A Speech in East Berlin

Christa Wolf, translated by Henning Gutmann

The following is an excerpt from a speech by the East German writer Christa Wolf, delivered at the Alexanderplatz in East Berlin on November 4 during a demonstration by over 500,000 people against the East German regime:

I have my difficulties with the term “change of course.” It brings to mind a sailboat, in which the captain cries, “Get ready for a turn,” because the wind has changed, or is blowing in his face. And the crew ducks as the boom sweeps across the boat. But is this picture still accurate? Does it still hold true in a situation that is being transformed every day? I would speak instead of revolutionary renewal. Revolutions come from the very bottom up. The bottom and the top exchange places in the entire system of values. And this switch turns socialist society upside down, so that what has been standing on its head lands on its feet. We see the images of those who are leaving even now and ask ourselves: What is to be done? and we hear in response our own echo: What is to be done? Doing something begins now, as we see that our demands for rights entail obligations: investigation committees, constitutional tribunals, administrative reforms. A lot to be done, and all of it in addition to our regular work…. The people are standing on the platform now, and it is the leadership that is walking past them.

Reported in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 6, 1989
translated by Henning Gutmann

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