Logo - 1989. Photographs of the Turn of an Era
DHM Logo - Duration ot the Exhibition
Poster - 1989. Photographs of the Turn of an Era

Exhibition | Heavy Times | Peaceful Revolution | International Politics | West Looks East


From the Peaceful Revolution to German Unity

The citizens expressed their dissatisfaction with the political situation in the GDR in different ways. While many wanted to leave the country, others became engaged in an effort to create a democratic state. The Monday prayer sessions in the Leipzig Nikolai Church developed into demonstrations where at first hundreds, then thousands of people took to the streets. After the beginning of the mass exodus through the open Hungarian frontier in the early summer of 1989, the SED was barely able to suppress the demands for the freedoms of travel, speech, press and demonstration. On 7 October, the 40th anniversary of the GDR, the situation escalated. In Berlin, Plauen and Leipzig the state powers took violent action against demonstrators, as they had done a few days before in Dresden. Yet the peaceful course of the following Monday demonstrations encouraged the people more and more to present their demands in public. The opposition aligned themselves in political organizations and parties.


Despite changes in the leadership, reform promises and offers of mutual discussion, the SED leaders were unable to win back their lost credibility with large sectors of the public. The collapse of the system accelerated after the fall of the Wall on the night of 9 November 1989. Hundreds of thousands throughout the country demonstrated for changes. At the end of 1989 the slogan “We are the people” turned into “We are one people”.


At the Round Table at the beginning of December 1989, the civil rights movements, the SED and the block parties began discussing the path to free, democratic elections. The victory of the mainstream-conservative coalition “Alliance for Germany” in the first free elections to the People’s Chamber on 18 March 1990 reinforced the course toward a speedy reunification. The Economic and Monetary Union that came into effect in July was an important step in that direction. In August the People’s Chamber voted to join the Federal Republic on the basis of Article 23 of the Basic Law. This came into force on 3 October 1990. The division of the German states was history. A comprehensive Unification Treaty regulated the details.

Jürgen Nagel
Demonstration für Meinungs‑ und Versammlungsfreiheit auf dem Alexanderplatz
Berlin (Ost), 4. November 1989
DHM - Exhibition -  Bottom