How the End of East Germany Began

Monday, May 11, 2009
For years, there's been an active international campaign -- initiated by the Castro regime and widespread through the media -- dismissing opponents of the regime as a small and relatively unknown movement.  The fact remains that Cuba's repressed opposition is currently, proportionally as large -- if not larger -- than what was seen in Eastern Europe throughout the 1980's.

That being said, Germany's Spiegel provided fascinating insight this weekend regarding the last year of East Germany's existence. 
 
Here are some excerpts:
 
The end of East Germany was ushered in by massive protests across the country.  But opposition to the communist dictatorship started with a whisper.
 
May 7, 1989 was a sunny day in Berlin, both East and West.  By then, the Wall had been standing for almost 28 years, and few -- no matter which side of the barrier they called home -- thought it would disappear any time soon.
 
And yet, the beautiful spring day was far from ordinary in communist East Germany.  Municipal elections were scheduled -- and everyone living in Erich Honecker's dictatorship knew the ground rules.  Everyone was expected to make their way to their local voting station and approve the list of candidates put together by the ruling SED party.  There was no opposition.  For those who forgot to vote, the East German secret police, the feared Stasi, promptly showed up with a reminder.
 
In the evening, the results were announced.  Fully 98.85 percent had voted to approve the SED list -- that, at least was what state officials reported.  As it turned out, however, not everything went completely according to plan on that May day two decades ago.
 
In the weeks prior to the vote, a handful of opposition activists had called for East Germans to boycott the elections with fliers critical of the Honecker regime appearing on the streets.  And on the evening of May 7, after opposition groups smuggled clear evidence of election fraud to the West German media -- news which was then broadcast back across the border into East Germany -- the unthinkable happened.  A few dozen East Germans gathered to protest the "election" results.
 
It didn't take long, of course, for those initial, tentative protests to bloom into the mass demonstrations that would eventually bring about the fall of the Berlin Wall that November.  There would be plenty of help -- from Gorbachev's policy of perestroika to the gradual opening of borders throughout the summer of 1989 in other communist countries across Eastern Europe.
 
But, much of the pressure came from below -- from the thousands who continued gathering weekly in Leipzig and in other cities across East Germany, to the mass demonstration on Alexanderplatz five days before the borders between the two Germanys were opened.