On November 4, 1989, more than half a million protestors gathered at Alexanderplatz square in East Berlin to participate in demonstrations against the German Democratic Republic government. The protest was part of the larger series of Monday Demonstrations that had been going on since September 1989. The protests eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which had divided the German city since for almost three decades.
After the war, the German Democratic Republic, part of the Soviet Russia-led communist bloc, took control of the eastern party of Berlin. West Berlin, though located entirely in the GDR, was under the western Allies, Britain, France, and the United States.
In 1961, the infamous Berlin Wall came up. Travelling from East Berlin to West Berlin was barred, and those caught trying to do it were severely punished, even killed. For nearly three decades after that, protestors in East Berlin and the GDR fought for the freedom to travel.
On November 4, 1989, Günter Schabowski, a GDR government functionary, announced at a press conference that East Germans would be free to travel to West Germany. He mistakenly said the changes in the travel policy would take place with immediate effect, and that “private travel was allowed without any prerequisites”.
The announcement caused a sudden sea of East Germans at the Wall, with many scaling it and many trying to take down parts of it. The gates at the crossing points were opened by the East German Border Police, setting the tone for the eventual reunification of the country.
The Alexanderplatz protest was orchestrated by theatre actors and directors of East Germany. The slogan that was heard most often at the protests was Wir sind das Volk (we, the people). The line was borrowed from a play named Danto’s Death, written by Georg Büchner, set in the times of the French Revolution.
Read all the articles in the Art of Resistance series here.