Monday Demonstrations – Leipzig History

Monday Demonstrations - Leipzig History

The Monday demonstrations took place between 1989 and 1990 on Monday evenings. It was a series of peaceful demonstrations against the government of the GDR. They were not planned beforehand but happened spontaneously.  The demonstrations began in Leipzig on September 4th, 1989 after the weekly prayer for peace in the Nicholaikirche until it became so big that it spilled over to the Augustusplatz. The people who attended the weekly prayer left the church with candles in their hand to show their peaceful intentions.

The participants demanded freedom of travel to foreign countries, to elect a democratic government and the abolition of the Ministry for State Security, the Stasi.  Leipzig was freer than other cities in East Germany for two reasons – there was no Stasi Headquarters in the city and they had the Leipzig Messe, which allowed Business people from outside of East Germany to enter the city.

People gather on Augustusplatz with candles in their hands to commemorate the Monday demonstrations that took place from 1989 - 1990.

People in other East German cities replicated the Leipzig demonstrations, meeting at open squares to protest. By the 9th of October the gatherings in Leipzig had swollen to more than 70.000 people, the day marking a turning point. The famous chant “Wir sind das Volk” became the slogan for the demonstrations. Although a few people were arrested that day the government did not dare to intervene any further. They were afraid to cause a massacre and military was hold on standby, watching from the side of the roads.

On October 16th 120.000 people participated in the demonstrations and two days later Erich Honecker, the leader of the SED, was forced to resign. The pressure eventually led to the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9th 1989.

The importance of October 9th is commemorated every year with a prayer for peace and a gathering of people on Augustusplatz. Candles are distributed and there are speeches, interviews and contemporary witnesses share their experiences. The demonstrations on the 9th of October 1989 could have ended in terrible violence if the government had decided to intervene and stop the protest but thankfully it didn’t. The demonstrations ended in March 1990.

Candles are placed so they form the number 89 to represent the fateful year for Germany´s history.

peaceful (ˈpi:sfəl) – friedlich, friedfertig
prayer for peace (ˈprʳ) – das Friedensgebet
to spill (spɪl) – überlaufen, strömen
to attend (əˈtend) – teilnehmen, etw besuchen
intention (ɪnˈten(t)ʃən) – die Absicht, Vorhaben
to demand (dɪˈmɑ:nd) – etw fordern, verlangen
foreign (ˈfɒrɪn) – ausländisch, fremd
to elect (ɪˈlekt) – jdn wählen
abolition (ˌæbəˈlɪʃən) – die Abschaffung
to allow (əˈl) – etw erlauben, gestatten
to enter (ˈentəʳ) – hineingehen, eintreten
to replicate (ˈreplɪkt) – etw wiederholen, nachmachen
square (skwʳ) – der Platz, zentraler Platz
turning point (ˈtɜ:nɪŋ pɔɪnt) – der Wendepunkt

famous (ˈfməs) – berühmt, bekannt
chant (tʃɑ:nt) – der Sprechgesang, Sprechchor, Spruch
to dare (dʳ) – sich trauen, riskieren
to force (fɔ:s) – jdn zwingen, drängen
to resign (rɪˈzn) – kündigen, zurücktreten
pressure (ˈpreʃəʳ) – der Druck
eventually (ɪˈvenli) – schließlich, endlich
to commemorate (kəˈmemərt) – etw/jdm gedenken
to distribute (dɪˈstrɪbju:t) – etw verteilen, aufteilen
speech (spi:) – die Rede, Ansprache
contemporary witness (kənˈtempərəri ˈwɪtnəs) – der Zeitzeuge

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