Saturday, September 6, 2014

Leipzig 4. Sept 1989: Nikolaikirche!

This is the Daily News broadcast in WEST Germany from Channel 1, ARD, from 25 years ago. 

These peace demonstrations took place every Monday afternoon after a service which included a kind of free exchange of complaints in Leipzig's Nikolai-Church. 

During the scuffle, the protesters chanted:
"Stasi raus!"   (Away with the Staatssicherheit = secret police; reportedly 1 in every 6 citizens!)
"Mauer weg!"  (Down with the wall!)

Diese DDR Bürger wollten einfach Freiheit. (These East German citizens simply wanted freedom.)
Die Volkspolizei (in Uniform) und Stasi sind auch dabei...

After the gathering in the church, these 2 homemade banners were unfurled -- and held aloft for a mere 6-7 seconds; long enough for cameras to capture the sentiment, and then sent the broadcast around the world. 

"Für ein offenes Land mit freien Menschen" [For an open country of free citizens]
"Reise Freiheit statt Massenflucht"  [No limits to travel instead of mass exodus]  

Were the Volkspolizei or those serving in the Staatsicherheit less committed to the socialist government in Leipzig than elsewhere?  Why didn't they clamp down on these protests before they grew to be unmanageable? 

Western sources confirm that during the last 4 Mondays leading up to the 9th of November, the Montagsdemonstrationen, or Monday Demonstrations at the Nikolaikirche drew between 300,000 and 500,000 people.  With so many protesters willing to fight against travel limitations and other governmental limitations, such as study and career opportunities, control was lost. 

The follow-up story on the newsreel also focuses on the unrest in the DDR (East Germany).  

Hundreds of DDR citizens responded to an offer in Hungary to open its borders for a day.  Officials in Budapest were discussing arrangements, thus many of the refugees had been waiting for over 2 weeks.  Meanwhile, ever more DDR citizens walked away from their lives and joined the campers in hopes of emigrating to West Germany.

This from CAFÉ BABEL from September 14, 2009  By Ádám Terjék Translated by Judit Révész
The picture of the opening of the Hungarian-Austrian border in 1989 is living vividly in my memory: in the television news of 10 September 1989 a group of East German tourists exult and rejoice at the announcement of Gyula Horn, Hungarian foreign minister saying all DDR citizens staying in Hungary could leave to the “west” with their passport.  Surpassing all expectations this act of Hungary played a crucial role in the soon destruction of the Berlin Wall, the reunion of Germany and of Europe. 

As Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of West Germany summarised in a short sentence: It was the Hungarians drawing the first brick out of the wall.
There is no doubt that it was a historic event for both the Germans and the Hungarians. It is also interesting to see that following the sudden weakening of the Soviet Union it was Poland and Hungary that tried to seek their way to independence at first. These two nations proved so many times in their history how much they love freedom and how many things they are ready to do for it.

... In the second half of the 80s a small group of people recognized that the days of communism are numbered, but for average Hungarian and for the outside world it didn’t seem obvious at all. Unfortunately today there are some, who attempt to make those daring acts unimportant, saying that the collapse of the communist regime had always been a matter of time; so taking the decision of the opening the frontier and making steps towards bringing the communist autocracy to an end didn’t need much courage. 

They are not right at all! It did need much courage. 

The fact that Hungarian government of that time managed to make itself independent from the omnipotent communist party and were brave and resolute enough to take the decision about opening borders the proves about much of courage. We shouldn’t forget that the soviet troops were still stationed in Hungary at that time, and it was a real possibility that the Soviet Union intervenes again even by force, like it did in 1956 "our first revolution, which at the time, the Soviets tried to label as a counter-revolution.  We now know that was only desperate propaganda."

Finally we may put the question to ourselves: who deserves the glory? As Miklós Németh, former prime minister said: letting the East German to cross the frontier was a joint, collective achievement of the people of Hungary.

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