ABSTRACT

The Stasi’s continued attacks on the groups were in vain. When the citizens’ monitoring networks exposed the fraudulent election results in May 1989, defections from the Party began. After Hungary opened its border with Austria, tens of thousands left the GDR, though the church tried to persuade people to stay and work for reforms. Against the background of an increasingly volatile political situation at home as well as in the Soviet Union and the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, in the autumn of 1989 the first political organizations in opposition to the government were founded with the participation of theologians and lay Protestants. Soon after the candle-lit demonstrations of 9 October, Honecker was removed. When the Berlin Wall was opened on 9 November, the government was already toppling. Free access to the west revealed a divergence of aims within the citizens’ movement, with those in favour of founding a new socialist but democratic GDR in the minority. The church played a major role in the round tables formed to discuss the future and propose changes. In January 1990 the Stasi was dissolved. Freedom had been won in the GDR. Nevertheless, when elections were held on 18 March, the people voted overwhelmingly for unification with West Germany. What brought the GDR to its end? How significant was the role the church had played?