Germany Inside Out - Eastern Germany - The end of the Stasi terror

The end of the Stasi terror

Leipzig Throughout the summer of 1989, the Communist regime found itself under enormous pressure because huge numbers of East Germans were slipping through to the West by avoiding East Germany's lethally tough border controls.

They were crossing the border from Hungary, where the regime had torn gaping holes in the Iron Curtain that separated East from West. Meanwhile at home in East Germany, for those protesters who were determined to remain: "Wir bleiben hier!", "We are staying here!" was a popular chant. It caused even more problems for the authorities.

Peaceful demonstrations against the regime took place in the months leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. People filled the St Nicholas church in Leipzig, whilst tens of thousands gathered outside. The protesters were acting in defiance of State orders not to demonstrate, and even ignored the armed militias standing on street corners. They walked through the city's streets holding candles, chanting: "Wir sind das Volk! Keine Gewalt!", "We are one people! No violence!" For the regime, it was the beginning of the end.

Stasi files Even after the fall of the Wall, the lurking power of the Stasi, the secret police, remained. East Germans continued to demonstrate against the Stasi, which compiled millions of files, prying into every aspect of people's lives. On 4 December 1989, crowds stormed the Stasi headquarters in Leipzig.

Irmtraut Hollitzer, who now runs the Stasi Museum, in the former Stasi headquarters building, was present on that dramatic night. By chance, she discovered a piece of paper showing how her and her husband's telephones were tapped, as a reminder that the Stasi really were everywhere. "It was the most important moment of all. If the State security, which had done all the dirty work for the Communist Party, continued to work, the demolition of the Wall would have been no use at all."

Stasi Museum:
Normannenstrasse 22
10365 Berlin
Tel: 0049 30 553 68 54
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat-Sun 2pm-6pm

Links:

Stasi Museum
Website of the Stasi Museum, which is located in the building where the Stasi had their offices. In English and German.

Chronicle of the end of the GDR
Every day between the 40th birthday of the GDR in October 1989 to the first democratic election in East Germany in March 1990. In German.

Everyday life in the GDR
Website of the Documentation Centre of GDR culture in Eisenach. Exhibitions show products and habits of everyday life. In German.

Travelling through Eastern Germany
Images, impressions and travel information on the former Germany Democratic Republic. In English.

The divided Germany
Extensive documentation of the history of the GDR. In German.

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