4th November 1989: On this day in Berlin history, one of the largest organized protests in East Berlin’s history took place. Reports vary, but an estimated 500,000 people (the highest reports estimate 1 million) gathered to protest on Alexanderplatz in support of political reform and greater freedoms for East German citizens.
“What moves a communist at this moment at the sight of hundreds of thousands?
Only he who hears and understands admonition is capable of a new beginning.”
At this point, the DDR was already fragmenting. In August thousands of East Germans had fled west through Hungary to Austria; Erich Honecker had resigned as leader of the country on October 18th and, on October 23rd, 300,000 people demonstrated in Leipzig.
The quote above is from SED Politburo member Günter Schabowski, who spoke at the protest on Alexanderplatz on this day but was booed by the protesters. All were unaware that just five days later he would unwittingly say the words responsible for opening the Berlin Wall.
Friedrich Schorlemmer, a theologian and speaker at the demonstration said:
“For me, November 4 remains a more important date than the opening of the wall on November 9… Because at Alexanderplatz ‘D’ stood first and foremost for ‘Democracy’, not for ‘Deutschland.’”
This slice of On This Day in Berlin History was written by Berlin Guides Association member, Susan Grouchy. It’s one of four noteworthy events she’s chosen to remember this November. Keep an eye on our blog to see what else made the cut.