26 December 2009

Is justice only for those who deserve mercy?

One of the strongest images I remember from the revolutions that swept Eastern Europe 20 years ago was the television pictures of the bloodstained bodies of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena after they were gunned down following a so-called trial in which they were sentenced to death. They were told they had 12 days to appeal but that the sentence would be carried out immediately. Of course they themsleves were responsible one way or another for the deaths of countless Romanians, but is this a reason for such a process devoid of humanity or justice? It was certainly a jolt back to reality after the dreams of the peaceful revoution in East Germany and the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.

Over on the BBC Web site, Nick Thorpe, a long-standing Budapest-based eastern Europe watcher has an interview with General Victor Stanculescu who says the executions were both "just and necessary": "If we had left it to the people of Bucharest, they would have lynched them in the street." Still 20 years later much remains unexplained about the events in Romania, one of the indicators being that the general himself has recently begun a 15-year prison sentence for aggravated manslaughter - charges he has always denied - after being found guilty of ordering troops to open fire on the crowds in the western Romanian city of Timisoara earlier in December and which was one of the events that led to the revolution later that month.

The TimesOnline has an interview with one of the soldiers who carried out the killing of the Ceauşescus, but be warned, it makes for very grisly and unpleasant reading. The TimesOnline article also quotes the prosecutor against the Ceauşescus as saying: "I have been one of those who, as a lawyer, would have liked to oppose the death sentence, because it is inhuman. But we are not talking about people."

19 December 2009

Towards post-Cold War Europe

On 19 and 20 December 1989, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited Dresden in East Germany, where he was greeted by tens of thousands of East Germans, chanting "Helmut, Helmut". Three weeks before, on 28 November in a speech to the Bundestag, Kohl had proposed what was billed as a "ten-point plan to German unity". Looking at the text, however, unification itself was less the driving force than an ultimate aspiration, and the specific proposals for a "contractual community" between the two German states, its vision of a pan-European process, and placing the idea of confederation at the centre of the German unification discourse, in fact appeared to draw on ideas from Gorbachev and alternative security commissions (and evidence has emerged that like other developments from autumn 1989, the 10 point plan emerged as the result of a communication misunderstanding between Moscow and Bonn). Irrespective of what the fine print said, however, the 10 point plan was in fact widely perceived as Bonn placing unification on the political agenda.

On the other side of the damaged, but still existing Berlin Wall, an appeal published by intellectuals, artists and civic rights activists, "For our country", urged support for the continued independent existence of the GDR, as a "socialist alternative" to the Federal Republic. the appeal is reported to have been signed by more than a million GDR citizens. Though initiated by civic rights activists, the propagating of the appeal by Egon Krenz and the SED fatallytaintedthe document, while by the beginning of December, the document's moral appeal for alternative ethical values based on the GDR was fatally undermined by the revelations at the beginning of December not only of widespread corruption but even more so by an apparently secret arms trade.

Kohl's visit to Dresden in December marked a turning point. The reason for the hastily arranged visit appears to have had less to do with solidarity with East Germans than the fact that French President Francois Mitterrand had announced a state visit to the GDR for 20 December (the first state visit by one of the three Western powers responsible for Germany). Kohl avoided East Berlin for protocol reasons, instead visiting GDR Prime Minister Hans Modrow's power base of Dresden. For Kohl, his reception in Dresden appears to have convinced him to dump his step-by-step ten-point-plan and instead increase the pressure for unification.

For its part, Mitterrand's state visit to the GDR has often been interpreted as an attempt to block unification by shoring up the GDR, but it's real purpose seems to have been more to try and influence the shape that German unity would take, while also serving as a reminder that the two German states were not sovereign in this regard. Taken together the visits of Kohl and Mitterrand also marked the turning point: no longer were they mere observers of what was happening in the GDR, but the time had come for the autumn revolution of the GDR to be subsumed into a wider struggle for the future of post-Cold War Europe.

17 December 2009

Coming home ...

Jane's diary, 17 December 1989, dateline Brussels
The train was late leaving Cologne and arriving in Brussels, but Steve was there, we went back to his flat in St Josse, drank Champagne and went to bed. In the morning we woke up to hear that Andrei Sakharov had died, suddenly. Amazingly, things seem to be starting in Romania but what will happen ... unbelievable to think that a change might take place there too.

In the evening we went to the Brussels Labour Party Christmas Party, very yummy food, and "terribly" nice and civilised. Full of journalists. It was strange to step back into middle-class British (Euro) culture. Steve in his Guardian sweatshirt was not dressed for the occasion, but it was fun. Then I gave him my diary to read and we stayed up talking about all that had happened in the GDR over the last three months while I was there.

And finally the next day ... he baked me pizza, as I knew he would, it was good and very much a coming home feel. We sat and chatted to his landlord, Jean Pierre and his partner Brigitte. It was hard to speak French, very hard work for me. After three months caught up in a whirl of change, it is strange to think that being here in Brussels is a reality as well.

16 December 2009

The End of Holy Disorder?

The Evangelical Church in Central Germany has officially closed its 20th anniverary year Holy Disorder to mark the peaceful revolution of 1989, with the statement below. But this blog will continue:
The Protestant Church in East Germany still has a reason to be grateful for the peaceful revolution of autumn 1989 in the GDR. It is a sign of the workings of God's Spirit and about which we were surprised - surpassing all human reason and probability.

In the autumn of 1989 people were drawn from the churches into the streets and squares. The prayers for peace contributed to make the revolution non-violent. Many people - Christians and non-Christians - saw a church that was alive. It created an open space. People were able to speak up and demand changes for their country.

In many congregations and grassroots groups and individual Christians were engaged in the decade before the revolution and in the autumn of 1989 encouraged and organized prayers for peace. They stood up in an ecumenical community for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. They had to be prepared to be persecuted by the state,and many were persecuted. However, many did not allow themselves to be intimidated and deliberately violated state regulations. They drew attention to the dictatorial conditions.

The Protestant Church in Central Germany praises the brave and consistent action by people in parishes and grassroots groups. This commitment invigorated both society and the church.

This remembrance and gratitude means that we in our Protestant Church also critically reflect on our own role.

On several occasions grassroots groups in the church has to confront church leaders. We recognise today that they were not always considered as a natural part of our church. At the same time we thank those in the church who supported these groups. The arguments about openness and political interference of the church repeatedly helped to determine the relationship of the church to the GDR state.

In the Protestant church, in the synod, the ecumenical assemblies and grassroots groups, people realised that they were citizens. They lived out democracy. After autumn 1989, these experiences helped develop a democratic culture in state and society.

We encourage all Christians and citizens even today to work for justice, peace and integrity of creation. The issues of life and survival today require a bold and consistent commitment. The experiences from autumn 1989 help this.

We need to continue our critical reflection about autumn 1989 and the two decades that follows even after the anniversary year and the campaign 1989-2009 Holy Disorder. Before us is the path of our church in the conciliar process. We see many people inside and outside our church with unresolved frustrations and unanswered expectations. We hope that we can make a contribution that can lead to an open and healing discussion. From this can grown an encouragement to our commitment now.

14 December 2009

Helplessness and resignation?

Jane's diary, 14 December 1989, written in the train from Cologne to Brussels

What a crazy few days, writing Christmas post, washing, buying, packing ... 10 December was international human rights day, Friedrich Schorlemmer received the Ossietzky prize on behalf of Demokratischer Aufbruch. In Czechoslovakia, the Communist Party is now in a minority in the new government, Husak's final act as president was to swear in the new ministers, some who have been in jail until as little as a fortnight ago. Change seems even faster there than here in the GDR. Dubcek or Havel for president? All the shops were open in Wittenberg this afternoon, a Sunday, the 2nd advent, a cold clear day with yellow winter sunshine and a Father Christmas being driven in a horse and trap along the main street throwing out sweets to children.

I was full of cold for my last few days in Wittenberg. On the Sunday I made it to church. The church was cold and the sermon somehow missed the mark but the BBC Radio 4 service was coming from the United States and I was back in time to hear Barbara Harris finishing her sermon and then celebrating the Eucharist, the first woman to be elected a bishop in the US Epsicopal Church. That was special.

I got an exit visa in Wittenberg but when I got to the border in Berlin the border guards couldn't tell me whether or not my new entry visa was there. I crossed into the West with two of the other students who like me were in Berlin for a meeting with students from our sister seminary from West Germany, Soest. The other two went off to get their church Begrüssungsgeld from West Berlin (hard currencyto which otherwise East Germans had no legal access). The people there wanted to give me some too - quite seriously. Very odd!!! Then we set off on the 54 Bus for Spandau, which I knew very well from the gap year that I had spent working in a church-run children's home at the Johannesstift there. It was strange seeing the Christmas market in Spandau gain, just as it had been eight years ago, and the kitsch almost worse then the stuff in Wittenberg. Then out to an evening with the Soest lot at a Pizzeria at Savignyplatz in West Berlin where red wine was consumed. I stayed over in West Berlin.

The next morning back to the border, where, amazingly a visa was waiting for me - and free of charge!! But the Polish visa office in East Berlin was closed - I needed to a get Polish visa for a trip our group was to make to Poland in the New Year. Then to the church headquarters in Augustrasse still a little worse for wear from the night before. I managed to make it back to the Soest meeting at the Auferstehungsgemeinde. I found myself in one group suddenly feeling like an easterner in a strange sort of way, chafing against the wishy-washy western liberalism. The crux of the question is not whether the we feel the "experiment" of socialism in the GDR should go on, but what are we willing to give up, we privileged Westerners and the answer is, "not a lot".

Earlier in the day at the foreigner's registration office at the police in East Berlin, I interpreted for a very sweet but rather clueless Australian who kept trying to pay in the wrong currency. This then led the overworked woman behind the counter to extend my residence permit until June 1989 - in my hungover state I didn't notice, but later in the evening the border guards didn't seem to mind too much, "just make sure that you get round to registering properly"!

Berlin was so wet and disgusting that I simply wanted out and away. On the train I thought back again to the German question, our sense of helplessness and resignation, no new ideas in the face of its inevitability and the lure of the Deutschmark. Whatever happened to "We're staying here!" On the train the guard noticed my ticket had been bought in GDR Marks in East Berlin and didn't ask me to pay the supplement for the InterCity train, it's strange being a token GDR citizen.

12 December 2009

Ten years before the changes ..

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the decision at the NATO meeting at which the western Alliance agreed its "dual track decision" which threatened the deployment of additional nuclear arms from 1983 onwards in the event that the stationing of SS-20 missiles had not stopped by that time. This was both a symptom and a cause of the tension between East and West. In the GDR this was reflected in the militarisation of education and that would find another episode later in December 1979 with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to prop up an unpopular government having difficulties in stemming an insurgency. To mark the anniversary, a conference has been held in Rome on “The Euromissiles Crisis and the End of the Cold War". Among other things, the conference has attempted to:
explore the impact of the crisis on the evolution of the Cold War as a whole, and possibly on its winding down. Did the deployment of the missiles, as the so-called Reagan victory school has been arguing, really contribute to the Soviet strategic defeat and to the Western “victory”, thanks to its superior economic, political, and strategic cohesion? Did it facilitate the emergence of those factors which would help overcome the East-West division throughout all European societies, by promoting a new level of civic awareness, raising a new consciousness across Europe of the dangers of the Cold War, and indirectly linking for the first time Western peace activists with Eastern dissent? Or did it actually prolong the Cold War, as some other historians have argued, by forcing upon an already dying bipolar international system a new round of rearmament and military expenditures that actually helped –at least for a few years– the survival of the Soviet system by offering the Soviet leaders a pretext to mobilize its last resources and call its public opinion to arms to defend the motherland against this renewed imperialist challenge?
In other words, the Euromissiles crisis has to be seen in the wider context of the militarisation of East-West relations that followed the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. In the German Democratic Republic, this was reflected in an increasing internal militarisation of society through which the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) sought to reinforce control over public life, witnessed for example in the 1978 decision on pre-military education in schools. At the same time, the SED used the discourse of peace (understood as opposition to Western military policies such as the US plans for a Neutron Bomb) as an ideological justification for such internal militarisation.

The effect of the twin-track decision of December 1979 could be seen, at one level, as creating a new justification for this dialectic of peace rhetoric and internal militarisation. Equally, if not more important, however, was that the decision spawned a new type of transnational social protest. This helped to promote a collective movement identity both ‘temporally’, by allowing individual protest events to be perceived as components of a longer lasting action, and ‘transversally’, by helping those who were engaged to feel linked ‘by ties of solidarity and ideal communion with protagonists of other analogous mobilisations’ (Della Porta/Diani 1999: 8). This transnational social protest transcended narrowly political opposition to previous political campaigns for disarmament, reaching out to previously unmobilised sectors of society.

In the GDR, opposition to the internal militarisation of society had come not least from within churches, and not least because of the existence of a cadre of Protestant pastors with a strong anti-militarist attitude due to their personal refusal to carry arms in the National People's Army. The transnational social protest movement created by the 1979 "twin track" decision offered a wider framework within which campaigns against militarisation of GDR society could be placed, and for more thoroughgoing political demands. At the same time, this mobilisation represented an ideological challenge to the SED's use of the discourse of peace, and created a basis for links between opposition to militarisation and other forms of dissent. An important factor in this development of political dissent was the attempt by activists in the GDR to build links with movements in other European countries, both to the West, as with the "personal peace treaties" between GDR and Dutch peace activists, and to the East, as in the contacts between GDR peace activists and political dissent in Czechoslovakia.

Far from the 1987 Treaty of Washington marking an end in the GDR of the political crisis unleashed by the twin-track decision, the period from January 1988 to October 1989 was marked by a new stage in political mobilisation in the GDR and attempts by the SED not seen in previous years to suppress such dissent. This culminated in the 1989 "peaceful revolution" which drew both on the protest repertoires developed in opposition to the militarisation f society and the political demands that grew out of the transnational social protest movement unleashed by the Euromissiles decision.

Reference: Della Porta, D. and M. Diani 1999, Social Movements, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

11 December 2009

A new broom for Gregor Gysi ...

This is the front page from 11 December 1989 of Neues Deutschland - the central organ of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) - except that the special party congress has just decided that the party should not be called the SED any more. The new broom is for the newly-elected party chair Gregor Gysi to clean up what the newspaper calls the party's "Stalinist ideas and structures". The front page articles summarises Gregor Gysi, lawyer and son of the former GDR state secretary for church affairs - as appealing for hard work to save "our country and our party". The special congress was called as the collapse of the GDR continued amid ever new revelations of corruption. Gysi was elected by 95.32 percent of votes from delegates (a pretty respectable score for a "post-Stalinist" politician) who then continued to debate whether the as yet-without-a-name party should continue to exist or be dissolved. ND reports:
Opposing resolutions proposing the continuance or the dissolution of the party led to the debates being suspended, meetings of the district delegations and the acting presidium, and then to the next session of the party congress being beld in closed session. In this fateful hour Hans Modrow [the GDR prime minister] appeals for the parts'y capacity to act to be maintained. Then - according to delegates - there were several votes ... The "Report about the discussion on the first days of the extraordinary party congress" was presented on behalf of the drafting committee by Lothar Bisky. In this document to be presented for discussion at the basis of the party, delegates stated it is their duty "in the name of the party to apologise profoundly to the people that the former leadership of the SED has brough out country to this crisis that threatens its very existence".
The party congress was adjourned for a week to meet again in Berlin. But today's Die Linke party is a direct descendant of that fateful decision in Berlin. Today Gregor Gysi is the chairperson of the parliamentary group of Die Linke, and Lothar Bisky is chairperson of the party.

9 December 2009

Watergate in the GDR ...

Jane's diary, dateline Wittenberg, 9 December 1989
So much is happening, it's almost impossible to keep up. Honecker's under arrest, among many others. Krenz has gone - it was very obvious in Modrow's visit to Moscow and Gorbi - "oh yes, I almost forgot, I've brought the head of state with me". Stasi buildings all over the GDR are being stormed, most things seem to have been burned, shredded or otherwise disposed of.

Schorlemmer was heckled for the first time at the prayers for renewal, speaking on the theme of the "Vaterland". In front of the masses it's almost impossible to speak of Zweistaatlichkeit, a two-state-solution. Friedrich ended with the Olof Palme idea of a demilitarised independent Germany. Unity not reunification. The consensus now seems to be that reunification will come, the major problem being the timetable.

The SED extraordinary general party congress has decided to change the party's name and have elected Gregor Gysi as leader. No new name as yet, just not the old one. From 1 January, visa regulations and exchange regulations for West Germans and West Berliners are to be lifted - some are pushing for this to come into force from 23 December in time for Christmas.

More and more corruption is coming to light. Schalk-Golodkowsi has given himself up in West Berlin. His lawyer Vogel has also been arrested but (I think) set free. Some seem to think he knows far too much to be prosecuted - he could cause other heads to roll and not just on this side of the border. It's like living through a much more lively version of Watergate.

7 December 2009

The round table that was square ...

On 7 December representatives of the new citizens' movements and political parties - and the SED, the former block parties, and societal organizations converged on the Dietrich Bonhoeffer House for the first meeting of the GDR Round Table. An example of the implosion faced by the GDR was the resignation the previous day of Egon Krenz as chairperson of the Council of State of the GDR.

In the meditation room of the Moravian community in Berlin, the representatives of the new and of the old political forces gathered around a set of square tables for a meeting being convened by representatives of the Federation of Protestant Churches, the Roman Catholic Church and the Council of Christian Churches (AGCK) - the impetus for such a round table however had come from the citizens' movements, especially from Demokratie Jetzt, which had maintained strong contacts to Poland and had observed how the Round Rable there had led to the first semi-free elections. The first meeting of the GDR Round Table called for new elections, a new constitution and the disbandment of the Ministry of State Security - the Stasi - renamed "Amt für Nationale Sicherheit" (or "Office for National Security"). Civic Rights activist Konrad Weiss notes:
The idea for a round table came from the citizens' movement Democracy Now some of whose founders had long-standing contact with the Polish Solidarity. Ludwig Mehlhorn and Stefan Bickhardt knew of their concept of the round table and analysed it. Their proposal, to attempt something similar in the GDR, was picked up and accepted by Democracy Now and soon after by the other citizens' movements. The SED, that in the face of mass demonstrations and the increasing self-assurance of the East Germans had to accept that its power was waning, also accepted the proposal and was read to talk. Neues Deutschland tried to suggest to its readers that the "leading" party until then had also proposed the Round Table. But no one believed the "Central Organ" any more.

When the Round Table met for the first time, despite the polite tone, it was basically bitter political rivals that were sitting opposite each other. On the one side, the comrades from the SED and from the allied block parties and organizations, which were increasingly seeking to distance themselves from the "leading" force. On the other side sat the civil rights activists and dissidents, and the newly formed Social Democratic Party. The round table was moderated by representatives of the churches. The motives why people took part may have been very different. But we were all united in wanting to avoid the process of change leading to bloodshed.
Alongside the Central Round Table there were round tables set up at local and district level, often playing an important role in the transfer of power. The Central Round Table played a central role in preparing for the first democratic elections, that took place in March 1990, and in pressing for the dismantling of the Stasi. The idea of drawing up a new constitution for adoption by the GDR got overtaken by the moves after the March election for the rapid incorporation of the GDR into the Federal Republic. Nevertheless, the construction of the Round Table meant that the new political forces were not negotiating directly with the government or the parliament, but only indirectly. Weiss notes:
Our willingness to engage in dialogue - probably the most used and abused slogan of those days - led also to a number of serious mistakes ... Our all-important power, non-violence, was also our weakness. While we were at the round table struggling for reforms and the democratization of the GDR, the cadres with long experience out of site built up their new organizations, channeled money into safe places and formed enterprises with other comrades that now feeds their war chest. Particularly sensitive areas, such as the media were simply infiltrated. While we built up our organizations and our parties at the kitchen table, sometimes without a single phone, the PDS had all the access they needed to lines and computers. Many problems with which we wrestle in the reunified Germany, result from our former timidity.
Nevertheless, the Round Table in Berlin and the many other round tables throughout the GDR achieved much:
They were genuine schools of democracy, as has often been said. People who until then had been told they should not express themselves and who had been punished for any democratic initiative, now took over responsibility and made suggestions for numerous ideas and proposals. For three monnths, the Round Table was both legislature and executive. It prepared many things that were then implemented as laws by the freely-elected Volkskammer. For example, in an amazingly short period of time a media law and an environmental protection law were drawn up. That was only possible because in the previous years opposition groups in the underground had envisioned and discussed many of these things.
The German Broadcasting Archive has an extract from the press conference after the forst meeting of the Round Table. More here from the House of German History.

[Photo from http://www.jugendopposition.de/index.php?id=215]

4 December 2009

Dismantling the Stasi ...

Today marks the 20th anniversary in Erfurt of the first occupation of a regional Stasi headquarters in the GDR. To mark the anniversary there is a time of remembrance at the former headquarters, a commemoration in the regional parliament, an academic symposium and a service of worship, under the theme, " ... and the truth shall set you free".

In his new book, Wo bleibt die Freiheit, Heino Falcke, then the Protestant dean of Erfirt, remembers the events of that day:
My wife belonged to the group, "Women for Change". The chair of the group, a doctor, phoned us on the morning of the 4 December, "There are containers being driven away from the Stasi on the Andreasstrasse and the chimney is pumping out black smoke. They are getting rid of the files. Get together who you can and block the gates." We phoned around and drove with our Wartburg to the Stasi. I blocked the entrance with the car and my wife went to the main door, where a number of women had already gathered. The group that quickly got bigger decided they should stop each of the cars. My wife, who had quickly been elected to be the spokesperson, managed to push her way through to the head of the Stasi, Major Josef Schwarz. She demanded that he end the destruction of the files. Meanwhile more and more people were pushing their way into the Stasi offices. The major demanded that my wife put a stop to this so that his people could carry on with their work. "But that's exactly what we want to stop," she replied. In the meantime the chair of the group, who had phoned us in the morning, arrived with three military attorneys , occupied the building under their supervision, and sealed the archives. This was the first occupation of a Stasi HQ and the risks were difficult to calculate ...

I had in the meantime gone to a meeting, from which I thought that I should on no account be absent. Soon after our arrival at the Stasi offices a big truck from the city council had driven past, and the driver had asked me what we were doing. When I told him he said, "Move your car away, I can block the gates better than you." I walked over to my wife and asked her if she thought she would be alright. She said of course, so I drove on to my meeting. She was right, but I still shake my head when I think about what I did. This episode casts a light on the character of the revolution. One of the protagonists described it as a "revolution in free time" or a "after-work revolution", because business just carried on as usual.

3 December 2009

Things keep moving on ...

Jane's diary, Wittenberg, 3 December 1989
Last night we "celebrated" Advent. Suddenly Christmas is around the corner. The candlelit living room and appalling singing, and then a reading of Schleiermacher's Weihnachtsgeschichte. All rather German.
Meanwhile things are moving on apapce. Mittag, Tisch and Müller (from Erfurt) have all been arrested. The central committee and the Politbüro have both resigned - Krenz is still Staatschef but everyone is waiting for him to be toppled, arrested or something. Let's hope Hans Modrow can continue to walk home each night and carry some kind of trust with him. Honecker, Tisch, Mielke et al have all been expelled from the SED. Meanwhile Schalck-Golodkowski has disappeaed to another country (unknown) and let this be known via his lawyer Wolfgang Vogel.
All kinds of shady and immoral deals are coming to light - an arms cache has been found near Rostock, deals with South America and no doubt all kinds of currency scandals. It's incredible. In Czechoslovakia the Kampfgruppen - the worker's "defence" units - have been dissolved.

2 December 2009

The father of the Ampelmann dies ...

News reached Dr B today of the death of Karl Peglau, the designer of the East German red and green traffic light people, which have now become a symbol of united Berlin. Here's the story:
Peglau was asked by an East Berlin traffic commission to come up with a new concept for traffic lights in an effort to stem the growing number of accidents on the city's streets ... Peglau believed that traffic could be better managed if pedestrian and vehicle traffic were controlled by different signals, and set about creating the little human stop and go figures now known as the Ampelmännchen. Although they did not receive much attention at the time, the figures became cult objects over the years, primarily for their cuteness. Their friendly quality was no accident; Peglau gave them a stocky build, button noses, perky hats, and jaunty poses so that they would radiate what Peglau called "an aura of cosiness and human warmth" that would resonate emotionally with pedestrians. Peglau's design also took practical considerations into account. The sturdy figures' large surface area made them easily discernible in low visibility conditions, and the red Ampelmännchen's outstretched arms resemble a horizontal barricade while his green partner's wide stride suggests an arrow.
After unification, the continued existence of the Ampelmännchen was threatened by being replaced by the ubiquitous Euromann the new style trafiic light figure from the West:
As authorities began replacing defective East-Ampelmännchen, designer Markus Heckhausen began collecting the discarded glass signals and turning them into lamps, which became a hotly desired fashion accessory and garnered the movement to save the Ampelmännchen substantial media coverage.
In an essay in German Politics (3/1997) Mark Duckenfield and Noel Calhoun explore how the eastern Ampelmann came to be saved from being wound down like other east German relics. It was initially the CDU economics minister in Saxony who recommended the continued use of the eastern Ampelmann in 1995, as, "the use of these figures helps us maintain a Saxony identity". The factory that produced the traffic lights - in GDR times called VEB Signaltechnik - was also located in saxony as it happened. Saxony-Anhalt then followed suit as eventually did Berlin, despite inital resistance, following a campaign by the Committee to Save the Ampelmännchen, which as Duckenfield and Calhoun point out, was an unusual organization; "it is more of an advertising campaign than a political group". The Berlin traffic bureaucracy was initally puzzle by the end of the "one Berlin, one traffic light policy" - although this policy has since been reborn with the eastern Ampelmann becoming standard issue across the city, East and West. At the same time, the continued existence of the Ampelmann, accorring to the article's authors, also serves to act as a positive sign of integration of the east:
... entirely untainted by the negative aspects of GDR life[, d]esigned for children, the short and stocky Ampelmann evokes an uncontroverisal, apolitical affection. It is not associated with the erros, crimes and disasterous public policies of the GDR. [It] serves both as a pleasant reminder of a less complicated past and a symbol of resistance to mindless western standardisation.
Credits: photos from http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/__PR/GIC/2009/12/01__Peglau__PM.html.
Mark Duckenfield and Noel Calhoun, 'Invasion of the Western Ampelmännchen', German Politics 6: 3, December 1997, pp.54-69. The full article can be found here in pdf format.

December is Advent ...

Jane's diary, Wittenberg, 2 December 1989
What an amazing first day of Advent. The GDR sent official apologies to Czechoslovakia for the part it played in the 1968 invasion. The Volkskammer got rid of the article 1 of the constitution - no more "leading role" for the SED. Gorbachev went to the Vatican and had an audience with the Pope; and Wolf Biermann played his first concert in 13 years in the GDR- amazing!! He was utterly magice, had us in creases of laughter and then near to tears with his lyrics and talk.