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The idea that the GDR could collapse, seemed to us absurd

When Marianne Birthler of 9. November 1989 told, it will quickly funny. The 71-Year-old laughs in a chair, her bright eyes flickering. As the majority of East Berliners flocked to the open wall, she waited on an American TV team to her former life companion Werner Fischer interview. The TV people were late, the two dissidents waited and waited while you changed the world.

"We were pretty Prussian" surprised Birthler. Actually, you could write a note: "gone, then. The wall fell!" When you went to the Interview, but still to the wall, they went out of caution "for the first time just to see": she wanted to be sure that they were not only out, but also back in. Finally, they tied the knot over the border and rang the bell for West Berlin's friends at the door. The were already asleep. They had not even noticed that the wall had fallen. "It's been a memorable night," recalls Birthler and lights.

fear of the "Chinese solution"

"When I think back to the autumn of 1989, but it is not the 9. November, I think at first, but the 9. October." It was the day demonstrated, as in Leipzig, tens of thousands of unhindered, although the security apparatus of the GDR was ready to revolt with violence, to knock down. The civil rights activists were afraid of a "Chinese solution".

In June had rolled China's democracy Communist movement in the square of "Heavenly peace" in Beijing with tanks brutally. The GDR was one of the only countries that you are congratulated. "We understood it also as a warning to us. And it had not forgotten in the autumn." According to gross, was on 9. October the tension.

After the big demo in Leipzig it was clear that the SED had abandoned the fight against the citizens.

"Everything was prepared down to the Smallest," says Birthler, "the camps were ready, the lists of Inter-linked were written." In the hospitals the blood was a pile of canned food. But to shoot instead of on the demonstrators, surrendered the dictatorship. "From then on, we knew that The SED had abandoned the fight against us. We were on the mountain." Euphoria spread. "We thought suddenly that we could all change now." As a condition of collective infatuation, it did feel a Surplus of energy and hope, only revolutions release.

Nevertheless, the imagination held with the real collapse of the GDR step. "The idea that the wall could fall and the GDR's collapse, before still came to us in October entirely absurd." As the Birthler on 4. November on Alexanderplatz in Berlin was the reunification in the case of any speaker with a topic. The people wanted freedom, not a poster called the "unit".

the Initiative for peace and human rights: Marianne Birthler speaks to the demonstration of 4. November 1989 on the Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. Video: Youtube/HistoryChannelWolf55

The East Berlin theatre people-initiated rally was the largest politically independent Demonstration in the history of the GDR, with hundreds of thousands of participants. Writers such as Christa Wolf, Stefan Heym and Heiner Müller, languages, actors Ulrich Mühe and Jan Josef Liefers, the later politician Gregor Gysi, or Lothar Bisky, but – under the Whistle – also SED people like Günter Schabowski and espionage chief Markus Wolf. The GDR television broadcast of the multi-hour event live, because the TV-employees of naughty put a ban over.

Birthler, then 41 years old, had slept in the night before barely. She was afraid to speak in front of so many people. Since the mid-1980s, the East-Berliner belonged to the Church resistance, in Prenzlauer Berg, she worked with children and young people. On the Alexanderplatz, you spoke on behalf of the "Initiative for peace and human rights". "As more and more people flocked to the Alex, came to me choked with emotion, the tears." So much imagination and energy you would have the East German people no longer believed possible. Overjoyed, she no longer was that "we were only small opposition groups", but hundreds of thousands.

A crazy Tempo

Birthler was the claim to power of the regime in your speech is open to question: "It is good to fight for freedom of expression, freedom to travel, a better functioning economy and a new education system. All of this is sorely needed, but we should not neglect in all this that these rights must be secured. This means that we need to think about the questions of Power and how Power can be controlled." Five days later, the wall fell.

Also, according to the 9. November, the Revolution took place in a pace, to be held the beginning of no one for Chancellor Helmut Kohl said in January 1990 to diplomats, the reunification could come faster than many people think: "Who knows, maybe in 1995?" In fact, Germany was United, just ten months later.

The accession to the FRG was not the view of Birthler, the best way out of the GDR-dictatorship.

"the pressure and Tempo came from the East, not the West," says Birthler. The East Germans were demonstrating by the Thousands with suitcases in Hand: "the D-Mark, we remain. You will not come, go we to her." Most of the dissidents, even those who became friends as Birthler quickly with the idea of unity, went much too quickly. "I found the GDR to be a sovereign political entity would have, with a democratic Constitution, to negotiate on a par with the FRG." But they understood that their countrymen did not want to wait any longer. "We don't want any more experiments, Ms. Birthler," said a man in the election campaign in 1990. "We have one behind us."

What is the desired pace of the terms of reunification, they would have been wrong at the time, so Birthler. However, the classiest way out of the GDR dictatorship would not have been, in their view, the accession to the FRG: The unit would have to begin in the autumn of 1990, rather, with an all-German debate a new, common Constitution followed by a referendum. "That would be mentally, politically and symbolically important." Even if it would have changed the enormous economic gap between the brother States, of course, nothing.

Rapid political ascent: Marianne Birthler at the swearing-in as education Minister of the state of Brandenburg, in November 1990. Photo: Brandenburg state office for political education

The civil rights activist came in 1990 with their ideas, only rarely, however, many of them were successful politicians. Birthler, eloquent, upright, charismatic, took within the space of a few months for the "Bündnis 90" in three parliaments of member: in the last people's chamber, the Bundestag and the Brandenburg Landtag. In November, she was already Minister: you had the task, the Brandenburg education system and rebuild it. In 1992, she gave up the office with a heavy heart again – as a Protest against the head of government of Manfred Stolpe (SPD), who rejected it, because of its decades-long cooperation with the GDR state security (Stasi) to withdraw.

in 1993, helped Birthler, to merge the "Alliance 90" with the West German Greens, for a time, she was even Co-Chairman of the new party. In 2000, she took over as the successor of the former dissident, Joachim Gauck, for a period of ten years the management of the authority, which processes the documents of the Stasi. Instead of the Gauck - he of the "Birthler-authority. In 2017, you would be following the Rostocker pastor almost in a office tracked – in of the Federal President. But Birthler, then almost 70 years old, refused to accept Angela Merkel's request. You would have been the first woman in the highest office of state.

How to proceed with democracy?

Marianne Birthler has seen many anniversaries of the fall of the Berlin wall. But this time, she says, was no longer enough to simply update the old Talk: "The root note has changed." The certainty that one day their grandchildren might live in security, freedom and democracy, had at once become brittle. Everywhere the liberal society of the right, anti-democratic forces are attacked in Hungary, Poland, Russia or Turkey, but also in Germany – by no means only in the East.

you are a confidence is actually a man, but now she looks with concern into the future: "our societies are liberal? We are not doing enough to defend you?" In the beginning, she says, should be the insight of citizens, that freedom and democracy is the task of all. And that these were never achieved, but always new, joint effort needed. This, too, is a lesson of the autumn of 1989.

Created: 30.10.2019, 17:51 PM

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