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

Major demonstration on Alexanderplatz

On 4 November 1989 the largest critical demonstration in the history of the GDR took place on Alexanderplatz. The SED was attempting to uphold its claim to power, but hundreds of thousands called for democratic rights and the abolition of one-party rule in East Germany.

All the theatres in East Berlin sent representatives to help plan the demonstration. This preparatory group negotiated with the police and compiled a list of speakers. The actor Wolfgang Holz from the Berliner Ensemble registered the demonstration on 17 October 1989. The SED and its cultural functionaries tried to influence the preparations. Holz wrote a letter of complaint over one such attempt on 2 November.
Source: imago stock & people/Sommer
The New Forum initiative group decided to organise a major demonstration in East Berlin, asking the theatres for support. Jutta Seidel from New Forum wrote a note to the actress Jutta Wachowiak (3rd from l.) at the Deutsches Theater.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Andreas Kämper
Major demonstration on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, 4 November 1989.
Source: ullstein bild/Bildarchiv
Major demonstration on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, 4 November 1989.
Source: Landesarchiv Berlin/Klaus Lehnartz
4 November 1989 outside the Palace of the Republic, which housed the People’s Chamber, the GDR parliament. During the demonstration members of the paramilitary combat groups were stationed on all floors. They were ordered to stand by for deployment but make sure they were not visible to the demonstrators outside. A year later, one of those involved made a statement in a weekly newspaper of the civil rights movement, die andere. “I stood there all the time as if I had my fists clenched in my pockets. I was still thinking, down there is the counter-revolution and I’d never have thought there were so many of them... what a lot of crap I thought and went along with back then.”
Source: Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung, Bestand Klaus Mehner, Nr. 89_1104_POL-Demo_43
Major demonstration on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, 4 November 1989.
Source: Landesarchiv Berlin/Klaus Lehnartz
Die größte Demonstration in der Geschichte der DDR am 4. November 1989 auf dem Alexanderplatz in Ost-Berlin.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Andreas Kämper
“There are still enough forces that do not want change, that fear a new society and have much to fear.” Christoph Hein (writer)
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1104-051/Hubert Link
“The existing structures ... do not allow renewal. That’s why they must be destroyed.” Jan-Josef Liefers (actor)
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1104-032/Hubert Link
“Yes, it’s true, we have rediscovered language and since then the world hasn’t recognised this sleepy country.” Jens Reich (New Forum)
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1104-036/Hubert Link
“And this is the most important sentence of these past weeks for me – the thousand-fold call: We are the people!” Christa Wolf (writer)
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1104-060/Hubert Link
“We have to think about the question of power and how power can be controlled.” Marianne Birthler (Initiative Peace and Human Rights)
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1104-043/Hubert Link
“Egon Krenz ... deserves ... a chance and the measure of trust necessary to exercise his office.” Gregor Gysi (SED)
Source: Bundesarchiv/183-1989-1104-042/Hubert Link
The founding members of New Forum, Bärbel Bohley (middle) and Jutta Seidel (r.), during the demonstration on 4 November 1989.
Source: Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung, Bestand Klaus Mehner, Nr. 89_1104_POL-Demo_53
Major demonstration on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin, 4 November 1989.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Andreas Kämper
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Andreas Kämper
Display of support for Wolf Biermann on a statue. Bärbel Bohley from New Forum had invited the singer-songwriter Biermann to perform at the demonstration. This caused a great deal of agitation – Wolf Biermann had been expelled from the GDR in 1976 and was regarded as public enemy number one. He was refused entry at the border on 4 November 1989.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Andreas Kämper
What the SED most feared was the demonstration taking a detour towards the Berlin Wall. Armed security forces blocked off this route, with observation points set up all along the demonstration. On 4 November 1989 itself, the Stasi was only able to register its accelerating loss of power in a report by the Central Operating Staff: “10 a.m.: a cable drum is rolled along at the front of the demonstration, with the inscription: people’s roller, you can’t turn back the wheel of history.”
Source: Rolf Zöllner
What the SED most feared was the demonstration taking a detour towards the Berlin Wall. Armed security forces blocked off this route, with observation points set up all along the demonstration. On 4 November 1989 itself, the Stasi was only able to register its accelerating loss of power in a report by the Central Operating Staff: “10 a.m.: a cable drum is rolled along at the front of the demonstration, with the inscription: people’s roller, you can’t turn back the wheel of history.”
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Rolf Walter

On the initiative of the New Forum, actors and artists from Berlin organised a large-scale demonstration. The SED leadership granted permission - but only with the intent of using the event for its own purposes. For the government, the greatest risk was if the demonstration deviated from the planned route, and it therefore stationed armed security forces to block the way towards the Berlin Wall.

Many people from other parts of East Berlin also took part in the demonstration. Artists, civil rights activists and members of the state elite addressed the crowds from a grandstand. With the words, "We're taking the liberty to which we're entitled," a representative of New Forum expressed what many people were thinking. The crowds booed and whistled most of the SED speakers. The demonstrators had had enough of the party, as their placards made perfectly clear: they wanted more democracy in the GDR.

The New Forum initiative group decided to organise a major demonstration in East Berlin, asking the theatres for support. Jutta Seidel from New Forum wrote a note to the actress Jutta Wachowiak at the Deutsches Theater.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
The New Forum initiative group decided to organise a major demonstration in East Berlin, asking the theatres for support. Jutta Seidel from New Forum wrote a note to the actress Jutta Wachowiak at the Deutsches Theater.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
All the theatres in East Berlin sent representatives to help plan the demonstration. This preparatory group negotiated with the police and compiled a list of speakers. The actor Wolfgang Holz from the Berliner Ensemble registered the demonstration on 17 October 1989. The SED and its cultural functionaries tried to influence the preparations. Holz wrote a letter of complaint over one such attempt on 2 November.
Source: Archiv Deutsches Theater Berlin
The West German BILD, 6 November 1989: “Revolution in the GDR: the Spokespeople from Alex”.
Source: Bild Zeitung, 06.11.1989
4 November 1989. Telegram from the head of state and the SED Egon Krenz to leading party functionaries following the demonstration in East Berlin.
Source: Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former GDR
4 November 1989. Telegram from the head of state and the SED Egon Krenz to leading party functionaries following the demonstration in East Berlin.
Source: Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former GDR
A participant in the Berlin demonstration from Aschersleben wrote to the orga nisers. “It was a great day ... the faces saw freely,” he expressed his enthusiasm, asking for a documentation of the historic events. Extract from the letter dated 7 November 1989.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
A participant in the Berlin demonstration from Aschersleben wrote to the orga nisers. “It was a great day ... the faces saw freely,” he expressed his enthusiasm, asking for a documentation of the historic events. Extract from the letter dated 7 November 1989.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
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