ABSTRACT

On 19 September 1989 New Forum (NF) applied to be registered as an organisation, not, it should be noted, as a party. The organisers of this group were Bärbel Bohley and Jutta Seidel. Bohley, a 44-year-old painter, had been arrested in 1988 and forced to spend some time in England. She had the courage to return to the GDR to set up NF. The foundation appeal of NF dated 10 September started from the assumption that ‘In our country the communication between the state and society has apparently broken down.’ The GDR’s citizenry had either retreated into the private sphere or had taken to flight on a scale usually associated with privation, starvation or force. NF therefore sought to establish a political platform for the whole of the GDR that would make it possible for people from all professions, circles, parties, and groups to take part in the discussion about the key prob­ lems facing East German society. NF would be a legal body in the sense of article 29 of the constitution of the GDR. Its efforts were the expression of the desire for justice, democracy and peace as well as the protection of nature. At no point did the Appeal attack individuals or parties, let alone the leading role of the SED or the ‘achievements of the GDR5.1 On the face of it, NF had no desire to overthrow the SED or destroy the GDR. Had the Politburo been clever enough, they would have granted NF a legal status and sought to control it as they did all dissident groups. Instead, on 25 September, the Ministry of Interior informed Bohley and Seidel that NF would not be given legal status.