Demonstration and Rally
on the 4th of November 1989

On the morning of 4 November 1989, approximately 500,000 demonstrators (sometimes the number is even said to have been nearly a million) made their way through East Berlin's center, past the East German Parliament and the Privy Council Building. At the end a rally was held on Alexanderplatz at which numerous speakers took the floor.

The demonstration, with its concluding rally, is a highlight of the democracy movement in the GDR. The idea came about in the New Forum (an oppositional alliance founded in September 1989); Berlin's creative artists took over the implementation and organization. [1]

The organizers registered the event officially, in order to take legal proceedings for the recovery of the basic right to the freedoms of assembly, of expression and of the press, which were anchored in the constitution of the GDR, but never actually granted by the state. A security partnership was agreed upon with the police, who hardly made an appearance. Actors with green and yellow sashes and the inscription »No Violence« acted as supervisors.

»Never before had Berlin experienced so much shared determination, spontaneous imagination and, despite all radicalism, circumspection.« [2] Many demonstrators voiced their annoyance and demands with original, witty banners. Radical reforms were also demanded in the speeches given on Alexanderplatz. »The structures of this society must be changed, if they are to become democratic and socialist. ... Let us create a democratic society, on a legal foundation, which is liable!« (Christoph Hein) [3]

Henning Schaller, one of the organizers, described later: »Even beforehand, there were solid arguments and discrepancies as to who one... should let speak. Speakers like Markus Wolf, Günther Schabowski and Manfred Gerlach were criticized by many. But my opinion was that the spectrum of speakers should be as broad as that which the whole collapsing GDR had to offer ... But then again and again we had to demand the crowd, who flared up at the hard-liners, to let them talk and to listen carefully, because often enough these speakers exposed themselves.« [4]

For the first time, a demonstration for the democracy movement was broadcast live by GDR television, during which one of the commentator's statements was: »The people have overcome their speechlessness«. On the same day, there were large protest rallies in many other cities of the GDR.

»The 4th of November will become a landmark. From now on, the Socialist leadership can no longer side-step the demands of the masses; there's no going back to the old ruling practices.« [5]


[1] Jutta Seidel, founding member of the New Forum. In: Bilderchronik der Wende, ed. by Hannes Bahrmann and Christoph Links, Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1999, page 36 up
[2] Hannes Bahrmann, Christoph Links: Chronik der Wende, Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1994, page 79 up
[3] Christoph Hein in his speech on 4.11.1989. Website of the German Historical Museum, Berlin up
[4] Quoted from: Bilderchronik der Wende, ed. by Hannes Bahrmann and Christoph Links, Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1999, page 36 up
[5] Hannes Bahrmann, Christoph Links: Chronik der Wende, Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1999, page 64 up


Stefan Heym:
»... it is as if one pushed open the window after all the years of stagnation --spiritual, economic, and political-- the years of dullness and mustiness, of phrasemongering and bureaucratic arbitrariness, of official blindness and deafness.« ... »Someone wrote me - and the man is right: In the past weeks we have overcome our speechlessness, and we are now in the process of learning to walk upright.«
Stefan Heym, website of the German Historical Museum, Berlin

Christa Wolf:
»The 'people of the state of the GDR' have hit the street in order to identify themselves as a 'people'. And for me, this is the most important sentence of these past weeks - the thousandfold cry: We - are - the - people! A simple statement. We don't want to forget it.«
Christa Wolf, website of the German Historical Museum, Berlin

in order of their appearance:
(professional activity in November 1989)

Marion van de Kamp (actress)

Johanna Schall (actress)

Ulrich Mühe (actor)

Jan Josef Liefers (actor)

Gregor Gysi (lawyer)

Marianne Birthler (catechist, Initiative for Feedom and Human Rights)

Kurt Demmler (singer, sang the song »Irgendwer ist immer dabei«)

Markus Wolf (colonel-general retd. of the Ministry for State Security of the GDR)

Jens Reich (molecular biologist, founding member of the New Forum)

Manfred Gerlach (chairman of the Liberal-Democratic Party in Germany)

Ekkehard Schall (actor)

Günter Schabowski (first secretary of the District Management of the (East) German United Socialist Party, member of the Politburo)

Stefan Heym (writer)

Friedrich Schorlemmer (theologian)

Christa Wolf (writer)

Tobias Langhoff (actor)

Annekathrin Bürger (actress, sang »Words from a Political Prisoner to Stalin«)

Joachim Tschirner (director of documentary films)

Klaus Baschleben (journalist)

Heiner Müller (writer)

Lothar Bisky (cultural studies scholar, Rector of the Potsdam-Babelsberg Film Academy)

Roland Freitag (student, Humboldt-University Berlin)

Christoph Hein (writer)

Robert Juhoras (student, University Budapest)

Konrad Elmer (lecturer)

Steffi Spira (actress)

Links, Literary References

Redner und Reden (Speakers)
Website of the German Historical Museum, Berlin

Chronik der Wende
Website of the television documentation by Ostdeutschen Rundfunks Brandenburg, broadcast every evening from 6 October 1999 until 18 March 2000

Hannes Bahrmann, Christoph Links:
Chronik der Wende: die Ereignisse in der DDR zwischen 7. Oktober 1989 und 18. März 1990
Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1999

Hannes Bahrmann, Christoph Links:
Bilderchronik der Wende. Erlebnisse aus der Zeit des Umbruchs 1989/90
Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 1999

(Translation: Holly Austin)

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Denkzeichen 4. November 1989