12 September 2009

End Game

The end of the second week of September 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the SED's hegemony in the GDR. The month had begun with the Monday prayers at the Nikolaikirche restarting, but this time with western journalists in Leipzig for the Trade Fair recording and capturing the demonstration that followed the prayers calling for freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom to express opinions. On 10 September, "Neues Forum", published its founding appeal, signed by 20 civic activists from throughout the GDR - Bärbel Bohley, Katja Havemann, Rolf Henrich, Sebastian Pflugbeil, Jens Reich and Hans-Jochen Tschiche. The same day, Hungary opened its borders to emigrants from the GDR. On 12 September another group, "Demokratie Jetzt", published its founding appeal, "Einmischung in die eigenen Angelegenheiten". This would be followed by the founding of other groups and parties such as Demokratischer Aufbruch and the Social Democratic Party, for which Markus Meckel, Martin Gutzeit, Arndt Noack and Manfred Böhme were now distributing flyers. The End Game had begun.

End Game is also the title of a book by historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk that charts the Revolution from 1989 in the GDR. Kowalczuk, who works for the Federal Commission for the archives of the State Security Ministry of the GDR, has certainly based his book on thorough historical research, but the result is not a book for researchers and experts but anyone who wants a readable account of the causes and consequences of autumn 1989 in the GDR. While stressing the role of factors such as Gorbachev's coming to power, Kowalczuck's focus is on East German society itself, the mismanagement of the SED and the resistance of social forces. Here is his passage about the founding appeal of "Demokratie Jetzt" on 12 September 1989:
The 12 signatories ... called for the formation of the "Citizen's Movement Democracy Now" ... This was the first reference to a "citizen's movement" (Bürgerbewegung), a concept that would influence the events that followed. The appended, "Theses for a democratic reconstruction in the GDR", were similar to those in the call to found the SDP, but were less radical and orientated more to basis than parliamentary democracy. Three points distinguished the appeal from that of New Forum: First, all the signatories came from Berlin or neighbouring Brandenburg; second, it spoke of the continuing the "socialist revolution" to make it viable for the future. That was liable to irritate given that the appeal and the theses were diametrically opposed to theht that of the GDR. Third, the signatories called upon, "the Germans in the Federal Republic to work for a reconstruction of their own society to make possible a new unity of the German people in the household of the European peoples. Both German states should be willing to reform themselves for the sake of unity."
Endspiel can be can be from Amazon Germany - €24.90 - or in a special edition from the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung. for €6.00.


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