Wednesday, October 20, 2010

East and West

For the last 20 years, reunification has been an ongoing process in Germany. Looking in from the outside I never really understood the challenges that faced the people involved in the process. After having lived in the old "East Germany" for the past 45 days I have started to see that there are still challenges to overcome.... but that is not really what I want to talk about.

Rather I would like to briefly comment on the resiliency of the German people and the admiration I have for those that stood together for freedom 21 years ago.

In 1989 Leipzig was the center of the peaceful Monday Demonstrations that started on the 4th of September and ran through March of 1990. These protests were a major contributor in the fall of Communism in the East. This movement is now remembered and celebrated on October 9th, which also happens to be near the anniversary of the creation of the DDR (GDR) on October 7th 1949. Regardless, October 9th is now the day to celebrate those who stood together against communism.

The movement started in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, and by 9 October 1989, 70,000 East Germans had joined the demonstrations... the whole time remaining peaceful. By October 16th the number had swelled to nearly 120,000 people and the following week to 320,000 (Leipzig has a population of roughly 500,000). All the while the East German army stood on the sidelines waiting for the order to put a stop to the protests. However, due to the massive size of the movement the military was ordered to stand down and withdraw. I was fortunate enough this year to attend the 21st anniversary of the Monday Demonstrations, at the Nikolaikirche, with some of those who risked everything in the name of freedom.

It was really a touching thing for me. As a person raised in the US having never experienced anything other than freedom, I cannot fully appreciate the struggle that the people around me faced 21 years ago. However, while sitting in the church there was something special happening and it was thick in the air. There was no cheering or shouts of joy, but rather somber reflection on what used to be, the opportunities that lie ahead and most importantly an understanding of the responsibility that comes with freedom.

It is inspiring for me to see the faces of those who were willing to accept unlimited risk and total uncertainty all in the name of freedom. I think that Americans have a lot to learn about what it means to be free and the sacrifices that come in the name of Freedom.


  1. Beautiful post Babe!
    Of course this is coming the day after I decide to tell everyone what you've been up to. I should just be patient and let you tell your own story, you're so much better at it than I ever could be.
    I love you,

  2. You have a wonderful, reflective way with words, Jon. And I wanted to tell you, I love your photos. Beautiful.