Demonstration by the Polish trade union Solidarnosc in the pilgrimage city of Tschenstochau (Poland). The illegal trade union Solidarnosc grew into a mass movement that could no longer be stopped.
Source: AP Photo

Freedom for those who think differently

The official memorial demonstration in honour of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht took place in East Berlin on 17 January 1988. People who wanted to leave the country and members of the opposition demonstrated together under the motto: freedom for those who think differently. This kind of action was a crime in the GDR; more than a hundred demonstrators were arrested.

The state took the opportunity for another blow against civil rights activists, arresting prominent figures from the East Berlin opposition a few days after the demonstration. They had spoken out in public on behalf of the arrested demonstrators and passed on information showing the GDR in a critical light to West Germany.

At the state memorial demonstration for Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht at Frankfurter Tor (East Berlin), 17 January 1988. A West German television crew managed to film opposition activists and their demands, despite Stasi attempts to block the view by holding up banners.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Berhard Freutel
A banner confiscated at the Luxemburg Liebknecht demonstration in East Berlin on 17 January 1988: “Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently. Rosa Luxemburg”. The Stasi photographed it as evidence of what they saw as subversive activities.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/BStU-Kopie
Solidarität am Checkpoint Charlie (West-Berlin) am 31. Januar 1988. An diesem Grenzübergang in der Friedrichstraße demonstrieren Westberliner für die Freilassung der in Ost-Berlin verhafteten Bürgerrechtler.
Source: Der Bundesbeauftragte für Unterlagen des ehemaligen Staatssicherheitsdienstes der DDR
The singer-songwriter Stephan Krawczyk reached audiences well beyond the opposition circles, staging caustic satirical shows along with the director Freya Klier. The two were among those arrested in January 1988. The West German news magazine Der Spiegel, 1 February 1988.
Source: Der Spiegel, 1.2.1988
Vera Wollenberger (at the microphone) was arrested for attempting to take part in the Luxemburg Liebknecht demonstration with her own placard. She was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for “attempted formation of a mob” and deported to Britain in February 1988.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Regina and Wolfgang Templin, active civil rights campaigners, at home in Pankow, Berlin in the 1980s. They worked towards networking the opposition with people who wanted to leave the country. After their expulsion to West Germany they were among the most important supporters of the East German opposition.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Tina Bara
Bärbel Bohley and Werner Fischer, members of the opposition Initiative for Peace and Human Rights, were pressured to leave the GDR after their arrest. Once they arrived in the West they announced they wanted to return as soon as possible, to carry on working for change.
Source: AP-Photo/M. Wienhoefer
Ralf Hirsch made highly effective use of the Western media for a number of years to voice the demands of the GDR opposition. The Stasi arrested him in January 1988. The Green Party politician Petra Kelly (r.), one of the most important supporters of the East German opposition, welcomed Hirsch (l.) to West Germany after he was deported.
Source: AP-Photo/JE
Numerous people throughout the whole of the GDR protested about the arrests made. Flyers were handed out on the street, placed in mailboxes or stuck onto advertising pillars. Hundreds of people were arrested, many of them convicted or deported to West Germany. A leaflet distributed in Wurzen and Dresden.
Source: Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR
Numerous people throughout the whole of the GDR protested about the arrests made. Flyers were handed out on the street, placed in mailboxes or stuck onto advertising pillars. Hundreds of people were arrested, many of them convicted or deported to West Germany. A poster photographed and removed by the Stasi in Berlin-Friedrichshain.
Source: Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR
Numerous people throughout the whole of the GDR protested about the arrests made. Flyers were handed out on the street, placed in mailboxes or stuck onto advertising pillars. Hundreds of people were arrested, many of them convicted or deported to West Germany. A poster photographed and removed by the Stasi in Berlin-Friedrichshain.
Source: Bundesbeauftragter für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen DDR

There were solidarity campaigns and vigils all over the country. On top of this, the GDR government was faced with a wave of protest from many countries in the West. In response, it gave the arrested activists the choice of either up to twelve years in prison or leaving the country. Under such huge pressure, most of the prisoners decided to emigrate from the GDR. This meant the opposition lost a number of key players.

Notes on telephone information from 29 January 1988. A contact telephone in East Berlin was staffed almost around the clock, receiving news of solidarity actions for the prisoners from all over the GDR. People met up in churches to protest in many towns and villages.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
According to section 99 of the East German penal code, contacts to other countries could be subject to criminal prosecution. In January 1988 opposition activists were arrested and charged for their contacts to the West, particularly to the writer Jürgen Fuchs and the journalist Roland Jahn.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
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