Monday, 29 September 2014

leipziger freiheit oder wir sind das volk

Other urban centres—perhaps most famously Munich, have neighbourhoods, avenues called Freiheit—what with the Münchener Freiheit though that was something I always understood as Freitzeit, a boulevard to stroll for one’s own leisurely pursuits. The Leipziger Freitheit does not seem to be a particular locale but rather a perennial celebration of the seminal and decisive night of 9 October 1989 (DE/EN), the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of the Deutsche Demokratic Republik, the DDR.
Scant weeks after the first Montagsdemo, held under the auspices and protection of the Nikolaikirche pastors, keeping the assembly peaceful no matter what the authorities tried was presented as something sacrosanct. Security forces were girded for anything, except the prayers for peace and candle-lit vigil of some seventy-thousand souls marching en masse. There was no violent opposition—and it seems that protesters and the police became united in this pact. Numbers grew in the following weeks and the movement spread to other cities, encouraged by their own success and extensive coverage by the Western press.
A month later, the Wall came down and ushered the fall of the regime and German reunification, brought about by the convictions and contagious bravery of the people. Leipzig has been honouring this day—and not just for that quarter of a century that has passed, and includes many stations for reflection with vistas over a city illuminated for the occasion.
 The hopeful occasion of the Mauerfall is not remembered, however, on the exact date because of the coincidence of the Schicksalstag, the ninth of November already time-stamped with the abdication of the monarchy near the conclusion of World War I, the coup of Hitler and Kristallnacht and seeming hardly an auspicious day for unity.