sind das Volk" - "We are the people." A mass demonstration from below of "those above," the bigwigs in the Politburo and the Central Committee, who no longer knew what the people wanted: freedom. Freedom in life, freedom in society, but also freedom to move and even more importantly: the freedom to move away.

Alexander Kudascheff
Alexander Kudascheff is DW's editor-in-chiefImage: DW/M. Müller

At the time, an increasingly powerful demonstration movement was taking to the streets to fight the state. Not only every Monday in Leipzig, but also in Halle and Eisenhüttenstadt, tens of thousands left frustrated by the atrophy of the state marched - mostly illegally. It was a demonstration of feet - in the GDR to get out of the GDR.

The ninth of October was the first milestone in the history of German freedom in 1989. It was the day when 70,000 citizens summoned up the courage to openly say "no" to the GDR. It was the first day of peaceful resistance that would unfold over the following four weeks until November 9, 1989 - when the Berlin Wall fell - a month that wrote German and European history.

It was the day that the Germans, who Lenin once maliciously quipped would stop to buy a ticket when storming a train station during the revolution, joined the ranks, in part even led the way, of the uprising of Central and Eastern Europeans against communism, against the dictatorships of their respective single parties, and against Moscow's claims of supremacy.

What had begun in Poland with the independent trade union Solidarnosc in the early 1980s, accompanied spiritually by the Polish Pope John Paul II, was kindled in those four weeks - in East Germany as well as among the Poles, the Czechs, the Slovaks, and the Hungarians. The people rose up and communist dictatorships imploded.

A few weeks before October 9, the GDR had celebrated its 40th anniversary with pomp and state military parades. The signs of the times and the desire for change had not been perceived the party and state leadership.

In that one month they were peacefully challenged and then completely swept away.

On the ninth of October, East Germans started writing history. Four peaceful weeks had begun - always with new demonstrations and rallies. Then divided Germany and divided Europe was gone. October 9 marks the beginning of Germany's road to freedom, a milestone that leads to November 9. It was a day of which East Germans, especially those in Leipzig, can be proud. It was the day when the people lost the fear of dictatorship.