Photo Gallery Leipzig's Peaceful Revolution

Oct. 9 is a monumental day in German history. The residents of Leipzig took to the streets under the banner 'We Are the People' and sparked peaceful protests that would trigger the fall of the Berlin Wall only a few weeks later.
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The peaceful protests began at Leipzig's 800-year-old Nicolairkirche church, where East German dissidents had been gathering for almost a decade to pray and talk politics. At times there were fewer than a dozen people in the church, but all through the 1980s the meetings happened every Monday without fail. Eventually, they attracted people eager to discuss a wide range of causes, from the environment to the right to travel freely.

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Former Nikolaikirche pastor Christian Fuehrer in 2009: Pastors Christian Fuehrer and Christoph Wonneberger had never seen so many people in the church. It was Oct. 9, 1989, and the two young pastors knew they were on the verge of something huge. "There were 8,000 people inside -- more couldn't fit," Fuehrer said.

Foto: ddp
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A group of protesters hold up a sign reading, "We don't want violence! We want change." The term "no violence" was the credo of the peaceful revolution that emerged out of Leipzig and ultimately sped up the collapse of communist East Germany.

Foto: DPA
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East German riot police are deployed in Leipzig on Oct. 7, 1989. It was never a given that the police would act peacefully in the end. The East German regime had been supportive of the Chinese crackdown on Tiananmen Square and, officially, police were given permission to resort to violence to stop the Leipzig protests. Ultimately, though, they cowered in the presence of tens of thousands of protesters.

Foto: ? Reuters Photographer / Reuters/ REUTERS
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Two members of East German Stasi secret police pull a banner away from a young East German protester. During the main protest march, the Stasi planted plainclothes officers in the crowd to cause trouble, but they were all quickly surrounded and neutralized by protesters chanting "no violence."

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The protesters marched along Leipzig's ring road, and the city center overflowed with protesters on that fateful day. The communist regime gave orders to respond to demonstrators with violence, but with such sheer masses of protesters, security forces acted with reserve.

Foto: ? Reuters Photographer / Reuters/ REUTERS
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"Gorbi, Gorbi, Help Us!" By the fall of 1989, the prayer meetings had evolved into a nationwide movement centered in Leipzig. It would set the stage for a peaceful revolution that swept across East Germany.

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The marches earned Leipzig the nickname "Heldenstadt," or "hero city."

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Here, a child holds a protest banner: "Reforms for school."

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One of the key demands of the protesters was free elections for all East Germans. A banner in the back reads: "We are the people! End the SED (Communist Party's) entitlement to power and give us a free vote!"

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A parade marking the 40th anniversary of East Germany: Both Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (seventh from left) and East German leader Erich Honecker (eight from left) can be seen on this grand stand in East Berlin. With his glasnost policies, Gorbachev helped set the political stage for the protests.

Foto: ADN/ dpa
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