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There is No Revolution to Make without Women. Discussing the "1989" revolution in the GDR

17/10/2019
Sophia BICKHARDT
Valoda: EN
Document available also in: DE

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Von Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1104-045 / Link, Hubert / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Bärbel Bohley, Jutta Seidel and the writer Christa Wolf at the first registered free demonstration on 04.November 1989 in Berlin.


30 years anniversary of the revolution in Leipzig

On 9th October 1989, 30 years ago today, the big demonstration of more than 70,000 citizens took place in Leipzig, which initiated the opening of GDR society. Many had participated in the fear that they would be shot at, the situation was very tense. The author herself was present at the time. The 7th to 9th October were dramatic days in Dresden, Plauen, Berlin, and Leipzig. After the Monday demonstration in Leipzig had ended, a great relief was felt. Often one could hear the word "miracle". From then on, there ware talks of dialogue between the rulers and the governed. The citizens discovered their country, got into conversation with people with whom they otherwise had no contact. Many things became possible all at once. Many became active. And there was much discussion.

The political awakening of women in the GDR

The "Wende" or "Revolution" of 1989 was also the work of women. Bärbel Bohley, Ulrike Poppe and Katja Havemann became famous. However, many others did not. But they were often the ones who gave impulses, inspired and had the courage to start. In addition, there were associations such as the "Lila Offensive" and the Independent Women's Federation, which represented political feminist concerns. They differed from the demands often formulated by women of the old Federal German Republic. The democratic upheaval of women in the GDR was also unique in comparison to the movements in Eastern Europe.

HERstory and the dynamics of the democratic upheaval of 1989

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Erasmus+ Projekt Connecting Memories: The Power of the Past and the Future of Europe
The «weltgewandt» Institute for Intercultural Civic Education has published the text "There is No Revolution to Make Without Women. HERstory and Dynamics of the Democratic Change of 1989 in the GDR". The educational material results from a cooperation between organisations in Helsinki / FIN, Marseille / FR, Lódz / PL, Málaga / SP and Berlin which was funded by the Erasmus+ programme for adult education. Under the title "Connecting Memories. The Power of the Past and the Future of Europe" they took up questions that are controversially debated in the partner's contries and/or neglected in the public memory. The Creative Common licenced texts can be downloaded via the website of weltgewandt e.V. and the project website in English and German for free.

Appreciating the individual actors and women's groups is embedded in considerations on what happened before 1989. Why could the GDR, which seemed so stable, and its leadership lose power so quickly? What were the ideas of those who wanted to change the country? What happened BEFORE the Berlin wall was opened on 9th November? What role does the 9th October 1989 play in this context? Since history is usually discussed in parallel on the three time levels past - present - future, the treatise leads into the reflection of memory politics of the present. This applies in particular to the so-called «unification narrative».

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Von Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-0115-018 / Mittelstädt, Rainer / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Berlin, Round Table with Ingrid Köpper

Teaching materials about the year 1989 in the GDR

According to the European perspective of the project, the material also contains reflections on the democratic upheaval of 1989 in the GDR by citizens from the partner organisations. This nonetheless confirms the starting point of the publication: the knowledge about "1989" can be expanded not only in the younger generation, but also in other European countries. To change this, the concluding method section offers exercises for educational work, which were jointly tested in workshops.

The HERstory approach as well as the focus original documents of this lively historical period offer the possibility to broaden the horizon so that the image of the GDR and its bourgeois revolution in 1989 becomes less 'grey' or 'black-red-gold' (the German flag) but more colourful. This may also offer «connecting points» for discourses beyond the national framework of thinking. And that's what happened during our project.


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Sophia Bickhardt_HERstory Erasmus+ auf EPALE
 Zur Autorin:

 Sophia Bickhardt is a social scientist (political philosophy, political economy) and project head of weltgewandt. Institut für interkulturelle politische Bildung e.V.. She is also a member of the user advisory board Erasmus+ of the National Agency Education for Europe.


You might also want to read:

Political participation: Citizens’ dialogues on Europe’s future at adult education centres


Image rights:

German Federal Archive, Bild 183-1989-1104-045 / Link, Hubert / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5424795

German Federal Archive, Bild 183-1990-0115-018 / Mittelstädt, Rainer / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5425013

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  • Lietotāja Maren Lohrer attēls
    Vielen Dank für diesen wichtigen Beitrag. Ich bin über EPALE Rocks auf Ihren Blog aufmerksam geworden und lese gerade in Ihrer Publikation „Ohne Frauen ist keine Revolution zu machen“. Besten Dank für diese Stimme, die leider in den gängigen Erzählungen von Zeitgeschichte zu wenig Eingang findet.
  • Lietotāja Angela D'Arcy attēls
    The title of this blog is very intriguing.  Having studied history at school and at university, I often wondered why women had been given so little space in the re-telling of the past.  Blogs like these are a good way of addressing this omission.