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East Germany in Front of the Camera in the Fall of 1989

Leipzig in the Fall

The documentary Leipzig in the Fall (Dirs.: Gerd Kroske, Andreas Voigt; 1989) was not part of the official DEFA-film production plan. […] Andreas Voigt shared details about the pre-production process in an exclusive interview published on the DVD Leipzig in the Fall: “The first mass demonstrations had already taken place in Leipzig, Berlin and Dresden. […] In the early morning of October 16th, I met with a few colleagues in the DEFA Documentary Film Studio conference room. I had drafted a letter. We briefly discussed and then signed it. I took this letter to the interim studio manager (the manager was sick) and told him: ‘We must shoot now.’ […]To be on the safe side, he declared the shooting was ‘for archival purposes.’” […] This 1989 documentary became the most comprehensive documentary of the demonstrations in Leipzig during the fall of 1989 and the team around Kroske/Voigt was the only professional crew shooting in Leipzig.

But at the same time, other DEFA-filmmakers, students of the Academy for Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg and other teams documented the historic events happening in major cities across East Germany.
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After many GDR citizens fled to West German embassies in Budapest, Prague and Warsaw at the beginning of August 1989, the protests in East Germany grew. The civil rights movement was organized through various officially-recognized groups like Demokratie Jetzt (Democracy Now), Neues Forum (New Forum) and Demokratischer Aufbruch (Democratic Awakening).
On September 4, 1989 after the Monday evening prayers for peace at Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche, approximately 1,000 people gathered in front of the church and made demands such as “Stasi, get out!” and “Free travel, instead of the flight of masses!” The call “We want to go!” changed into “We’re staying here!” This was the start of the Monday demonstrations that quickly spread to all major cities across the GDR.
More and more people gathered on Leipzig’s streets on the following Monday evenings, and on October 2, a series of vigils for East German political prisoners held at the Gethsemanekirche in Berlin began.
On October 7, protests in response to the official 40th anniversary celebration of the GDR on Alexanderplatz in Berlin were met with violent repression and the arrest of 1,047 protesters. Demonstrations were organized across the GDR in Leipzig, Magdeburg, Dresden and Karl Marx Stadt (today: Chemnitz).
Only two days later, Leipzig witnessed its largest protest since the June 1953 East German workers’ uprising. 70,000 people (two Mondays later this number grew to 320,000) chanted “We are the people!” Over 8,000 security forces were activated, and hospitals and doctors were on alert.
In Leipzig and other cities, the demonstrations continued until March 1990, shortly before the first free elections.
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The countrywide demonstrations, the political changes that were enacted and the very personal experiences have all been documented in numerous films that were made during the weeks that led up to the night of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989.

This is a selection of films that will give an idea about the richness of documentary filmmaking during that fall:

Dresden, Oktober 89 – Die Revolution findet nach Feierabend statt
(transl. Dresden, October 89 – The Revolution Takes Place after Work)
East Germany, DEFA, 1989, 28 min., b/w, 35mm
Dir.: Róza Berger-Fiedler

One of the few female East German documentary filmmakers, Róza Berger-Fiedler, documented with her team the events in Dresden using the 35mm format. Berger-Fiedler’s film includes: an interview with the Minister for Young People, Martin Henker, who talks about the violent collisions between the demonstrators and the police in the center of Dresden and the arrest and disappearance of demonstrators; three members of the “Group of 20” (founded on October 8, 1989) share their experiences; impressions from the demonstration on October 23.
This film was screened at the 1990 Berlin International Film Festival.
Rights Holder: DEFA-Stiftung / PROGRESS Film-Verleih.

In Berlin 16. 10. - 4. 11. 89
(transl. In Berlin October 16 – November 4, 1989)
East Germany, DEFA Studio, 1989, 65 min., color, 35mm
By: Jochen Denzler, Petra Tschörtner, Hans Wintgen, Kamera: Wolfgang Dietzel, Herbert Hannapp, Christian Lehmann, Jürgen Rudow, Rainer Schulz

The film team collected material that reflects on the three weeks of peaceful revolution in East Germany. They show people debating and demonstrating in East Berlin, they report from events at the Gethsemanekirche at Prenzlauer Berg and from the mass demonstration on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz on November 4, 1989, where almost one million people called for reforms and democracy.
Rights Holder: DEFA-Stiftung / PROGRESS Film-Verleih.

Imbiß spezial
(transl. Snack Bar – Special)
East Germany, DEFA, 1990, 27 min., b/w
By: Gerd Kroske, Thomas Heise, Sebastian Richter

October 1989 from the point of view of East Berlin workers at a subway snack bar in Berlin-Lichtenberg. While running between the kitchen and the bar, workers talk about their experiences which differ from the media reports.
Rights Holder: DEFA-Stiftung / PROGRESS Film-Verleih.

Liebe Nina...
(transl. Dear Nina…)
East Germany, DEFA, 1989, 24 min., color
Dir.: Thomas Kuschel | Camera: Andreas Bergmann, Nico Pawloff

Photojournalist Nina is a member of the SED.
During a demonstration in Berlin on October 7, 1989, she was brutally beaten while doing her job as a journalist, causing her to be hospitalized for several weeks. With this sensitive portrait of the woman, the director reconstructs the violent events on that day.
Rights Holder: DEFA-Stiftung / PROGRESS Film-Verleih.

(transl. Bulk Waste)
East Germany, DEFA, 1990, 80 min., color
Dir.: Helke Misselwitz | Script: Helke Misselwitz, Gerd Kroske  | Camera: Thomas Plenert

They drum on objects that other people have thrown away. "Sperrmüll" is what the four boys call themselves. They grew up in the new housing estates of the capital city Berlin, at an age where one still has dreams. Curious about what will become of them, the team began to film in the early summer of 1989, concentrating on one of the boys and his mother, who left for the West.
Rights Holders: DEFA-Stiftung / DEFA-Spektrum

Aufbruch 89 - Dresden & Epilog
(transl. Awakening 89 - Dresden & Epilogue)
East Germany, Academy for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg, 1989, 62 min. +30min., 16mm
By Thomas Rist, Katja Hofmann, Volker Langhoff, Rene Junge, Sabine Wittig, Thomas Eichberg

Students of the East German Film Academy report about the thousands of people who left via Budapest and Prague for West Germany. They show the packed trains that left from the main train station in Dresden to the West. The film includes interviews with citizens and shows for the very first time footage of the events at the Dresden main train station that was filmed on behalf of the Stasi.
Rights Holder: Hochschule fuer Film und Fernsehen Potsdam-Babelsberg (Academy for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg)

Es lebe die R…
(transl. Long Live the R…)
East Germany, Academy for Film and Television, 1989, 29 min., color, U-matic
Dir.:  Joern Zielke | Camera: Tobias Albrecht, Jakobine Motz, Gero Steffen
Production: Karl-Martin Loetsch | Editing: Peter Hartwig

A student-made documentary about Leipzig and Babelsberg in the fall of 1989.
Rights Holder: Hochschule fuer Film und Fernsehen Potsdam-Babelsberg (Academy for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg)

10 Tage im Oktober
(transl. 10 Days in October)
East Germany, Academy for Film and Television, 1989, 53 min., color, 16mm
Dir.: Thomas Frick | Camera: Olaf Kreiss | Production: Thomas Zickler | Editing: Gudrun Prietz, Carola Schaefer

October 1989: more and more people meet at the Gethsemanekirche in Berlin. The filmmakers discuss with the people the political situation in the country. They also interview people who were arrested during the demonstrations, as well as policemen and officials.
Rights Holder: Hochschule fuer Film und Fernsehen Potsdam-Babelsberg (Academy for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg)

Der Fall der Mauer
The Fall of the Wall
West Germany, Spiegel TV, 1989, 87 min., color

The Spiegel TV-reportingteam was the only film group that was on location when the checkpoint Bornholmer Street (between Prenzlauer Berg and Wedding) was opened at 10:00 pm on November 9, 1989. The film reconstructs the events that led up to the opening of the checkpoint.
Rights Holder: Spiegel TV.
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The following list of documentary films related to the fall of1989 was compiled by documentary filmmaker, film historian and curator Günter Jordan. (April 16, 2010)

Produced by the DEFA Studio for Documentary Films

Director German Title
Róza Berger-Fiedler Dresden, Oktober 89 – Die Revolution findet nach Feierabend statt (1989)
Selbstbesinnung der Sprachlosen (1990)
Jürgen Böttcher Die Mauer (1990)
Heinz Brinkmann Ich sehe hier noch nicht die Sonne (1990)
Komm in den Garten (1990, zus. mit Jochen Wisotzki)
Jochen Denzler In Berlin 16.10. – 4.11.89 (1989, together with Hans Wintgen)
Prenzlauer Berg (1990)
Thomas Heise 4.11.89 (1989)
Imbiß spezial (1989/1990)
Zuchthaus Brandenburg, Dezember ’89, in: Material (2009)
Lew Hohmann    See: Achim Tschirner
Georg Kilian    Aufbruch Leipzig – Oktober 1989 (1990)
Volker Koepp    Neues aus Wittstock (1990)
Märkische Gesellschaft mbH (1991)
Jochen Kraußer Wind sei stark (1990)
Der Gordische Knoten (1991)
Gerd Kroske Kehraus (1990)
Thomas Kuschel Liebe Nina ... (1989/1990)
Ralf Marschalleck Streng vertraulich oder Die innere Verfassung (1990)
Gebrochen deutsch (1991)
Helke Misselwitz Sperrmüll (1990)
Karlheinz Mund Aufgeben oder neu beginnen (Walter Janka) (1989/1990)
Zeitschleife – Im Dialog mit Christa Wolf (1990/1991)
Hans-Dieter Rutsch Naja, der Robert (Havemann) (1991)
Kurt Tetzlaff Im Durchgang (1990)
Im Übergang (1991)
Joachim Tschirner Max III (1990)
Ein schmales Stück Deutschland (1990, together with Lew Hohmann and Klaus Salge)
Keine Gewalt (1990, together with Lew Hohmann)
Katrins Hütte (1991)
Kein Abschied – nur fort (1991, together with Lew Hohmann)
Diesseits und jenseits der deutschen Grenze (1990, together with Lew Hohmann)
Petra Tschörtner Berlin Prenzlauer Berg (1990)
Eduard Schreiber Östliche Landschaft (1991)
Andreas Voigt    Leipzig im Herbst (1989, together with Gerd Kroske)
Letztes Jahr Titanic (1991)

Produced by HFF – Academy for Film and Television Potsdam-Babelsberg

Beate Fichtner-Neumann Im Schatten der Mauer (1990)
Thomas Frick & Team Zehn Tage im Oktober (1989)
Henry Köhler Die fünfte Jahreszeit (1991)
Jana Püchner Deutschland ist so groß und schön (1990)
Kerstin Süske Makulatur 7/10/89 (1989)
Thomas Rist & Team Aufbruch’89 – Dresden (1989)
Jörn Zielke & Team Es lebe die R... (1989)

Produced by Zeitzeugen TV c/o defa-spektrum

Thomas Grimm Demokratischer Aufbruch (1989)
Verlorene Lieder – verlorene Zeiten (1989/1994)
Protokollstrecke: Kunst in der DDR (1990)
Die Anhörung (1990)
Deutsch und frei (1990)

For more films and information, please check the websites:

For questions related to the website please contact
Jessica Hale