The Events of 1989

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  • The Events of 1989
    • Opening of Hungary's Borders
      • September 1989 Hungary opened border quietly with Austria
      • Thousands of East Germans on holiday in Hungary simply crossed the border
      • 10 September officially declared the border open
        • repealing the law with GDR that they would not let any East German's leave their territory without exit visas
      • 30,000 East Germans left in 2 weeks to go to Austria
      • Some camped out in the West German embassy in Budapest demanding exit visas
      • GDR leadership were slow to respond
        • Hard to close the border with a fellow Warsaw Pact ally
      • Banned the citizens from visiting Hungary
        • Thousands camped out in FRG embassies demanding exit visas
      • The Sealed Train
        • Honecker allowed 5500 citizens camped out in embassies to leave for the FRG as long as the train went through the GDR
        • Many people tried to climb on board and in Dresden had to be physically and brutally stopped
        • When they went on board to confiscate GDR papers they were found to be already ripped up
        • Recorded on FRG TV
    • Protests
      • Spread to almost every city
      • Protested about everything; living conditions, pollution, lack of freedom - but not yet the regime
        • Authorites failed to recognise it
        • Not one revoltionary movement - all different
          • Christians wanted more rights of worship
          • supporters of the FRG Green Party became vocal on environmental issues
          • The New Forum - nationwide political movement - demanding democratic reform
      • In Leipzig
        • Particularly in the latter where the Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas Church) increasingly became popular for protest
          • regular Monday crows of 70,000 outside
          • Sunday 8 October - Erich Mielke gave a red alret and the authority to shoot to kill
        • Protests took place as normal but the forces did not stop it or fire their weapons
          • Often a call for no violence
            • huge rally on 9 October called for restraint and were heeded
          • Did not want to do the same as China with Tiananmen Square in June 1989
          • USSR troopos remained in the barracks
          • Some questioned the security forces themselves. If they refused order the whole security apparatus would be brought in for questioning.
            • If the authorities could only keep control by repression and the agents of such repression refused to be repressive, their authority would collapse
            • Some troops were told to fire for self-defence - only if they were being attacked with violence
    • Gorbachev's visit to East Berlin
      • Argued that Honecker did his best to ignore the protest and concentrate on the celebations
        • 40th anniversary was important to him
      • 7 October - anniversary
        • Gorbachev was the guest of honour
      • During the parade of FDJ many called out to Gorbachev to help
        • These youths were supposedly the pride of the GDR youth
      • Later at a Politburo meeting a member said they should have had the 'coup d'etat' there (talking about the overthrow of Honecker)
        • they had been plotting it for months
        • As Honecker survived it showed that they had a lack of organisation and initative
        • The system was so centralised and so lacking in avenues for dissent that it would take a real crisis to overthrow a leader
      • 40th anniversary celebrations
        • Gorbachev had reiterated that USSR would not help them
        • Honecker had been asserting that the GDR did not needed the USSR
        • Meant people could riot and the USSR forces would not stop them = bad for GDR and Honecker
    • Honecker's Dismissal
      • incapacitated by illness through September 1989
        • Opponents did not act against him
        • Had already had a cancerous tumour removed but doctors had missed one
      • Two events led to dismissal
        • 40th anniversary celebrations
          • Gorbachev had reiterated that USSR would not help them
          • Honecker had been asserting that the GDR did not needed the USSR
          • Meant people could riot and the USSR forces would not stop them = bad for GDR and Honecker
        • Mass Protests
          • in Leipzig and elsewhere
          • authorities could not stop them
      • 17 October at a Poitburo meeting he was told to resign as lost the support of the Party
      • Said as he left that him  going woud not solve any problems
    • Krenz and the opening of the Berlin Wall
      • Opening of the Berlin Wall
        • 9 November officials at the Interior Ministry drafted a proposal the East Germans should travel abroad if they had the right passport
          • Not conceding anything as passports and visas might not be granted
          • Read out later at a press conference by Günter Schabowski - may not have had time to read
            • Schabowski said that it would take immediate effect and many flocked to the border to leave
        • Last people to know were those still in the meeting but by then it was too late
        • FRG had announced that the GDR had opened its borders
        • 10.30pm - official anouncement that they need to apply for travel permits
          • 11.30pm - border guards open the gates due to the amount of people trying to get through
            • Some passports were stamped so they knew not to let those back in after
        • The wall fell a few days after the opening on the 11th November
        • Did not mean the end of the GDR - they were bankrupt but the government still worked
        • People still wanting to leave kept increaing to  unsustainable levels
      • Demonstrations grew in size
        • 30,000 marched in Leipzig - wanted new leader Egon Krenz to resign
        • sometimes as many as 750,000 demonstrators on the streets at times
      • Krenz visited the USSR on the 1 November but came away with nothing
        • Wanted to reform the government by replacing the old SED members with the young
          • Wanted Hans Modrow - the reformist SED leader in Dresden in the SED
      • Stasi began to shred the files
      • Ordered the reopening of the border with Czecholovakia on 1.11

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