Reunification that did not unite

There was a sense of Götterdämmerung prevailing over parades and reception festivities when the DDR celebrated its 40th anniversary on 6-8 October 1989. Bombastic speeches in the Palace of the Republic were interrupted by the largest demonstration in East Berlin since the uprising of 17 June 1953.

For angry citizens of the DDR, the eerie anniversary festivities and the hypocrisy of the regime were drops that made the cup run over. The discontent, suppressed for so long, exploded. On 9 October, 70,000 people marched through Leipzig chanting, “We’re the people!” and “Gorbi, Gorbi.”

But none of this made any impact on Erich Honecker. Unperturbed, he cranked out his standard “life is a bed of roses” speech about the splendours of DDR socialism. That is when the younger members in the Politburo became frightened. If DDR socialism and hence their own position were to be saved, Honecker had to go.

On 17 October, th...

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Barbro Eberan

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