Motherland of the Reformation

Motherland of the Reformation

Taking it to the streets

Even Communist rule after the World War II could not extinguish the spirit of the Reformation. At first it was very sobering to participate in the prayers for peace that took place every Monday from November 1982 in the St Nicholas Church in Leipzig. But at the end of 1988, the participants in the meetings began to increase sharply in numbers and often to congregate afterwards on St Nicholas Churchyard. The first demonstration at which over 500 people participated was held on January 15th 1989. On October 2nd, this had already risen to 20,000, and a week later it reached 70,000 peaceful civilians. The power structure was overwhelmed and had already broken down before November 6th, when an estimated 400,000 people took part in the largest Monday demonstration. On November 9th 1989 the Berlin Wall was breached. In March 1990 the first free elections in the GDR took place and in the same year Germany was reunited. In 1990, a monument was erected on St Nicholas Churchyard to these events, a copy of the Classicist palm columns with which the interior of the 12th-century church had been redesigned in the late 18th century.

Headquarters of terror

The “round corner” sounds like a friendly paradox – but in the GDR it symbolized fear and terror. Once an insurance building on Leipzig’s Ring Road, it became the seat of the district administration of the Ministry for State Security, whose apparatus had spread throughout society like the arms of an octopus. The officers of the “Stasi” had also mingled among those taking part in the Monday demonstrations, whose goal was the hated building. On December 4th 1989 the “round corner” was occupied by the demonstrators. Later a citizens’ committee was formed and re-opened the house in August 1990 as a memorial, museum and research center. A branch is located in Machern, 19 miles east of Leipzig, where the Stasi had a camouflaged bunker for the event of tension or mobilization.

A celebration of freedom

On 9 October every year, Leipzig commemorates the peaceful revolution in East Germany that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain across Europe with projections, video performances and candles. The Festival of Lights recalls the events of 9 October 1989 when more than 70,000 demonstrators in Leipzig confronted the security forces of East Germany's communist dictatorship with cries of "We are the people!" Through partnerships with other European cities involved in Eastern Europe’s struggle for freedom, the festival organizers highlight the worldwide importance of those events which changed the face of Europe.