The road to Germany's reunification
To explore contemporary history at its most vivid, look no further than Saxony and Thuringia, once behind the Iron Curtain and now right in the centre of Europe.
The 1989 Peaceful Revolution as a civil rights movement that eventually led to Germany’s reunification is inextricably linked with the so-called Monday demonstrations that took place in Leipzig. They culminated when 70,000 citizens marched through the city on 9 October 1989, chanting the words “We are the people” that have become part of Germany’s collective memory. But it was not just in big cities such as Leipzig where people peacefully took to the streets to demand change. In Plauen, a small town at the former German-German border known for lacemaking, the inhabitants demonstrated every Saturday until the first free elections in March 1990 and a special memorial, inaugurated in 2010, reminds of this extraordinary moment in history.
Reminders of another time
Various sights and events in Saxony and Thuringia remind of the GDR time and Peaceful Revolution: Leipzig celebrates the “Festival of Lights” each year on 9 October while the “Runde Ecke” museum and memorial site in the former Leipzig headquarters of the East German secret police (Stasi) chillingly documents the Stasi’s structure and methods in a thought-provoking permanent exhibition. No less poignant is the “Andreasstrasse Memorial” in Erfurt where the Stasi operated a detention centre for political prisoners from 1952 to 1989 and visitors can see the prison cells and tour a multimedia exhibition. At the former border that divided East and West Germany, the Point Alpha Memorial in Geisa showcases what life was like in the border zone, including original watch towers.