Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Frank Ebert

Gethsemane Church

In autumn 1989 the Gethsemane Church became the most important information centre in the GDR (German Democratic Republic). It became a centre of resistance against the communist dictatorship and a focal point for the revolution. In early October young people began to gather here, demanding the release of political prisoners.

Hundreds of candles were lit directly in front of the church. They became a symbol of peaceful protest. By means of a central telephone line, opposition groups collected information from all over the GDR about demonstrations, arrests, and state interventionism. Testimonies were given as evidence of the brutal actions of the state. 

Church services and information events took place every night. Tens of thousands of flyers were distributed, presenting opposition groups’ aims and demands. Thousands of church visitors discussed the situation around the country. The international media broadcast reports and pictures all over the world as well as in the GDR itself.

On 7 and 8 October, the demonstrators at the church were surrounded, imprisoned and maltreated. About 1500 arrests were made. Nearby residents showed solidarity with the arrested demonstrators by putting candles in their windows. Dismay about the extent of state violence against peaceful demonstrators seized large parts of the population, becoming a driving force for the revolution.



The Gethsemane Church tower in East Berlin with a banner for the vigil in October 1989.
Quelle: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft/Frank Ebert
Over the first few days of October 1989, the Gethsemane Church became an information and media centre. Correspondents from all over the world, originally in Berlin for the state celebrations, now began to report on a revolution.
Quelle: Rolf Zöllner
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