For hundreds of years Leipzig has been a centre of culture and learning. So it’s little surprise that Die Wende for the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and beginnings of the so-called Peaceful Revolution began right here in this city. Leipzigers are justifiably proud of their role in creating greater political and personal freedoms in Europe.
This year is the 25th Anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution. With so much trouble in the world today, Leipzig stands as a potent symbol of how deep political change is possible by peaceful protest without having to resort to violence.
The late summer of 1989 was a very tense time in Leipzig. The first people who went to mass protests on the streets faced the possibility of being severely wounded or killed. It is believed that at this time the army and police were under a ‘shoot to kill’ policy.
St. Nicolas Church (Nikolaikirche) in the Zentrum had long been a gathering place for political dissidents. The Peaceful Revolution is said to have begun here after services on Monday, September 4th 1989. Despite the dangers, people started gathering outside this church to make protests and these were called the Monday Demonstrations. By October 9th this weekly gathering swelled to more than 100,000 protesters chanting “We are the people” and “We don’t want violence, we want change!”. The following week the crowd was an estimated 320,000 people, equal to almost three quarters of the population of Leipzig at the time.
Other cities heard news of the events in Leipzig. Soon massive peaceful demonstrations spread to all over the GDR including Berlin. On the nights of November 9-10th the Berlin Wall fell and later that month the GDR government caved in to demands by citizens to freely visit West Germany. By December the entire GDR government had resigned. Free elections were held March 1990.
Leipzig City kicks off celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution on the night of October 9th with the Festival of Lights (‘Lichfest’). On this night the main road around the Zentrum will be turned into a series of interactive art, performance, and sound and light installations. There will be other events as well held during that following weekend. The City of Leipzig has put together a good website here (in English/German).