The first of the falling dominos in the former East Germany that led to the collapse of the Berlin wall was in Leipzig, 20 years ago.
Last night the people of the city gathered in their tens of thousands to celebrate the events that, only a month later, would lead to the eventual reunification of their country. Among the guests was the then West German foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher: “Today I would like a message to go out from this place to the whole world: Freedom, no violence, the people shall decide. That is the message of Leipzig”. 70,000 people took their destiny in their own hands 20 years ago when they held pro-democracy demonstrations in Leipzig, as everyone feared a crackdown by the Communist’s secret police. Tienanmen square in Beijing had shocked the world just weeks before. Many thought it could happen to them; people like Gerhard Partei: “Fear was always there. But the crowd was united. We knew what we were doing. The fear was ignored. It was a strange feeling, but it was o.k. We all agreed to do something – peacefully.” Now as then people marched carrying candles, 20 years ago their only weapons, that proved irresistible. The peaceful protests were inspired by the “Monday demonstration” prayer meetings that had begun in a central Leipzig church as early as 1982, but which had by the early autumn of 1989 been full to overflowing.