German pastor Christian Fuehrer, a pro-democracy leader in the former East Germany, died Monday at the age of 71, a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Lutheran leader had launched the weekly “prayer for peace” which swelled into the massive “Monday demonstrations” that ushered in the non-violent overthrow of the communist regime.
Fuehrer died in the university hospital in Leipzig after a serious illness, said a spokesman for the city, where he been pastor of the largest church, the Nikolaikirche.
Known for dressing in jeans and a leather jacket, Fuehrer launched the peace prayers at the church in 1982 which later swelled into mass demonstrations against the repressive government.
Some 70,000 people joined a rally on a nearby square on October 9, 1989, an event seen as a turning point because security forces did not intervene.
“This is the only revolution in German history, it happened without violence, and it is part of the Church’s” history, Fuehrer told AFP on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 2009.
Only last week Fuehrer, who retired in 2008, was awarded the German National Prize, which his daughter accepted on his behalf, together with two other former freedom activists.
The prize committee said their “revolutionary courage and renunciation of violence caused the collapse of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) regime and the fall of the Wall”.
Leipzig mayor Burkhard Jung said Fuehrer would be remembered for his “exemplary courage”.