Voices Of A Revolution: Leipzig

The revolution that brought down the communist regime in East Germany began in the city of Leipzig, about 100 miles from Berlin. There, a Lutheran pastor and his congregation began holding prayer meetings that eventually grew into massive demonstrations demanding peaceful change. As part of our series Voices of a Revolution, we hear from that pastor, the Rev. Christian Fuhrer.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are listening to firsthand accounts of that time. All week, we will mark the anniversary with stories from people who took part in the mostly peaceful revolutions across Eastern Europe.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The mass movement that toppled the East German government began in the city of Leipzig. A Lutheran pastor, the Reverend Christian Fuhrer started holding weekly prayers for peace at his church. Those gatherings grew into nonviolent candlelit protests by tens of thousands of people.

NORRIS: Now, Reverend Fuhrer tells us everyone feared the Communists would crack down violently. But as one Communist official in Leipzig said, we were prepared for everything except the prayers and candles. Heres Reverend Fuhrer with his story.

Reverend CHRISTIAN FUHRER (Lutheran Pastor, East Germany): (Through Translator) In September, the Stasi, the secret police, started beating people up and arresting them in large numbers in front of the church. So we started to make lists of the people arrested, and we put those lists on display in public right here by the church door.

But that terrible sense of dread and fear did not subside. And I became really afraid that the people coming to the church every week were in serious danger of being shot. Yet we didnt give up on our Monday peace prayers or even call them into question. Instead, we ask other churches in the center to hold peace prayers, too, so as many people as possible would take part and spread Jesus message of nonviolence.

On Monday, the 9th of October, when we tried to leave the church after evening peace prayers, the square and the streets were completely flooded with people; people everywhere. And as this mass of 70,000 people with their candles and flowers trying to move peacefully toward the city center, I felt immense gratitude because no one shot at them. I also felt that the GDR that evening was not the same GDR of the previous day. Something huge and completely different had happened.

What I saw that evening still gives me the shivers today. And if anything deserves the word "miracle" at all, then this was a miracle of Biblical proportions. We succeeded in bringing about a revolution which achieved Germanys unity. This time without war and military might.

It was a peaceful revolution after so much violence and so many wars that we, the Germans, so often started. I will never forget that day.

BLOCK: Thats Reverend Christian Fuhrer who played a key role in the protest that led to the fall of communism in East Germany. Today, the reverend is semi-retired, but remains active in the St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig. He says the events of 1989 reaffirmed his deep faith in the power of nonviolent social change.

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