The Gethsemanekirche made of red bricks is located at a street crossing. People pass by on foot or on bicycles.

Gethsemanekirche, 2022.

A large crowd in front of the altar in the church. Above it hangs a banner with the inscription: Discontinuation of the preliminary proceedings. Annulment of the penalty orders.

Vigil in the Gethsemanekirche on the morning of October 8, 1989.  


The Gentle Trouble Spot

In autumn 1989, the Gethsemanekirche was the meeting place for the opposition in the GDR. Despite brutal police operations, the protests remained peaceful.



On October 1, 1989, the church council of the Gethsemane community made a seemingly insignificant yet historic decision. It granted the request of opposition members to open the house of worship for a vigil. The committed Christians wanted to advocate and pray for the release of demonstrators who had been arrested in Leipzig. There, a few brave people had been protesting for weeks, moving from the Nikolaikirche into the city every Monday evening. The opponents of the regime in East Berlin were also threatened by state power; they were under close surveillance by the informers of the Secret Police.

The vigil received an overwhelming response. On the evening of October 4, 3,000 people came to the church. Some stayed there day and night, a handful fasted. A prayer was followed night after night by a so-called political part. Anyone could step up to the microphone and speak freely, which was not possible anywhere else in public. Victims of arrests and mistreatment talked about their experiences. Others read out names of arrested people and informed the attendees about resistance and persecution in the entire GDR. They received their information around the clock via the contact telephone in the community office.

Most calls came around October 7, 1989. This was the 40th anniversary of the GDR, which the regime celebrated with mass rallies. There was, however, also a spontaneous protest march against the ruling SED moving in the direction of the Gethsemanekirche. Around the place of worship, police and intelligence services acted brutally against the demonstrators and arresting hundreds, many fled into the church. Western television teams were on the scene and broadcast these images of violence. Relatives and friends of those arrested from all over the GDR came to the church to learn about their fate.

On October 9, the mood was particularly tense. News arrived from Leipzig about additional hospital beds and blood supplies having been made available. This nurtured the fear that the Monday demonstrations could be brutally crushed. Many believed that the state would then certainly also take action against the peaceful protest in the Gethsemanekirche. Soon, however. the relieving news came that there had not been any acts of state violence in Leipzig. The 70,000 demonstrators were so many that those responsible did not decide to use violence. The crowd in the Gethsemanekirche cheered. Many of those present felt this news was a turning point. Real change now seemed possible.

Even after the night shifts in the Gethsemanekirche had ended on October 13, the church remained an important meeting place for newly founded political groups in the GDR. The New Forum or Democracy Now presented their ideas here, creative people and initiatives made announcements. They all discussed the GDR’s future. After the free elections in March 1990, the People's Chamber celebrated a service in the Gethsemanekirche. This was how the peaceful revolution ended at one of its hotspots.


Contemporary Witnesses Report

The Gethsemanekirche offered shelter for dissidents. A telephone in the community centre helped opposition members in the GDR to stay in touch with each other. Activists from back then report on conversations and actions.

Margitta Kupler took calls on the contact phone.
Frank Ebert organzied a vigil
Marianne Birthler speaks about the disunity of the GDR opposition.
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During the peaceful revolution, the Gethsemanekirche in Prenzlauer Berg provided an important shelter for people who rebelled against the political system. Here they organized themselves and exchanged important information.


Margitta Kupler

The community let activists from the citizens’ movement use its telephone line. Margitta Kupler, a 16-year-old girl from East Berlin at the time, recalls how she answered calls from all over the GDR on the so-called contact telephone.

"We were the point where information was collected and shared and it was simply a matter of saying: What is happening here in the state right now? Where are demonstrations? Where are calls to action? Where can you get involved? But also: What’s happening right now? Have there been arrests? It has to be told when there are arrests, when there is imprisonment. That’s why the contact telephone was founded. You had to make sure that you didn’t slip into anonymity, into oblivion, but that an official forum was created here to say: We know that! We know that and we will ask: Where are they? When will they be released? What are they accused of? Is the state adhering to the legal norms here?"


Frank Ebert

As a young adult, Frank Ebert was engaged in the peaceful revolution. He talks about how he organized together with others a vigil in the Gethsemanekirche for the release of political prisoners. 

"So the special thing about the whole situation back then in October 1989 was that the population reacted very positively towards this event and was to some extent actively showing solidarity. Right at the beginning. It started with food donations: Tea, coffee and bread, things like that. It was really phenomenal and happened in a short amount of time. You have to imagine it like this: The first day we were maybe twenty people in the church. Those were, of course, only those that knew about it. And the next day we were a few hundred and then we became several thousand."


Marianne Birthler

The civil rights activist Marianne Birthler talks about how the GDR opposition members in 1989/90 disagreed about what they actually wanted to achieve.  

"It was like a magnet. Many people who were dissatisfied came there. Later, that often caused frustration: Where have all the civic activists gone? There used to be thousands of them! But I think that is a fatal mistake. So: A lot of people in the GDR agreed as to what they were against. The GDR, as it existed at the time, no longer had any approval. If you asked the other way around: What are you for, then, if you no longer want this GDR? Then, of course, the opinions differed a lot. I don’t think the people who came from the citizens’ movement can claim to have really spoken for majorities of the population."

Close Memories


Places Nearby

Discover additional places related to Revolution, Unity and Transformation nearby. The sites on the map are less than 2 kilometres away. Continue exploring Berlin.


Stargader Str. 77
10437 Berlin
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