The first Republic of workers and farmers on German soil

"Wer zu spät kommt, den bestrafft das Leben", or so Mikhail Gorbatsjow lectured his comrades at the SED-Politburo on 5th October 1989, when attending the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic. One month later, the Berlin Wall came down and the iron curtain between the people of West and East Europe had vanished.

The events of the fall began in the wonderful summer months of 1989, when East-German holidaymakers crossed the Hungarian-Austrian border or occupied western embassies in Prague. And then, there were these truly historic, peaceful and massive Monday evening rallies in front of the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, that were to tilt the political balance.

The remarkable succession of slogans expressed the evolution in the minds of the East-German people. At first, the fear was sensible in the old slogan "Allein bist du Klein." But very soon, the protest against local election fraud resulted in the all too obvious "Wir sind das Volk", which in turn evolved into the much more dangerous "Wir wollen raus" and "Wir sind ein Volk", only to end with a mighty political statement: "Deutschland, einig Vaterland."

History was written when fear disappeared. With the Berlin Wall, the empty rhetoric of the "First Republic of workers and farmers on German soil" came down as well.

In the years following the Wende, some disapointment surfaced about the merits of living in the West "(Wir waren das Volk)." But there were other surprises as well. Even a sightseeing tour in the Stasi premises became possible, including snapshots in the very office of Erich Mielke, the once feared, almighty chief of the "Ministerium für Staatssicherheit" (Stasi).

By contrast to the early slogans of the Revolution, a new call surfaced: "Wir wollen rein", leading to the storming of the central and peripheral Stasi-premises. In much the same way as millions of West- and East Germans did, I also asked the so-called Gauck Behörde in Berlin for a copy of the files that I assumed zealous Stasi officers had written on myself. And yes, what I imagined, had happened only too well. Files and cards proved that I had indeed been shadowed, not only by Stasi agents but, more worrying, by military intelligence as well - just like so many other journalists.