'We were too afraid to go out that night'
The Local · 10 Oct 2014, 08:40
Published: 10 Oct 2014 08:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Oct 2014 08:40 GMT+02:00
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European leaders and former dissidents joined locals in a day of celebrations culminating in a reenactment of the iconic march in the eastern city of Leipzig.
Many Leipzigers, including Erhard and his wife Heidemarie were too afraid to go out onto the streets that night.
They had just come back from Leningrad where they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary to find a city of fear.
Doctors and hospitals had stocked up with blood and bandages. No one expected the East German security services to hold their fire.
With a teenage daughter aspiring to be a primary school teacher, the Lorenzs were torn between fighting for a better future for her and keeping the family safe.
And the courage of the 70,000 who braved the October night so they could speak, read, travel and work how they wanted, shook the communist regime and still amazes the Lorenzs today.
“We were afraid of being shot,” Heidemarie, 71, said. “We stayed at home. But after that we took part in all the demonstrations.”
“The atmosphere in demonstrations after October 9th was electric and peaceful,” another Leipzig woman who did not wish to be named told The Local.
“We did not expect reunification. We wanted freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of movement.”
The Lorenzs agreed. “No one expected things to move as fast as they did. We were not marching for reunification.”
But now that they can celebrate their golden wedding anniversary 25 years later in a reunified Germany, they said: “We are very happy. We were happy to be a part of it.
"Now our daughter teaches in Bavaria. Before we were not allowed to travel to the West together.”
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“It achieved a goal that we in the West had articulated for 40 years," he said on Thursday.
Baker spoke of an “extraordinary and unyielding” desire of people to be free and praised Leipzig for helping to ensure the Cold War ended with a whimper rather than a bang.
“It was one of the most profound demonstrations in world history," he told those gathered inside and outside the Nikolaikirche.
And Baker said in a talk to media outlets including The Local that the speed at which the GDR collapsed took even the White House by surprise.
“It (October 9th) was only one month to the day that the Wall came down.
"Events moved very fast in those days. We were very aware in the US of what was happening here in Leipzig."
But he added: “We were somewhat surprised by the rapid collapse and decline (of the GDR).”
It showed how a state which doesn’t enjoy the support of its people “cannot be expected to last”, Baker warned.
”No one expected it to happen as quickly as it did,” US Ambassador to Germany John Emerson added.
But reliving the events of 25 years ago, Baker stressed the reunification of Germany was a step which could not be taken for granted, despite the successful protests in Leipzig.
“When the Wall came some down some were reluctant to talk about reunification, including in the West,” Baker said.
He later told a crowd of thousands inside and outside Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche that the US overcame those who didn’t want Germany to unify.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French president Francois Mitterrand were sceptical, but President George Bush Sr pushed hard for unification, he said.
“The Soviets were very reluctant to see a unified Germany in Nato,” Baker added.
And responding to reports the US government had promised the Russians that Nato would not expand eastwards as a condition for their tacit support for German reunification in 1990, Baker said: “It is simply not true. (They were) never told it (Nato) would not extend.”