12 January 2004
BERLIN – An estimated 25,000 people Sunday marched silently past the Berlin graves of Communist party pioneers Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht to mark the 85th anniversary of their assassinations.
Marchers including Lothar Bisky and Gregor Gysi, present and past chiefs of the post-communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), laid red carnations and wreaths at the Friedrichsfelde memorials to Luxemburg and Liebknecht who were killed by soldiers on 15 January 1919.
Among the demonstrators was former East Germany’s last leader, Egon Krenz, who was released from jail shortly last month after serving more than half of a six-and-a-half-year sentence for the regime’s policy of killing people trying to escape to the West.
PDS officials said around 100,000 people took part in the march, but police estimated the figure at 25,000 – much lower than in previous years.
In a separate demonstration, police said around 7,000 leftist and anti-fascist protesters marched from central Berlin to the memorials. Seven people were arrested for minor offences including the breach of a law requiring demonstrators to leave their faces uncovered.
The annual tribute to Luxemburg and Liebknecht, who helped found the German Communist Party and are regarded as heroes of the country’s Communist movement, has continued despite East Germany’s demise and German unification in 1990.
The memorial, originally erected in the 1920s, was pulled down by the Nazis who also desecrated the graves, but East Germany’s communist leaders restored the memorial in 1951. The annual march is always held on the second Sunday of January.
The anniversary was an occasion for mass demonstrations in former East Germany but in the years before the fall of the Berlin Wall was also used by opposition groups to protest against the government.
Subject: German news