Protest against Egon Krenz being installed as chairman of the State Council outside the State Council building in East Berlin, 24 October 1989.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/Wolfgang Kumm

Grassroots organisations shoot up

The wave of escapes altered the GDR. Many people overcame the lethargy of decades to find like-minded individuals and form grassroots organisations. New groups and parties were formed, calling for rights and freedom in East German society.

Poster for the founding meeting of New Forum Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin, 10 November 1989.
Source: Henning Wagenbreth, 1989

In the late summer of 1989 several political movements were formed, campaigning for freedom of assembly, of the press and to express their opinion. New Forum was founded in September. Almost simultaneously, a Social Democratic Party was set up in the GDR and grassroots movements such as Democracy Now and Democratic Awakening were formed. All of them called for reforms from the communist GDR government and an open dialogue with the population.

But the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei - SED) laid claim to sole control of the GDR, and the newly founded groups were labelled anti-constitutional. The SED wanted to put a stop to their activities through the Ministry of State Security (Stasi), which combated all oppositional political forces in the country using secret police methods. Despite the state persecution, the East Germans joined the new parties and movements in their thousands.

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