Peaceful Revolution

The Peaceful Revolution (German: Friedliche Revolution) was the process of sociopolitical change that led to the end of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) in the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) and the transition to a parliamentary democracy which enabled the reunification of Germany. This turning point was wholly created through the violence-free initiatives, protests, and successful demonstrations, which decisively occurred between the local elections held in May 1989 and the GDR's first free parliamentary election in March 1990.

These events were closely linked to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to abandon Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe as well as the reformist movements that spread through the region as a result. In addition to the Soviet Union's shift in foreign policy – part of its glasnost and perestroika reforms – the GDR's lack of competitiveness within an increasingly global market as well as its sharply rising national debt hastened the destabilization of the SED's one-party state and the success of the revolution.

Those driving the reform process within the GDR included intellectuals and church figures, who had been in underground opposition for several years, the significant number of people attempting to flee the country – thus displaying a clear sign of the discontentment with the SED regime – as well as the rising number of peaceful demonstrators who were no longer willing to yield to the threat of violence and repression by the authorities.

On account of its hostile response to the reforms implemented within its "socialist brother lands", the SED leadership was already increasingly isolated within the Eastern Bloc by the time it finally decided to abstain from the use of force to suppress the ever-larger public demonstrations and permitted the opening of the border at the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. Through a change in leadership and a willingness to talk with opponents, the SED initially attempted to win back the political initiative. However, due to the continued political instability and the threat of national bankruptcy, control of the situation increasingly lay with the West German government under Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

From the start of December 1989, the GDR government of Prime Minister Hans Modrow was influenced from a Central Round Table, at which the dissolution of the suppressive state security service, the Stasi, was put into action and preparations were made for free elections. After a sweeping and surprising election win[a] for the conservative and nationalist[b] "Alliance for Germany" coalition, the political path within the GDR was now clear for a swift reunification of the two German governments.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-1106-405, Plauen, Demonstration vor dem Rathaus
A demonstration on 30 October 1989 in front of Plauen's town hall

Soviet policy toward the Eastern Bloc

A fundamental shift in the policy of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev toward the Eastern Bloc nations was the background for large numbers of the East German population to show active dissent against SED regime in the GDR.

Upon becoming elected General Secretary of the Soviet Union in 1985, Gorbachev abolished the Soviet claim of leadership over the internal developments of the "socialist brother lands". The Brezhnev Doctrine that had seen the Warsaw Pact invade Czechoslovakia in 1968 to quell the Prague Spring liberal reforms was replaced by the so-called Sinatra Doctrine; this policy announcement was in fact retrospective as the Soviet Union had already failed to militarily intervene – despite urging from the GDR leader Erich Honecker – during the Polish crisis of 1980–81.

Gorbachev's decision largely stemmed from the lack of economic development within the Eastern Bloc in comparison to the western industrial nations due to the persistence of increasingly incompatible production structures and the failure to create service-orientated, micro-electronic or globalized industries. The Soviet Union therefore increasingly lacked the materials to continue the arms race with the Reagan-era United States – particularly with a drawn-out war in Afghanistan – and the resources to control Central and Eastern Europe. With his economic and sociopolitical reform program as well as his disarmament initiatives, Gorbachev therefore sought to take appropriate steps.

Having initiated a policy of glasnost (openness) and emphasized the need for perestroika (economic restructuring), Gorbachev essentially permitted the six member states of the Warsaw Pact to now each take their own direction with their own reforms. While those reforms implemented the Soviet Union were met with broad approval by the peoples across the other Eastern Bloc nations – in particular amongst students and academics – the respective governments of the region reacted at first with reserve and later, in part, with rejection of the reforms.

SED hostility to Soviet reforms

The fact that the GDR was a second German state, subject to western recognition and the wide influences from the West German side, meant it was considered to be of particular importance among the Eastern Bloc nations to the Soviet Union. As the weak outpost of the Iron Curtain, the GDR profited from both a unique economic relationship with the Soviet Union and a relatively stable supply situation. It was notably the only Warsaw Pact member to have large numbers of Soviet troops permanently stationed on its territory.

However, Gorbachev's reforms soured relations between the GDR leadership and the Soviet Union as the SED showed an increasingly clear dissociation from these policies. Information about the new developments in the Soviet Union was also placed under stronger censorship. In an interview with the weekly Stern magazine in March 1987, the SED's chief ideologist Kurt Hager commented disparagingly on perestroika: "If your neighbour wallpapered his apartment, would you also feel obliged to wallpaper your apartment?"

A further escalation of this hostility occurred in Autumn 1988 when the SED banned the Soviet monthly journal Sputnik, which had a circulation in the GDR of 190,000, on account of its supposedly distorted historical articles. This provoked a wave of protests from those in the GDR population, including even many SED members. At the turn of the year 1988/89 GDR leader Erich Honecker began speaking of "socialism in the colours of the GDR" to emphasize the countries' differences in policy.

Catalysts for the crisis of 1989

Economic situation

Since the start of the 1970s, Honecker had led social policies built on debt such as wage and pension increases, highly subsidized consumer prices, and large-scale home construction programs. When Günter Ehrensperger, the leading economic expert in the SED Central Committee at the time, informed Honecker in November 1973 that the national debt would increase under the current economic direction from 2 to 20 billion Valutamark by 1980, he was forbidden by Honecker from calculating such scenarios and ordered to destroy all evidence relating to such projections.

In 1981, a reduction in Soviet oil deliveries at special rates brought the GDR's planned economy into difficulties and throughout the decade insolvency was only avoided due to western credit. By the end of the 1980s GDR productivity in comparison to the FRG lay at only 30%. It was attempted at high cost to become a producer of micro electronics. Even the official presentation in September 1988 of a 1-Megabit-Speicher that was firstly developed in the GDR, couldn't mask the slow speed of development in comparison with the West. Nonetheless, as late as August 1989, Honecker assured at a symbolic handing over of the first 32-Bit chip produced in the GDR that: "Neither an ox nor a donkey is able to stop the progress of socialism".

Reform of the economic system was rejected, with the chairman of the country's trade union federation Harry Tisch explaining to the Politbüro on 29 August 1989: "If the economic basis is formed in a capitalist manner, the socialist superstructure cannot be maintained".

Outdated production facilities and methods were not only economically inefficient but also caused environmental damage and affected people's health. There were barely any ecologically intact flowing waters and lakes; the means were lacking for more effective environmental protection. In some especially affected regions of Leipzig-Halle-Bitterfeld, loud speaker announcements were made to keep windows and doors closed. The legal but counterproductive measures of environmental protection created further hostility toward the regime.

Electoral fraud

As a consequence of the already heated political mood, the planned local elections of May 1989 took on greater significance than usual. GDR citizens had long become accustomed to casting their vote by simply folding their ballot paper containing the confirmed candidate list and placing it in the ballot box without even using the voting booths. However, after falsified electoral results at some polling stations in 1986 had been noted by oppositional observers, such controls were now supposed to be systematically carried out in all regions. Since the previous summer, different groups – mostly religious in nature – had called on Christians in the GDR to actively intervene in the preparation of the election on 7 May 1989.

In the face of rising unrest, the SED wanted as impressive an election result as possible and took precautionary action to achieve this. Hence, all those who had applied to travel abroad, known opponents of the regime and those who had failed to vote in past elections were all removed from the electoral roll. By the same token, by mid-April 1989, more than 80,000 people declared their non-participation in the election. Under the codename "Symbol 89", the Stasi undertook measures to hinder non-participation. Parallel to this, there was also the attempt to give this election a notably democratic feel. People were asked to raise their concerns with the National Front coalition and to involve themselves in the selection of the candidates. Attempts by independent groups to select different candidates, however, failed almost without exception.

On election day itself, 7 May 1989, there were some unusual aspects. In many places individuals only handed their voting cards in at the polling stations in order to demonstrate their refusal to vote; this added to large queues in front of the otherwise mostly unused voting booths. Electoral observers identified an estimate electoral turnout of around 60-80% in their voting spots and abstentions of between 3–30%. When Egon Krenz as Chairman of the Electoral Commission announced a 98.85% approval vote for the National Front candidates, this was viewed by many – not only by regime critics – as clear evidence of electoral fraud. There were districts in East Berlin where independent election observers at a selection of polling stations reported clearly counted more "no" votes than the official result for the entire area reported; a subsequent 1993 trial would find Hans Modrow and three other associates guilty of altering the results.

Over the following weeks, a multitude of criminal complaints, petitions and protest actions against the suspected fraud led to a large number of disputes and countless arrests. The public opposition to this was on a scale not before seen, bringing together those who had applied to leave the country and other opponents at events such as the Alexanderplatz demonstration in Berlin on 4 November 1989.

Gap in the Iron Curtain

The ability to freely travel from the GDR to non-socialist nations was only granted to select groups such as pensioners or performers considered to be basically loyal to the party as well as athletes going to take part in competition. Aside from such situations, travel was only permitted for urgent family situations, and only then generally granted to individuals whose family would meanwhile remain back in the GDR. Serious requests to permanently leave the GDR with one's family and belongings were, aside from highly restricted "humanitarian reasons", not tolerated and would result in the suffering of social marginalization and discrimination. Those who entered such applications, regardless of the harassment they knew they would face, normally had to reckon with a waiting list lasting years, or until West Germany simply "bought them out".

By 1989, there was effectively an understanding between the Warsaw Pact members that each would prevent citizens from exiting the Eastern bloc. Discovered attempts to flee, such as via Hungary into Austria, resulted in people being returned to the GDR, which would impose lengthy prison terms on a charge of an "attempted illegal border crossing". However, in the course of a reformist agenda as well as for economic reasons, Hungary began in May 1989 to firstly relax then eventually cease military control of its borders, thereby creating the first gap in the Iron Curtain.

When summer holidays began in the GDR at the start of July 1989, more than 200,000 people made their way to Hungary, the majority simply as holiday-makers but thousands also with the intention to flee. A Pan-European Picnic on 19 August at Sopron, Hungary, supposedly dedicated to the new perspectives for Europe, was used by 800-900 people as a chance to flee into Austria. By the start of August, word had spread that Hungary would not make any record of any person attempting to flee, removing the potential risk of future sanction from the GDR. Many therefore traveled to Hungary, often simply abandoning their cars there once they neared the border.

Once Hungary officially opened its borders to the waiting GDR citizens on 11 September 1989, some 15,000 people fled within the first three days, rising to almost 20,000 by the end of the month. In response, travel to Hungary was no longer permitted by the GDR authorities. Upon this decision, the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw became overfilled with GDR citizens claiming their right to leave. When this congestion soon brought hygiene problems and the threat of disease, and with the refusal of the Czech government to have to deal with the problems of the GDR, Honecker felt compelled to allow the GDR refugees to travel as they wished. On 30 September the West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher announced from the balcony of the embassy in Prague that those within the embassy grounds would be allowed to travel into the FRG via a train journey through the GDR; around 4,700 people left from the Prague embassy and a further 809 from Warsaw.

On 3 October, a further 6,000 people had forced themselves into the ground of the Prague embassy, with thousands more en route there too. The GDR leadership had to once more permit their exit by traveling on special trains through the GDR. Attempting to limit the exodus, the GDR closed its border with Czechoslovakia, which led to further outrage, particularly from those had been depending on that border. Those already close to the border, headed to Dresden where the trains containing those allowed to travel were expected to pass through. Here, protests and violent confrontations with police and special forces broke out, in which not only those wishing to leave the country but those regime opponents content to stay were also involved.

Chaplain Frank Richter attempted to deescalate the situation on 8 October by convincing demonstrators and police to instead negotiate. Twenty demonstrators were chosen to take part in talks with the Dresden Mayor Berghofer who had declared himself prepared to talk after church intervention. Events in Dresden showed the unity between the two great opposition forces, as "we want out" was countered with "we're staying here".

Newly formed opposition

Parallel to the rising tide of those fleeing the GDR during summer 1989 occurred the formation and expansion of opposition groups focused on reforming the GDR. As a result, a number of new and (for the SED) subversive political organizations were created, beginning with the founding of the New Forum on 9–10 September 1989. Among its most noted members at the time were Katja Havemann, Rolf Henrich and Bärbel Bohley.

Expressly constituted not as a party but as a "political platform", the New Forum focused on the collapsed lines of communication between the state and society. It demanded an open dialogue about "the functions of the constitutional state, the economy and culture". They hoped for better goods and supply, but were also concerned by the costs and economic consequences. It called for economic initiatives but wanted to counter an "elbow society".

The calls of the New Forum prompted other opposition groups to now step into the spotlight with their own specific demands and political visions. "Democracy Now" emerged with its hope of a democratically reformed socialism with a Christian and critical accent - similarly against the western consumer society. On 1 October a further political group in the shape of "Democratic Awakening" with the regime critics Rainer Eppelmann and Friedrich Schorlemmer also entered the fray.

Many of these new groups consciously formed themselves not as political parties but instead used terms like forum, league or movement, which placed themselves within the concept of a civil movement. They placed value on basic democracy, openness and transparency in decision-making, in which interested non-members should also be able to participate.

The reformation of the Social Democratic Party on 7 October 1989, the 40th anniversary of the GDR's founding, which soon came under the leadership of the evangelical theologians Martin Gutzeit and Markus Meckel, was also of note.

Decisive events of October–November 1989

The forming of oppositional groups across the GDR against the SED regime and the growing willingness of the populace to demonstrate became an additional threat to those in power, who were already overburdened with the problem of those fleeing the country.

Attempting to scare off protesters, the SED used the events that had unfolded around the time of the GDR elections in PR China where an oppositional student movement had demonstrated on 17 April 1989 in Beijing. On the occasion of a state visit from Gorbachev, which drew media attention from across the world, a million people came together to protest on 15–18 May. A day after Gorbachev departed, though, martial law was declared and during the night of 3/4 June 1989 the Chinese military was put into action against the opposition, leading to the Tiannamen Square massacre. The violent suppression of the opposition left thousands dead and tens of thousands injured across China.

The Chinese response to the protesters was viewed positively by the SED regime. The edition of the official party newspaper Neues Deutschland on 5 June 1989 carried the headline: "China's liberation army defeats counter-revolutionary rioting". A statement read in the Peoples Chamber announced that law and order [in China] had been restored following disorder created by elements acting against the constitution.

In the weeks from the start of October until the opening of the border in November, it was completely unclear to both those affected and those watching on, whether the GDR leadership would seek to save itself using the "Chinese solution". As a precaution, the national army of the GDR was placed on high combat readiness during 6–9 October.

GDR's 40th anniversary

The SED wanted the jubilee celebrations on 7 October 1989 to pass as smoothly as possible. They therefore allowed the speedy deportation of the embassy refugees and also permitted their family members to follow.

However, problems had already arisen during the run-up to the day: Rejected invites from guests, those selected to receive honors stayed away and all sorts of abandoned events. On the day of the anniversary, western journalists were denied entry to the country. Here and there, anti-celebratory events took place. At peace prayers, the 40th anniversary celebrations were partly critically mentioned; in Gotha, for example, forty candles were extinguished as a symbol of extinguished hope. Gorbachev, who had traveled for the celebrations, saw the writing on the wall for the SED regime.

Aside from the official celebrations, there were also many demonstrations of protest across the GDR: From protesters who congregated on the 7th of each month at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin to remember the electoral fraud, a protest march was formed that headed toward the Palace of the Republic, where the main celebratory banquet was taking place. The growing crowd of around 3,000 made its presence known with chants of "Gorbi, Gorbi", "no violence" and "democracy - now or never". However, under pressure from the security forces guarding the venue, the crowd could not directly reach it and instead swerved away to Prenzlauer Berg, where over 2,000 people were at the time gathered in the Gethsemane Church.

In total, 1,200 arrests were made, including people completely uninvolved. The majority were released from custody within 24 hours but reported being beaten, kicked, spat at or denied usage of a toilet. Unlike the other protests across the GDR, the events in East Berlin were directly reported in western media. While GDR citizens were officially prohibited from receiving western media, only a small portion of the population willingly abstained for ideological reasons. Some regions in the north-east and south-east were however closed off from West German television because they lay outside the transmitter range (satirically known as the so-called Valley of the Clueless).

Large-scale demonstrations

Of all the events seeking a peaceful and successful conclusion to the uprising against the SED dictatorship, the mass demonstrations in Leipzig under the watch of international publicity would become most pivotal. Here, over 10,000 people had already forced their way past police lines on 2 October 1989 and marched to the St Thomas Church after peace prayers in the St Nicholas Church and the Reformed Church. They countered Honecker's verbal attacks on them in the media with the chant: "We're no hooligans". This was spontaneously turned from a denial to a positive statement, which became the slogan of this revolution: "We are the people!".

At the following Monday demonstration in Leipzig on 9 October – two days after the 40th anniversary celebrations – the SED leadership initially hoped to restore its authority against the protesters. In addition to 8,000 armed security personnel, a further 5,000 people connected to the SED were supposed to mix themselves in plain clothes in among the demonstrators and cause disruption.

That the planned suppression of the Monday demonstration on 9 October was not seriously attempted did not lie solely with the fact that the planned police tactics were unlikely to have succeeded due to the scale of the crowd. The atmosphere of this demonstration was also influenced by an appeal for no violence by the three prominent Leipzig figures had agreed with three SED local party functionaries, and which had been broadcast over local radio during the day. In this, dialogue and contemplation was promoted.

Opinion among the SED chiefs was split upon how to react. Egon Krenz declared in advance of the event in Leipzig that it could not come to violent means, even if the security forces themselves became attacked. When Krenz was telephoned by chief officer Helmut Hackenberg in Leipzig at 18:30 to confirm that there should be no action taken, he assured Hackenberg that he would call him back swiftly. However, while he did indeed confirm that, 45 minutes had by then passed, during which time most demonstrators had departed.

The peaceful passing-off of this demonstration encouraged many that reforms could be peacefully reached in the GDR and hereafter people became ever more willing to go on to the street. On 4 November the largest protest demonstration in GDR history took place at the Berlin Alexanderplatz. An estimated 500,000 attended the event, where civil rights campaigners, poets, actors and some political figures broke from the SED regime and declared their reform demands.

SED loss of power

Leading up the 40th anniversary celebrations, the SED leadership had used all available means to curtail the wave of people leaving the country and the pressure (both domestically and internationally) to reform. When the celebrations of 7 October 1989 failed to create the desired effect, the disillusionment became resounding. Ever since Honecker's health began to decline due to a bilious complaint that first struck at the Bucharest summit of the Warsaw Pact leaders in early July 1989 - at which the parting from the Brezhnev Doctrine and the principle to not become involved in the domestic situations of the individual states was officially laid down - an overriding sense of helplessness had set into the SED Politburo in the face of the growing opposition to their leadership of the country and the dictatorial status of the party.

As Honecker rejected each of Krenz's proposed changes of course following the flawed anniversary celebrations, Krenz secured himself the support of other Politburo members in order to overthrow Honecker and become his successor on 18 October 1989. His first keynote speech before the SED's Central Committee was broadcast on East German television, in which he abstained from the popular terms "glasnost" and "perestroika" and instead set a future course of reforms on his own terms: "I must find a German term that both allows a turning to the proven ways of the GDR for 40 years but that also makes clear that we turn away from all that has brought our country to the current situation. With today's congress we will begin a turning point. Above all, we will regain the political and ideological offensive".

Krenz himself admitted in hindsight that this speech took the wrong note: "The people don't want to hear any more long speeches that sound like party reports. They want to know: Who is responsible for the country standing in the abyss? What are the causes? How should it go forward?". The change of power from Honecker to Krenz failed to quell the discontent within the country and Krenz's offer of a dialogue that should win the SED back "the political and ideological offensive" fizzled out in the hands of the party representatives within a few weeks.

After Krenz had called for an "unvarnished picture of the economic situation", the report of a commission led by Gerhard Schürer offered little comfort. For a country to be credit worthy, its debt service ratio should not grow beyond 25%. In 1989, the GDR's debt-service ratio according to Schürer's figures was 150%. The commission was unable to suggest any way out of the situation and reported that an end to debt would mean an expected 25-30% decline in living standards in 1990 and make the country ungovernable.

The finger pointing was not limited to those closest to Honecker but also directed at the entire leadership. On 1 December 1989, the People's Chamber struck the SED's right to govern from the GDR constitution. The Politburo and SED Central Committee resigned en masse under mounting internal and external pressure on 3 December 1989, and three days later, Krenz also resigned as chairman of the privy council.

Fall of the Berlin Wall and border opening

That there couldn't remain the makeshift exit from the GDR across Czechoslovakia and that a travel law was now needed, which also had to offer reasonable conditions to those willing to return again, was by this point now clear to most of those in power in the SED.

A draft travel law published in Neues Deutschland on 6 November was negatively received by the people and in the People's Chamber. A new bill by the head of the passport department Gerhard Lauter was put before the Central Committee by Krenz and quickly debated and rubber-stamped. With the paper handed over by Krenz – and bearing some additional changes from the Central Committee session – Günter Schabowski attended a press conference with the international media that was also broadcast live on East German television. Responding to a question by the Italian ANSA correspondent Riccardo Ehrman, Schabowski answered that the possibility to travel across the border into West German territory "without the existence of preconditions" existed "immediately, without delay". The new conditions were however only meant to come into effect from 4 am on the following day but this information had only been verbally shared at the Politburo sitting, at which Schabowski had not been present.

The reaction to the statement was instantaneous as news spread across western media that the GDR had abandoned its border controls. The West German parliament in Bonn interrupted its evening session to sing the national anthem. In East Berlin, more and more people made their way to the inner-city border checkpoints. No information had been conveyed to staff at the checkpoints though and it was only under pressure from the large crowd numbers that the first East Berliners were permitted to pass into West Berlin. Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger ordered all passports to be stamped as henceforth invalid, thereby expatriating those leaving the GDR without their knowledge. The first crossings occurred at Bornholmer Strasse at 9.20pm. By 11:30 pm, attempts to stamp all passports were abandoned and the control barrier raised with the remaining checkpoints in Berlin then also being opened.

During the following hours, Berliners from both sides of the city celebrated at the wall as well as on both sides of the border after 28 years of separation. Checkpoints along the inner German border were also passable on this night. The following weekend also brought a huge wave of travelers as the East German authorities issued more than four million visas for travel into the west.

Political situation during the transition

The fall of the Berlin Wall and opening of the inner German border set new challenges for both the government and opposition in the GDR as well as those in power in the FRG. These events also brought wider world into play, with Germany's European neighbors and the four victors of World War II having their own input. General opinion saw the fate of the GDR resting upon the attitude of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. In his memoirs, West German chancellor Helmut Kohl wrote that he had confronted the Soviet head during his visit to the FRG in June 1989 with the view that German unity would arrive - even against opposition - as surely as the Rhein that the two looked upon would arrive at the sea; Gorbachev did not dispute this.

After 9 November there was not only a growing wave of demonstrations across the GDR, but also a strong shift in the prevailing attitude to solutions. Instead of the chant "we are the people", the new and ever-more-heard refrain was "we are one people!". An unsolved problem for both the East and the West remained the continually high numbers moving from the GDR to the FRG, which created an ever-destabilizing effect in the GDR while also placing an ever-larger burden on the FRG to handle and integrate such large numbers.

Kohl's reunification plan

On the day the Berlin Wall fell, West German chancellor Kohl and his foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher were on a state visit to Poland that was cut short to allow Kohl to directly react to the new situation. Only a day earlier, Kohl had set out new conditions for closer collaboration with the GDR leadership within a document entitled "Report on the state of the nation in divided Germany": The SED's abandonment of its monopoly on power, the allowing of independent parties, free elections and the building up of a market economy. During a telephone conversation on 11 November with SED General Secretary Egon Krenz – who stressed the positivity of the border opening and "radical reforms", but insisted that reunification was not on the agenda – Kohl conceded that the creation of "reasonable relations" was currently most pressing.

At first Kohl refrained from pushing through his wish for reunification to avoid raising the expected annoyance abroad about the topic. His closest foreign adviser at the time, Horst Teltschik, took confidence though from opinion polls on 20 November, which showed 70% of West Germans to be favor of reunification and that 48% considered it possible within ten years. More than 75% approved financial aid for the GDR, though without tax increases to fund it. From a conversation with Nikolai Portugalow, a high-ranking emissar of Gorbachev's, Teilschik learned that Hans Modrow's suggestion of a treaty between the two German states had already prompted the Soviets to plan for "the unthinkable".

With Kohl's blessing, Teltschik developed a path toward German unification. To his ten-point plan, entitled the "Ten Point Program for Overcoming the Division of Germany and Europe", Kohl added some additions and surprised all by reading it out in parliament on 28 November. Starting with immediate measures, the path shall flow through a contractual arrangement and the development of confederative structures to conclude with one federation.

The plan was broadly accepted in parliament even by the opposition with the exception of the Green Party that endorsed the independence of the GDR, like many GDR civil liberties campaigners, in "a third way". The SPD was partly skeptical and divided. While the former chancellor Willy Brandt coined the expression on 10 November: "What now grows together, belongs together". Oscar Lafontaine, soon to be nominated as the SPD's chancellor candidate, picked out the central themes of the GDR as being the incalculable financial risks and the curtailing of the number of those leaving.

International reactions to developments

The sudden announcement of Kohl's ten-point plan caused substantial irritation among European heads of states and Soviet chief Gorbachev. British Premier Margaret Thatcher saw international stability becoming endangered and raised doubts about the peacefulness of a united and restrengthened Germany. French President François Mitterrand was concerned that the German government could give up its tight commitment to the European integration process and instead focus on its national interests and ambitions for power. In early December 1989, he sought with Gorbachev to ensure "that the whole European process develops faster than the German question and that it overtakes the German development. We must form pan-European structures". Gorbachev informed West German foreign minister Genscher that Kohl was behaving "like a bull in a china shop".

In light of these frosty reaction, the West German government viewed a meeting of the four Allied Powers in the Berlin Building of the Allied Government on 11 December 1989 as a demonstrative affront. Only the US government, under George H. W. Bush at this time, offered the West German chancellor support by already setting out the day after Kohl's 10-point plan its own interests in any potential German reunification.

Kohl stressed that the driving factor behind the developments was the GDR populace and not the FRG government, which was itself surprised by the dynamics of events and had to react. He aimed to preempt a state visit by Mitterrand to the GDR on 20–22 December 1989 and planned talks with Minister President Modrow. Visiting Dresden on 19 December, Kohl spoke before a crowd of 100,000, who broke out into cheers when he stated: "My goal remains - if the historical hour allows - the uniting of our nation".

When Mitterrand realized that, with the rapid change of circumstances in the GDR, controlling development from outside was not possible, he sought to commit the West German government to a foreseeable united Germany on two matters: On the final recognition of Poland's western border and on quickened European integration through the establishment of a currency union. In January 1990, the Soviet Union sent understanding signals by appealing to West Germany for food deliveries due to supply shortages. On 10 February 1990, Kohl and his advisers had positive talks with Gorbachev in Moscow, which freed up the path to reunification.

Situation in the GDR

After his election as Minister President in the People's Chamber on 13 November 1989, Hans Modrow affirmed in his government statement of 16 November that – from the GDR viewpoint – reunification was not on the agenda.

Since the end of October opposition groups had called for the creations of a round table. They released a communal statement: "In light of the critical situation in our country, which can no longer be controlled by the previous power and responsibility structures, we demand that representatives of the GDR population come together to negotiate at a round table, in order to established conditions for constitutional reform and for free elections.

Aimed at her fellow citizens, the East German author Christa Wolf – who, on the night before the opening of the border had called for people to remain in the GDR – read out an appeal on television on 28 November entitled "For Our Country", whose first 31 signatures of support came from GDR artists and civil liberties campaigners as well as critical SED members. During a press conference on the same day, the author Stefan Heym also read out the appeal and within a few days, it had received 1.17 million signatures. It called for "a separate identity for the GDR" to be established and warned against a "sell-out of our material and moral values" through reunification, stating there was still "the chance to develop a socialist alternative to the FRG as an equal partner amongst the states of Europe".[1]

At the first meeting of the Central Round Table on 7 December the participants defined the function of the new body as an advisory and decision-making institution. Unlike the Polish example for this body, where the Solidarity delegates confronted the government, the Central Round Table in the GDR was formed from representatives of numerous new oppositional groups on one side and delegates made up in equal number from the SED, bloc parties and the SED-linked mass organizations on the other. To the approval of both sides, church representatives acted as moderators.

The socialist reform program of Modrow's government lacked support both domestically and internationally. On a visit to Moscow at the end of January 1990, Modrow admitted to Gorbachev: "The growing majority of the GDR population no longer supports the idea of the existence of two German states; it no longer seems possible to sustain this idea.[…] If we don't grasp the initiative now, then the process already set in motion will spontaneously and eruptively continue onward without us being able to have any influence upon it".

In order to expand the basis of trust for his own government at least for the transitional phase until free elections, Modrow offered the opposition groups at the Central Round Table on 22 January the chance to participate in government. The majority of these groups agreed a counter offer of placing candidates from the Central Round Table in a non-party transitional government. Modrow considered this an attempt to dismantle his government and rejected these suggestions on 28 January. After lengthy negotiations and Modrow's threatening to resign, the opposition relented and accepted a place in the government as "ministers without portfolio". However, when Modrow committed to a one-nation Germany a few days later, the United Left withdrew its acceptance due to "a breach of trust" and rejected being involving in the government.

After the entry into the cabinet on 5 February 1990, all nine new "ministers" traveled with Hans Modrow to Bonn for talks with the West German government on 13 February. As had already occurred during Kohl's visit to Dresden two months earlier, Modrow was denied the immediate financial support to avoid the threat of insolvency (although a prospective currency union had already been on offer for several days). The talks were largely unproductive, with Kohl unwilling to make any decisive appointments with the pivotal election only weeks away.

Commemoration

The peaceful revolution is regularly commemorated and celebrated in Germany and other countries. On 18 September 2014, German president Joachim Gauck welcomed the heads of states of (partly) German-speaking countries Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein to Mecklenburg. They met in Bad Doberan, Warnemünde and the city of Rostock to commemorate the peaceful revolution of 1989 and to address the challenges of demographic change in Europe.[2]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ A clear win for the newly-founded Social Democratic Party was awaited according to the polls, and a strong result for the renamed Party of Democratic Socialism because of its advantage as long-governing party feared, while the conservative and liberal bloc parties had the flaw of decade-long opportunism.
  2. ^ in terms of categorically calling for German reunification

References

  1. ^ "For Our Land". Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Joachim Gauck welcomes presidents to Mecklenburg to address demographic change and commemorate the Wende". Official Presidential Website. Retrieved 18 September 2014.

External links

1950 East German general election

Parliamentary elections were held in the German Democratic Republic on 19 October 1950. They were the first held since the founding of the country on 7 October 1949. There were 466 deputies to the Volkskammer (66 from East Berlin who were not directly elected) in total.

This election set the tone for all elections held in East Germany until the Peaceful Revolution. Voters were presented with a single list from the National Front of Democratic Germany, which in turn was controlled by the Socialist Unity Party. Only one candidate appeared on the ballot; voters simply took the ballot paper and dropped it into the ballot box. Those who wanted to vote against the candidate had to go to a special booth, without any secrecy. Seats were apportioned based on a set quota, not actual vote totals. By ensuring that its candidates dominated the list, the SED effectively predetermined the composition of the Volkskammer.

According to official figures, the National Front list received the approval of 99.6% of voters, with turnout reported to be 98.5%.

2018 Armenian revolution

The 2018 Armenian revolution (most commonly known in Armenia as #MerzhirSerzhin (Armenian: ՄերժիրՍերժին), meaning "#RejectSerzh") was a series of anti-government protests in Armenia from April to May 2018 staged by various political and civil groups led by member of parliament Nikol Pashinyan (head of the Civil Contract party). Protests and marches took place initially in response to Serzh Sargsyan's third consecutive term as the most powerful figure in the government of the Armenia and later against the Republican Party-controlled government in general. Pashinyan declared it a Velvet Revolution (Թավշյա հեղափոխություն).On 23 April, Sargsyan conceded, saying "I was wrong, while Nikol Pashinyan was right" and resigned. The event is referred to by some as a peaceful revolution akin to revolutions in other post-Soviet states. By the evening of 25 April, the Republican Party’s coalition partner ARF-Dashnaktsutyun had withdrawn from the coalition.By 28 April, all of the opposition parties in Armenia's parliament had announced they would support Pashiniyan's candidacy. A vote was scheduled in the National Assembly for 1 May; for Pashiniyan to be elected Prime Minister, which required 53 votes, he would have had to win the votes of at least six members of the Republican Party. Pashinyan was the only candidate who was put forward for the vote. However, the Republican Party unanimously voted against Pashinyan – 102 MPs were present, out of which 56 voted against his candidacy and 45 voted for it. One week later, on 8 May, the second vote took place. Pashinyan was elected Prime Minister with 59 votes.

Agorism

Agorism is a libertarian social philosophy that advocates creating a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges by means of counter-economics, thus engaging with aspects of peaceful revolution. It was first proposed by libertarian philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III (1947–2004) at two conferences, CounterCon I in October 1974 and CounterCon II in May 1975.

Alexanderplatz demonstration

The Alexanderplatz demonstration (German: Alexanderplatz-Demonstration) was a demonstration for political reforms and against the government of the German Democratic Republic on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin on 4 November 1989. With between half a million and a million protesters it was one of the largest demonstrations in East German history and a milestone of the peaceful revolution that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. The demonstration was organized by actors and employees of theaters in East Berlin. It was the first demonstration in East German history that was organized by private individuals and was permitted to take place by the authorities. The speakers during the demonstration were members of the opposition, representatives of the regime and artists, and included the dissidents Marianne Birthler and Jens Reich, the writer Stefan Heym, the actor Ulrich Mühe, the former head of the East German foreign intelligence service Markus Wolf and Politburo member Günter Schabowski.

Alliance of Yemeni Tribes

The Alliance of Yemeni Tribes, sometimes referred to as the Yemeni Tribes' Alliance, was an alliance of tribes in Yemen opposed to the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It was formed on 30 July 2011 amidst the civil uprising in Yemen to defend anti-government protesters. Its leader, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar of the Hashid tribal federation, stated his intention to remove Saleh and his sons from power in his capacity as head of the Alliance.The Alliance was headed up by a 116-member "consultative council".

Die Wende

Die Wende (German pronunciation: [diː ˈvɛndə], "The Turn" or "The Turnaround") is a German term that has come to signify the complete process of change from the rule of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and a centrally planned economy to the revival of parliamentary democracy and a market economy in the German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany or the GDR) around 1989 and 1990. It encompasses several processes and events which later have become synonymous with the overall process. These processes and events are:

the Peaceful Revolution during the presidency of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a time of massive protest and demonstrations (Montagsdemonstrationen – "Monday demonstrations" and Alexanderplatz demonstration) against the political system of the GDR and for civil and human rights in late 1989.

the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 following a press conference held by the Politbüro during which Günter Schabowski announced the introduction of unconditional travelling permissions, which was very unusual after four decades of severe travelling restrictions and intended to tone down the protesters but instead because of Schabowski's unclear and ambiguous wording led to an onrush of people willing to leave the country and the accidental opening of the border checkpoints at the same night.

the transition to democracy in East Germany following the Peaceful Revolution, leading to the only truly democratic elections to the Volkskammer of the GDR on 18 March 1990.

the process of German reunification leading to the Einigungsvertrag (Treaty of Unification) on 31 August 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany on 12 September 1990 and finally the joining of the five re-established East German Länder to the Federal Republic of Germany.In hindsight, the German word Wende (meaning "The Turn") then took on a new meaning; the phrase seit der Wende, literally "since the change", means "since reunification" or "since the Wall fell". This period is marked by West German aid to East Germany, a total reaching an estimated $775 billion over 10 years. To some extent, Germany is still in the midst of the Nachwendezeit (post-Wende period): differences between East and West still exist, and a process of "inner reunification" is not yet finished.

This fundamental change has marked the reunification of Germany. The term was first used publicly in East Germany on 18 October 1989 in a speech by interim GDR leader Egon Krenz (the term having been used on the cover of influential West German news magazine Der Spiegel two days previously). Whilst it initially referred to the end of the old East German government, die Wende has become synonymous with the fall of the Wall and of East Germany, and indeed of the entire Iron Curtain and Eastern Bloc state socialism.

Jarmen

Jarmen is a town in the Vorpommern-Greifswald district, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany. It is situated on the southern bank of the river Peene, 20 km south of Greifswald. Founded during the Ostsiedlung in the medieval terrae Miserez and Ploth, Jarmen remained a rural town at an important Peene crossing. Jarmen was in the Duchy of Pomerania from its foundation until the Thirty Years' War, in Swedish Pomerania until the Great Northern War, in Prussian Pomerania until World War II, in the East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and later Bezirk Neubrandenburg until the peaceful revolution in 1989 and in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern within reunited Germany since 1990. The Autobahn 20 crosses the Peene at Jarmen.

Joachim Gauck

Joachim Wilhelm Gauck (German: [joˈʔaxiːm ɡaʊ̯k]; born 24 January 1940) is a German politician and civil rights activist who served as President of Germany from 2012 to 2017. A former Lutheran pastor, he came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights activist in East Germany.During the Peaceful Revolution in 1989, he was a co-founder of the New Forum opposition movement in East Germany, which contributed to the downfall of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and later with two other movements formed the electoral list Alliance 90. In 1990 he was a member of the only freely elected East German People's Chamber in the Alliance 90/The Greens faction. Following German reunification, he was elected as a member of the Bundestag by the People's Chamber in 1990 but resigned after a single day chosen by the Bundestag to be the first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, serving from 1990 to 2000. He earned recognition in this position as a "Stasi hunter" and "tireless pro-democracy advocate", exposing the crimes of the communist secret police.He was nominated as the candidate of the SPD and the Greens for President of Germany in the 2010 election, but lost in the third draw to Christian Wulff, the candidate of the government coalition. His candidacy was met by significant approval of the population and the media; Der Spiegel described him as "the better President" and the Bild called him "the president of hearts." Later, after Christian Wulff stepped down, Gauck was elected as President with 991 of 1228 votes in the Federal Convention in the 2012 election, as a nonpartisan consensus candidate of the CDU, the CSU, the FDP, the SPD and the Greens.

A son of a survivor of a Soviet Gulag, Gauck's political life was formed by his own family's experiences with totalitarianism. Gauck was a founding signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, together with Václav Havel and other statesmen, and of the Declaration on Crimes of Communism. He has called for increased awareness of communist crimes in Europe, and for the necessity of delegitimizing the communist era. As President he was a proponent of "an enlightened anti-communism" and he has underlined the illegitimacy of communist rule in East Germany. He is the author and co-author of several books, including The Black Book of Communism. His 2012 book Freedom: A Plea calls for the defense of freedom and human rights around the globe. He has been described by Chancellor Angela Merkel as a "true teacher of democracy" and a "tireless advocate of freedom, democracy, and justice." The Wall Street Journal has described him as "the last of a breed: the leaders of protest movements behind the Iron Curtain who went on to lead their countries after 1989." He has received numerous honours, including the 1997 Hannah Arendt Prize.

Leadership of East Germany

The political leadership of East Germany was in the hands of several offices.

Prior the proclamation of an East German state, the Soviets established in 1948 the German Economic Commission (DWK) as a de facto government in their occupation zone. Its chairman was Heinrich Rau.

On 7 October 1949 an East German state, called the German Democratic Republic (GDR), was proclaimed and took the governmental functions over from the DWK. (Largely with the same function owners.)

For most of its existence (until autumn of 1989), the most important position in the GDR was that of the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) (titled as the First Secretary between 1953–1976). The Communist party and its leader held ultimate power and authority over state and government.

The formal head of state originally was the President of the German Democratic Republic. After the death of incumbent Wilhelm Pieck in 1960, the office was replaced by a collective head of state, the State Council. The position of chairman was commonly held by the party leader.

Government was headed by the Council of Ministers and its chairman, sometimes colloquially called Prime Minister.

Other important institutions included the People's Chamber, whose sessions were chaired by a President of the People's Chamber, and, since 1960, the National Defense Council, which held supreme command of the GDR's armed forces and had unlimited authority over the State in time of war. The Council was composed exclusively of members of the SED's Central Committee and Politburo, with the party leader serving as Chairman of the National Defense Council.

The political landscape was completely changed by the Peaceful Revolution late in 1989, which saw the SED having to relinquish its monopoly on political power and the National Defense Council and the State Council being abolished. The remaining institutions were the People's Chamber, whose President by default became head of state for the remainder of the GDR's existence, and the Council of Ministers, both now based on the country's first and only democratic elections in March 1990. The GDR joined the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990

Luctuosissimi eventus

Luctuosissimi eventus, issued October 28, 1956, is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII urging public prayers for peace and freedom for the people of Hungary.

The Pope is "deeply moved by the sorrowful events which have befallen the people of Eastern Europe and especially of our beloved Hungary, which is now being soaked in blood by a shocking massacre. And not only is our heart moved, but so too are the hearts of all men who cherish the rights of civil society, the dignity of man, and the liberty which is due to individuals and to nations".He appeals for public prayer, for an end of the carnage, and for peace and for freedom. He indicates that violence will not create a lasting order and freedom can never be extinguished by external force. The Pope recalls his visit to Budapest, where he took part in an international Eucharistic Congress as personal representative of Pope Pius XI. He is sure that the same faith in and love for God still inspire the hearts of the Hungarian people even though the champions of atheistic communism attempt with every possible means to despoil their minds of the religion of their forefathers. He asks all true Christians throughout the world to join in prayer with their oppressed Hungarian brothers. He especially asks children worldwide for a prayer crusade.

We have no doubt that Christians everywhere, in cities, towns, and villages, wherever the light of the Gospel shines, and especially boys and girls, will most willingly respond to Our entreaties to which yours will be added.Pope Pius XII is convinced that through prayer a peaceful revolution in Eastern Europe will happen, not only for the "Hungarian people who are tortured by such great suffering and drenched in so much blood" but for all people of Eastern Europe, who are deprived of religious and civil liberty. They will be able, with the inspiration and help of God, which is sought in so many prayers, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to resolve these problems peacefully in justice and right order, with due respect for the rights of "God and Jesus Christ, our King."

Mongolian Revolution of 1990

The Mongolian Revolution of 1990 (1990 Democratic Revolution, Mongolian: Ардчилсан хувьсгал, Ardchilsan Khuvĭsgal) was a democratic peaceful revolution that started with demonstrations and hunger strikes to overthrow the Mongolian People's Republic and eventually moved towards the democratic present day Mongolia and the writing of the new constitution. It was spearheaded by mostly younger people demonstrating on Sükhbaatar Square in the capital Ulaanbaatar. It ended with the authoritarian government resigning without bloodshed. Some of the main organizers were Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, Sanjaasürengiin Zorig, Erdeniin Bat-Üül, and Bat-Erdeniin Batbayar, Dogmidiin Sosorbaram.

This was the beginning of the end of the 70-year period of socialism in Mongolia. Although a multi-party system was established, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) actually remained in power until 1996. Nevertheless, reforms were implemented and the transition to a market economy begun. The revolution was inspired by the reforms in the Soviet Union, and by the similar revolutions in Eastern Europe in late 1989.

Nonviolent revolution

A nonviolent revolution is a revolution using mostly campaigns with civil resistance, including various forms of nonviolent protest, to bring about the departure of governments seen as entrenched and authoritarian. While many campaigns of civil resistance are intended for much more limited goals than revolution, generally a nonviolent revolution is characterized by simultaneous advocacy of democracy, human rights, and national independence in the country concerned. In some cases a campaign of civil resistance with a revolutionary purpose may be able to bring about the defeat of a dictatorial regime only if it obtains a degree of support from the armed forces, or at least their benevolent neutrality.

An effective campaign of civil resistance, and even the achievement of a nonviolent revolution, may be possible in a particular case despite the controlling government taking brutal measures against protesters; the commonly held belief that most revolutions which have happened in dictatorial regimes were bloody or violent uprisings is not borne out by historical analysis. Nonviolent revolutions in the 20th century became more successful and more common, especially in the 1980s as Cold War political alliances which supported status quo governance waned.In the 1970s and 1980s, intellectuals in the Soviet Union and other Communist states, and in some other countries, began to focus on civil resistance as the most promising means of opposing entrenched authoritarian regimes. The use of various forms of unofficial exchange of information, including by samizdat, expanded. Two major revolutions during the 1980s strongly influenced political movements that followed. The first was the 1986 People Power Revolution, in the Philippines from which the term 'people power' came to be widely used, especially in Hispanic and Asian nations. Three years later, the Revolutions of 1989 that ousted communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc reinforced the concept (with the notable exception of the notoriously bloody Romanian Revolution), beginning with the victory of Solidarity in that year's Polish legislative elections. The Revolutions of 1989 provided the template for the so-called color revolutions in mainly post-communist states, which tended to use a color or flower as a symbol, somewhat in the manner of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia.

In December 1989, inspired by the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, the Mongolian Democratic Union (MDU) organized popular street protests and hunger strikes against the communist regime. In 1990, dissidents in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic started civil resistance against the government, but were initially crushed by Red Army in the Black January massacre.

Recent nonviolent revolutions include the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.

Peasants Mutual Aid Association

The Peasants Mutual Aid Association (German: Vereinigung der gegenseitigen Bauernhilfe, VdgB) was an East German mass organization for peasants and farmers (later also gardeners.) It was founded in the 1945–1946 period and was a participant in the National Front. From 1950 to 1963 and again in 1986 it had representation in the Volkskammer.In 1989 a GDR publication put the membership of the VdgB at 632,000 persons. During the Peaceful Revolution the VdgB suffered due to its extensive connections with the ruling Socialist Unity Party. In February 1990 it changed its name to the Farmers Association of the GDR, but was unable to make the transition from East German society to that of a reunified Germany. It was fully liquidated in 1994.

From 1979 to 1990, the VdgB operated the Ringberghaus, a large hotel east of the city of Suhl. The hotel's purpose was to provide accommodation for farmers on holiday in the Thuringian Forest, and a VdgB voucher was required for lodging.

Political parties in Yemen

Yemen is a one party dominant state in which the General People's Congress (GPC) holds power. Opposition parties are allowed and elections are regularly held.

Prenzlauer Berg

Prenzlauer Berg is a locality of Berlin, forming the southerly and most urban part of the district of Pankow.

From its founding in 1920 until 2001, Prenzlauer Berg was a district of Berlin in its own right. However, that year it was incorporated (along with the borough of Weißensee) into the greater district of Pankow.

From the 1960s onward, Prenzlauer Berg was associated with proponents of East Germany's diverse counterculture including Christian activists, bohemians, state-independent artists, and the gay community. It was an important site for the peaceful revolution that brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989. In the 1990s the borough was also home to a vibrant squatting scene. It has since experienced rapid gentrification.

Strasburg, Germany

Strasburg (officially: Strasburg (Uckermark)) is a town in the Vorpommern-Greifswald district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated in the historic Uckermark region, about 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) west of Pasewalk, and 33 kilometres (21 miles) east of Neubrandenburg.

Straceburch was established in 1267 by Duke Barnim I of Pomerania at a strategically important site near the border with Mecklenburg in the west and the Margraviate of Brandenburg in the south. It was given town privileges and settled with Germans in the course of the Ostsiedlung. The region was affected by the enduring Brandenburg–Pomeranian conflict, and after the Hohenzollern elector Frederick II of Brandenburg had campaigned the territory, the Pomeranian dukes finally were forced to cede Strasburg to him according to the 1479 Treaty of Prenzlau.

The town remained a part of the Prussian Province of Brandenburg, until in 1952 the East German government established the Bezirk Neubrandenburg comprising the former Brandenburg towns of Prenzlau, Templin and Strasburg. Strasburg then was the capital of a district in its own right, which after the East German Peaceful Revolution of 1989 became part of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Wolfgang Samuel's war memoir, German Boy, is partly set in Strasburg, where Samuel and his mother lived from March 1945 to December 1946.

Sächsische Verfassungsmedaille

The Sächsische Verfassungsmedaille (Saxon Constitutional Medal) is awarded by the Free State of Saxony to persons who have rendered outstanding services to the liberal democratic development of the Free State.

It was founded in 1997 to mark the fifth anniversary of the final vote on the constitution of the Free State of Saxony and to commemorate the peaceful revolution in 1989 and is awarded annually by the president of the Landtag of Saxony, the state parliament. From 1997 to 2010, the medal was awarded to 102 people.

Selected recipients

Volkskammer

The Volkskammer (German: [ˈfɔlkskamɐ], People's Chamber) was the unicameral legislature of the German Democratic Republic (popularly called East Germany).

The Volkskammer was initially the lower house of a bicameral legislature. The upper house was the Chamber of States, or Länderkammer, but in 1952 the states of East Germany were dissolved, and the Chamber was abolished in 1958. Constitutionally, the Volkskammer was the highest organ of state power in the GDR, and both constitutions vested it with great lawmaking powers. All other branches of government, including the judiciary, were theoretically responsible to it. By 1960, the chamber appointed the Council of the State, the Council of Ministers, and the National Defence Council.

In practice, the People's Chamber was a rubber stamp that did little more than give legal sanction to decisions already made by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) and its Politburo. This was standard operating procedure in nearly all Communist legislatures. All parties were expected to respect the principles of democratic centralism and the leading role of the SED. As a result, all but two measures put before it prior to the Peaceful Revolution passed unanimously.

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