Citizens' Jury recommends location for Freedom Monument

Charlotte Noblet (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

How and where can the peaceful revolution in the GDR in 1989 be represented with a monument in Leipzig? On 10 February 2022, a randomly selected citizens' jury, proposed Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz as the location. The client for the process is the "Stiftung Friedliche Revolution" (Peaceful Revolution Foundation), which has been campaigning for a Freedom and Unity Monument for years.

In 2014, a first attempt at a monument commemorating the fall of communism failed. After an international art competition, a competitor successfully sued the favoured project "No Violence - Autumn Garden" on Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz before the Saxon Higher Regional Court. As a result, the city discontinued its efforts.

Criticism from the public

There had also been criticism from the public about the procedure, the design and especially the location, which some Leipzigers considered unsuitable because of a lack of references. Other critics had questioned the monument as a whole, since enough historical sites already existed. In September 2021, the city council commissioned the "Peaceful Revolution Foundation" to initiate a new process.

The new participation process is about determining the design of the monument and its location. The city council is to discuss the resulting concept and, after a decision, pass it on to the Bundestag. After decisions have been made and financing has been arranged, the concrete planning could start in 2024.

40 Leipzig citizens formed citizens' jury

The Peaceful Revolution Foundation had commissioned the Nexus Institute, which is experienced in organising deliberative processes, to organise the citizens' jury. The jury of 40 Leipzig citizens was to work out a proposal for a location. The jury consisted of participants who equally represented different generations: the over-50s ("experience generation"), the 35 to 49-year-olds ("co-experience generation") and the 16 to 34-year-olds (without their own connection to the historical events). The city districts have also been taken into account.

For the citizens' jury, 1,000 people from the different generations and city areas were randomly selected via the residents' register and invited. Those invited could apply to participate.

Citizens' jury met in January

The citizens' jury met on the last weekend of January 2022. This included a comprehensive discussion as well as a tour of the city to look at various sites. The Citizens' Jury vote on the location will be handed over to Mayor Jung in the form of an citizens' report on 10 February 2022. In the citizens' report, the citizens' jury argues in favour of Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz as a monument site. This is the same location that had already been selected as a monument site in the first procedure. Other locations were discarded by the jury participants after site visits for various reasons. The citizens' report is now to serve as a further basis for discussion with Leipzig's city council.

A panel of experts will draw up a competition proposal, which will include the question of whether the competition should be more artistic or architectural. The experts are guided by the discussions in the citizens' jury and incorporate the debates into their proposal for a competition concept.

On 16 June 2022, the Leipzig City Council voted in favour of Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz as a monument site. It has thus followed the proposal of the citizens' assembly.  The next step is to prepare the competition for the artistic design of the monument.

Focus on participation

For Michael Kölsch, Chairman of the Foundation, the focus is on participation: "The process of monument development becomes an immanent part of the monument itself."

Leipzig is associated with the Peaceful Revolution like hardly any other German city. The high point of Leipzig Autumn 1989 was marked by 9 October, when, after prayers for peace in four Leipzig churches, around 70,000 people gathered with candles to demonstrate for more freedom in the GDR, despite the threat of firing orders. Several thousand police and soldiers were on standby. But the demonstration was peaceful. Thus, the events in Leipzig became a striking event on the way to the fall of the Wall and German unity as the peaceful Revolution.

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Image licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0