East Germans watch transfixed as their country falls apart

Countdown to the fall of the wall: By late October 1989, the East German regime was imploding. Demonstrations and an exodus across the Czech border forced hardliners from office, state censorship to be cast aside, and an air of panic to grip the leadership...


25 October 1989

East Germany's new leader, Egon Krenz, says plans approved by the Politburo to allow every East German to travel abroad will be put into action as soon as possible. But he says there are problems, among them the foreign currency cost. East German leaders have calculated that if people were allowed to take out only 500 marks (£170) each it could absorb over half the country's foreign currency reserves.

26 October 1989

From 7.30 each evening, millions of East Germans sit riveted to their television screens. The attraction is not some Western spectacular but their own evening news programme, Aktuelle Kamera. For decades, it has been churning out a mind-numbing diet of production figures, visits by dreary apparatchiks from other Eastern bloc countries, and Communist propaganda. Now, camera teams are out filming demonstrations, reporters thrust microphones in front of party leaders, workers and students are seen grumbling freely about everything wrong with the country.

And, for the first time, East Germans are avidly reading their own press. Newspapers sell out by mid-morning. Pages are filled with interviews or readers' letters. The new freedom has caught East German journalists untrained and unprepared. An older journalist from the official news agency, AND, said: "Reporters have to think for themselves, they have to get out of the office and talk to people. Many are not used to it."

27 October 1989

East Germany announces an amnesty for everyone convicted of escaping or trying to escape to the West, and for causing a disturbance during demonstrations. The Interior Ministry later adds that from 1 November it was lifting a ban on visa-free travel to Czechoslovakia.

2 November 1989

More than 50,000 East Germans took to the streets today to demand democratic reforms, and the official news agency spoke of a "social crisis". The removal of discredited hardline officials has begun with the sacking of the wife of the former leader, Erich Honecker, and the resignations of four other senior politicians. Sixty thousand East Germans have left via Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

5 November 1989

The government introduces new laws on travel which will enable all citizens to receive passports and to travel to the West for up to 30 days a year. At the same time, in Leipzig, scene of ever-expanding weekly demonstrations, the city's Communist Party leader, Horst Schumann, resigns.

6 November 1989

The biggest crowds yet seen in Leipzig, Dresden and other East German cities tonight marched through the streets demanding free elections and an end to Communist domination. In Leipzig, half a million people brave are driving rain in the biggest-ever demonstration in this grimy industrial city. Hundreds of thousands more are on the streets for the first time in Dresden, another 60,000 are marching in Halle. There are also 50,000 protesting in Karl-Marx-Stadt, and 25,000 are on the streets in Schwerin.

8 November 1989

The East German government yields to pressure from the vast demonstrations and the rapid haemorrhage of its young people, and resigns to make way for change. East Germans are pouring across the Czechoslovak border at the rate of around 9,000 a day, or an average of 375 an hour. An estimated 30,000 have come since Czechoslovakia opened its border last Friday. In Bonn, officials estimate that if travel restrictions for East Germans are really eased, 1.2 to 1.4 million will come to the West to stay.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss