When shortly before midnight on 9 November 1989 the barrier of the Berlin border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse was opened, hardly anyone among the jubilant GDR citizens could imagine that within a year their country would cease to exist. Only a month before, on the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Erich Honecker had asserted that “Socialism on German soil in the native land of Marx and Engels rests on steadfast foundations.” As for the thousands of GDR citizens who had left their homeland since that summer, the party newspaper “Neues Deutschland” claimed that no one should “shed a tear” for them.
In the autumn of 1989, alongside the call “We want to get out” the new slogan “We want to stay here!” now resounded. The people demanded reforms in East Germany. Encouraged by the new politics of the Soviet Union and the changes in Hungary and Poland, tens of thousands took to the streets and demonstrated for the freedom of travel and speech, free elections and democracy. Helpless and at a loss for a solution, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) reacted with arrests and the brutal deployment of security forces.
It is really a miracle that this revolution remained peaceful to the end. The “Round Tables” met and discussed the future of the country peacefully, the civil activists pursued the dissolution of the State Security peacefully, the first free elections in the GDR in March 1990 proceeded peacefully, and the victorious powers of World War II – and adversaries in the Cold War – came to an agreement about the unification of Germany peacefully.
The events of the years 1989 and 1990 have been captured in countless photographs. With a small selection of them the exhibition wishes to recall these turbulent and moving times.