From Berlin, this report was produced by David Verdi and edited by Ed Eaves.
The Monday demonstrations in East Germany in 1989 and 1990 were a series of peaceful political protests against the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) that took place every Monday evening. In Leipzig the demonstrations began on 4 September 1989 after the weekly Friedensgebet (prayer for peace). Safe in the knowledge that the Lutheran Church supported their resistance, many dissatisfied East German citizens gathered in the court of the church, and non-violent demonstrations began in order to demand rights such as the freedom to travel to foreign countries and to elect a democratic government.
Informed by West German television and friends about the events, people in other East German cities began repeating the Leipzig demonstration, meeting at city squares on Monday evenings. A major turning point was the events in the West German Embassy of Prague, where thousands of East Germans had fled in September, living there in conditions reminiscent of the Third World.
By 9 October 1989, just after the 40th anniversary celebrations of the GDR, what had begun as a few hundred gatherers at the Nikolaikirche had swelled to more than 70,000 (out of the city's population of 500,000), all united in peaceful opposition to the regime. The most famous chant became Wir sind das Volk! ("We are the people!"), reminding their leaders that a democratic republic has to be ruled by the people, not by an undemocratic party claiming to represent them.
Although some demonstrators were arrested, the threat of large-scale intervention by security forces never materialized as local leaders, without precise orders from East Berlin and surprised by the unexpectedly high number of citizens, shied away from causing a possible massacre, ordering the retreat of their forces.
The next week, in Leipzig on 16 October 1989, 120,000 showed up, with military units again being held on stand-by in the vicinity. The next week, the number more than doubled to 320,000. This pressure led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, marking the imminent fall of the socialist GDR regime.