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

The Round Table and the government

The GDR government resigned on 7 November 1989. A new cabinet was appointed under Prime Minister Hans Modrow ten days later. In this government, too, the majority of ministers were SED. One of Modrow's first acts in office was to rename the Stasi and announce it would be scaled down.

Exactly one month later, the Central Round Table held its first meeting. It was initiated by members of the opposition groups who wanted to enter into negotiations with the single regime party. Against the government's plans, the Round Table decided to completely dissolve the Stasi. In mid-December, the government began a new attempt to save the most important instrument of the SED's power. Now two new secret services were to be set up, an intelligence service against subversive activities and a foreign intelligence service.

This plan was blocked. Representatives of the opposition at the Round Table laid down an ultimatum and the people stepped up the pressure with demonstrations and strikes. Modrow gave up on his plans in January 1990. He offered the opposition parties and citizens' initiatives the chance to have representatives in the government.

After the resignation of the GDR Council of Ministers on 7 November 1989, Hans Modrow’s (front row, 6th from r.) new government held its first session on 18 November. Of a total of 28 ministers, 16 were members of the SED and the others of the bloc parties, the old instruments of the SED.
Source: ullstein bild/Bildarchiv
On 6 February 1989 the opposition trade union Solidarnosc in Poland forced the first government of an Eastern Bloc state to sit at a round table. After that the round table became the negotiating instrument between opposition movements and communist rulers in almost all Eastern European states.
Source: AP-Photo
The first meeting of the Central Round Table in East Berlin on 7 December 1989. Amidst great public interest, the newly founded movements and parties conducted four months of negotiations with representatives of the old power structure. The Central Round Table laid down basic prerequisites for democratising the GDR.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Rolf Walter
The first three meetings of the Central Round Table took place in the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Haus in December 1989. The opposition wanted to bring the protests from the streets to the negotiating table to aid its success. Church representatives chaired the negotiations.
Source: Rolf Zöllner
During a session of the People’s Chamber in the Palace of the Republic on 11 January 1990, Berlin construction workers demonstrated in front of the building. They came out in support of the new movements and parties’ demand at the Central Round Table to completely dissolve the Stasi.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/ADN
On the second day the People’s Chamber was in session, people demonstrated again in front of the venue of the meeting, the Palace of the Republic. This time it was Berlin taxi drivers circling the building repeatedly and sounding their horns loudly, while inside Hans Modrow gave up his proposal to form new secret services.
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/Thomas Wattenberg
The population roundly rejected the attempt by Modrow’s government to re-establish the Stasi under a new guise. Representatives of the newly founded movements and parties presented Hans Modrow with an ultimatum on 8 January 1990. He had to accept responsibility at the Central Round Table and give up his project.
Source: Rolf Zöllner
On 15 January 1990 Prime Minister Hans Modrow (r.) attended the Central Round Table and reported. He invited the opposition to participate in the government: “It is a matter of particular concern to me that the government remains able to act.”
Source: picture-alliance/dpa/ADN
During the Round Table meeting on 15 January 1990, news broke that demonstrators were attempting to storm the Stasi headquarters in East Berlin. Hans Modrow (m.) rushed to the scene of the action and attempted to intervene and smooth things over. The headquarters were occupied nevertheless, marking the fall of the last power bastion of the SED.
Source: |ullstein bild/Spiegel
On 7 December 1989 the participants agreed to this view of their role: the Central Round Table was not to perform governmental functions but to be “an integral part of public monitoring”. In the course of its activity, however, it did in fact play a role in government by drafting bills, for instance.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
The opposition groups had been striving for weeks towards a round table based on the Polish model. A contact group consisting of representatives from the individual movements and parties published the proposal with a joint declaration on 10 November 1989. Specific preparations began shortly afterwards.
Source: Privatarchiv Martin Gutzeit
The SED still had its gigantic power structure, enormous financial and technical means, plus it had the majority in the Council of Ministers. By founding two new secret services, the Council of Ministers under Modrow attempted to save the structures of the old secret police.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
On 5 February 1990, following difficult negotiations, eight representatives of the opposition were appointed as ministers in the “Government of National Responsibility”. They ventured this step to prevent the collapse of the country.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Geselslchaft
The round table as a general authority for conflict resolution was also a means of dealing with specific types of problems. For example, there was a round table for military policy, a round table for feminist politics, a round table for the construction minister and a green round table.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
The round table as a general authority for conflict resolution was also a means of dealing with specific types of problems. For example, there was a round table for military policy, a round table for feminist politics, a round table for the construction minister and a green round table.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
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