Thomas Steinert Leipzig, Böhlitz-Ehrenberg

Leipzig, Böhlitz-Ehrenberg
Leipzig-Volkmarsdorf, Elisabethstraße Leipzig, Böhlitz-Ehrenberg Leipzig, Großzschocher

On Monday, 18/09/1989, my attic flat in Leipzig-Connewitz, Pfeffingerstraße 10, received an official visit that I had been anticipating for many years. Following a short discussion more akin to an interrogation, a resolute lady from the municipal housing administration handed me papers for a reconstructed apartment in a far-distant district of the city. The building in which I had been living for the past ten years was finally to be demolished. 

In my new home a friend that worked as a plumber on the construction site for the new tower blocks in Paunsdorf helped me to install my photo lab. In broad daylight we loaded up the trailer with water pipes, which he had already cut to the right lengths. During this he told me that the previous Monday the prayers for peace at the Nikolaikirche had been followed by a march by thousands of people calling for democratic reform that had encircled the city centre completely for the first time. The following Monday I was there with my girlfriend. To begin with we strolled ‘innocuously’ around the city centre, arriving ‘coincidentally’ at the Nikolaikirche at the appoint-ed hour. My camera, my sole source of income, had been left at home as a precaution. At the entrance to the Theaterpassage we stopped in front of a shop window. The Nikolaikirchhof was filling up fast. Most of the people were around my age. When the leaders came out of the church banners were raised and people called: “Gorbi, Gorbi”, with some even starting to sing the Internationale. Voices chorused: “Join us, join us”, crying: “We are staying here” or: “We are the people”. The procession began to move off, joined constantly by more demonstrators. It -followed the same route that Leipzigers were accustomed to marching along on public holidays. In front of the opera house stood a policeman with a dog, trying to prevent the people from walking onto the grass. We had already passed the railway station when I noticed that we were being photographed from the pedestrian bridge. We made ourselves scarce. 

During the week we attended a meeting at the church on Nordplatz to prepare for the next demonstration. In the crowded nave a representative of the Neues Forum welcomed the ano-nymous guests from the Stasi before informing us of the objectives of the new oppositional grouping. In order to achieve these goals, he said, it was imperative that the coming Monday demonstration should also pass off peacefully, and that no resistance should be offered, even if arrested, because, he assured us: “We soon get everyone back out again!” 

As the father of my girlfriend had advised her against attending, I arranged to meet my friend in Manetstraße on Monday, 09 October. However, his wife refused to let him out of the apartment. He should think of his two small children, she almost locked me away, too. As it was already late as I finally got away, I walked towards the procession of demonstrators. The city was quiet and the streets were empty. In front of the district administration offices of the Stasi stood a policeman, in the middle of the road, waving black and white-striped batons to direct one tram after another backwards around the “round corner” where the Stasi building was located, confused passengers peered from the windows. I took the route straight through the city, where the procession had begun. Here too, everything was quiet, apart from loudspeakers endlessly repeating the appeals made by prominent citizens that afternoon. In the dark passages of the Gewandhaus and university men of the militia stood next to their vehicles, smoking and talking to young people. I joined them to listen in on their conversations. All of them were not only relieved at the peaceful course of the demonstration but also largely agreed on the assessment of the situation as a whole. I took the next tram to the district of Connewitz to bring the victorious news to my former local bar. As usual, the mood at this late hour was a spirited one at “Frau Krause” and my report was of scarce interest to anyone. Even when I declared “Just think – in a year‘s time we‘ll be sitting in a bar in Paris”, the response was merely “Nothing will change here!” Elated, I set off on the long trip to my new home. What a “comfortable” revolution!