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Revisited

Thirty years later, spirit of 1989 lives on in eastern German city of Leipzig

REVISITED
REVISITED FRANCE 24

The fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989, has its rightful place in the history books. But a month earlier, it was a little further south, in Leipzig, that the first major protests took place in a show of force against the East German Communist regime. FRANCE 24’s reporters returned to the city where the "peaceful revolution" began.

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On October 9, 1989, tens of thousands of people gathered in churches in Leipzig, in the eastern state of Saxony, before flooding out onto the streets. The city’s residents were craving freedom and change. Despite the 8,000 police officers mobilised by the East German Communist regime that night, locals were no longer afraid to express themselves.

In the following weeks, demonstrations spread across the country. A month later, the Berlin Wall fell, marking the end of the German Democratic Republic and paving the way for reunification.

Thirty years after these events that shaped history and reunified Germany, Leipzig is one of the most successful cities in the former East Germany. But despite the passage of time, the standard of living, wages and pensions remain much lower than in the West, and the trauma of the forced transition in the 1990s from a planned system to a market economy remains palpable.

According to a poll published earlier this year, 66 percent of people in the state of Saxony feel they are second-class citizens. Meanwhile, the far right is gaining ground, to the extent that three decades on, the activists who mobilised in 1989 against the Berlin Wall are today fighting against racism and nationalism.
 

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