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 system begins to disintegrate

The rigid stance taken by the East German government even provoked those who had previously bowed to the SED dictatorship. Protest was voiced in artists' associations and at universities. The bloc parties distanced themselves from the SED and mass organisations lost many members.

The visibly moved communist and publisher Walter Janka addressing the audience in the Deutsches Theater in East Berlin, 28 October 1989. A reading put an end to decades of silence over the injustice done to him.
Source: Archiv Deutsches Theater Berlin/Gisela Harich

The Berlin authors' association set the ball rolling as the first of the conformist artists' associations to take action. On 14 September 1989 it made a public critical declaration. The entertainers' association followed suit a few days later. Both organisations criticised the SED's policies and called for reforms. Almost all the country's theatres expressed criticism, some of them making their stages available for public protest.

In the parties that had previously formed a single election bloc along with the SED, a process of withdrawal from the state party began. The bloc parties were no longer willing to simulate a multi-party system. Members of the state mass organisations, such as the unified trade union FDGB and the youth organisation FDJ, started leeching away in huge numbers. University and college students demanded unhindered access to academic literature and their own independent student bodies.

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