1 January: Freedom to travel in both directions: as of today, West German citizens can visit the GDR and East Berlin without a visa and without having to exchange money. A German-German foreign-currency travel fund has also been set up; travellers from the GDR can claim up to 200 DM once a year (100 DM at an exchange rate of 1:1 and another 100 DM at an exchange rate of 1:5).
2 January: The open border quickly leads to the dissolution of the state monopoly on foreign trade and currency. Shortly after New Year, Peter Voigt, a vegetable retailer from Erfurt, is driving towards Kassel. On the way back, he discovers a wholesale market (EDEKA) in Melsungen and asks if he can buy products in DM to be sold in Erfurt (in DM). On 9 January, the Erfurt district council gives Voigt a "permit to accept foreign currencies". EDEKA then gives him the products on credit for three weeks. A few days later, tropical fruit is sold for DM in Erfurt.
Voigt thus makes use of his right to freedom of trade even before the decision by the GDR Council of Ministers on 25 January to grant full freedom of trade. The monetary union actually takes place already in Peter Voigt’s greengrocer’s shop in Erfurt in January 1990. Since Christmastime, the exchange rate in free trade has been 1 DM = 7 GDR marks. Large West German companies and banks also increasingly become involved in the GDR. In Dresden, the Dresdner Bank becomes the first West German credit institute to open a branch in the GDR. Shortly afterwards, it establishes more branches in Leipzig and East Berlin.
3 January: Berlin border troops stand helplessly by as the "wall-peckers" go at the Wall with hammers and chisels. "No motivation for border service," is the conclusion drawn at a commanders’ conference of GDR border guards. "Soldier asks, ‘Why am I needed at the border?’" It is noted that soldiers are selling parts of their uniform while on duty and that officers are accepting presents and are drunk.
In the Berlin district of Treptow, the Soviet memorial is defaced by persons unknown with radical right-wing and anti-Soviet slogans. The SED-PDS uses this as an opportunity to stage a large demonstration against "neo-fascism and anti-Sovietism" that calls for the structures of the Ministry for Security (now called "Office for National Security" (AfNS)) to be preserved as an "internal security service" or "intelligence agency". – Economy Minister Christa Luft, who is also deputy chairwoman of the Council of Ministers, informs participants in the Round Table about the economic situation of the GDR, but does not reveal the extent of the imminent disaster. Luft says that although Modrow’s government wants to promote other forms of property, it basically intends to keep "the most important means of production as the property of the people".
5 January: Citizens’ committees are still occupying former district administration offices of the Ministry for State Security. In Gera, a group of civil rights activists forces its way into the local offices of the Ministry for State Security and takes control of the files and armouries.
The West German Interior Ministry announces that altogether 343,854 GDR residents moved to the Federal Republic in 1989. In addition, West Germany took in 377,055 ethnic German emigrants, mainly from Poland, the Soviet Union and Romania. And the number of asylum seekers reached record levels at 121,318.
8 January: In Leipzig, the first "Monday demonstration" of the year takes place. The scene is dominated by a sea of black-red-gold flags. Along with the slogan "Down with the SED", German unity has become the overriding demand. A week later, on 15 January, 150,000 people again demonstrate in support of a united Germany. Meanwhile, municipal infrastructures are breaking down in the city, as they are everywhere else in the country. At the end of January, the mayor is taken into custody on suspicion of election fraud and the city council is dissolved on 26 January; a "round table" helps to administer city affairs.
9 January: In Sofia, a Comecon meeting decides to move member states towards a system of trade on the basis of freely convertible currency. This rings in the end of the Eastern European economic union based on planned economies.
10 January: The GDR export company Limex-Bau Export-Import receives a sales monopoly for several dozen segments of the Wall that have been taken down at the newly opened border crossing. Within a very short space of time, business is buzzing worldwide. The company receives up to 500,000 DM per segment; the proceeds are to go to the GDR healthcare sector, as well as be used to preserve historic buildings and monuments.
11 January: In a government statement, the chairman of the Council of Ministers, Hans Modrow, announces that "a union of GDR and FRG is not on the agenda." He warns the opposition not to dismantle his government and cites neo-Nazi activities as a reason for having to have agencies for intelligence and internal security. The same evening, 20,000 people demonstrate against this plan.
15 January: Prime Minister Hans Modrow offers the civil rights groups represented at the "Round Table" the chance to join his coalition government. The deputy head of the secretariat of the Council of Ministers, Manfred Sauer, informs the "Round Table" on the progress in dissolving the Ministry for State Security, now called the "Office for National Security". He says the Ministry for State Security had 85,000 official staff and 109,500 "unofficial collaborators". The "Round Table" meeting is called off in the evening, as thousands of demonstrators force their way into the headquarters of the Ministry for State Security in the Berlin district of Lichtenberg and occupy the building. Hans Modrow and Konrad Weiss call for non-violence and calm on the part of the occupiers. –At the same time, hundreds of thousands of people in numerous cities follow a call by the New Forum to demonstrate against the attempts by the SED-PDS to keep the old structures of power. – On 18 January, the "Round Table" discusses the occupation of Stasi headquarters.
Against the background of this domestic political development in the GDR, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl decides to start negotiations on a "contractual community" with the GDR only with a freely elected GDR government. He says talks with the Modrow government are to be held, but only symbolically, so that the wave of people moving to West Germany is not made larger by an official refusal to negotiate.
19 January: In an article entitled "Discharged guard dogs auctioned off," the daily TAZ (Bremen edition) reports that the West German animal welfare association Deutscher Tierschutzbund intends to "resettle" in West Germany some 2,500 guard dogs that were previously deployed on the inner German border. The association says the canine resettlement operation came about because private owners in the GDR could not be found for the majority of guard dogs. It says the GDR authorities in charge of the animals had finally been persuaded that the former guard dogs would go to "responsible animal lovers". The German Shepherds, Rottweilers and mongrels are in excellent health, are four years old on average and have had outstanding veterinary care. The article stresses that the dogs have served as guard dogs and have not been trained to attack people.
20/21 January: The SED-PDS party executive rejects demands made by some grassroots members that the party disband itself. As a result, the deputy party chairman, Wolfgang Berghofer, announces his resignation from the party; the SED-PDS, which has already lost half of the 2.3 million members it once had, continues to shrink even further. The term "SED" is to be deleted from the party name and the handshake to be done away with as a party symbol. In addition, 13 members of the last SED politburo are excluded from the PDS.
21 January: With suitcases in their hands, ten thousand residents of the Eichsfeld region march over the Thuringian-Lower Saxon Worbis-Duderstadt border crossing in a trial run (("Today we’ll be coming back") for several hours to show what will happen if the SED stays in power ("If the SED government stays, we’ll abandon our homeland.")
25 January: In East Berlin, the chairman of the Council of Ministers, Hans Modrow, and West German Chancellery Minister Rudolf Seiters prepare for Modrow’s visit to Bonn, planned for 13/14 February. According to the GDR report on this discussion, Modrow makes it clear that he is interested in a quick conclusion to the negotiations on a "contractual community" with West Germany and in economic assistance, and complains that the West German government has changed its mind on this. He draws Seiters’ attention to the "gravity of the situation in the GDR"; there is a danger, he says, "that things [could get] out of control." Seiters responds frankly, saying that a contract would come into question only after free elections in the GDR. He adds that previous talks about a contract had assumed the agreement of the GDR opposition parties. He says the West German government is expecting further concessions regarding travel between East and West Germany, such as the abolition of the passport requirement, registration cards in transit, customs declarations, inspections and interrogations.
26 January: In Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev heads a crisis meeting of experts on the situation in the GDR lasting several hours. There is agreement that the GDR cannot be maintained. The idea of a six-party conference on Germany ("four-plus-two") is approved, as is the preparation of a withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from the GDR.
In the "Wall Street Journal", British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says that if German unity were to come about too quickly, it would not just endanger Gorbachev’s position, but also threaten the economic balance in the European Community. West German Chancellor Kohl regards the interview as "unusually unfriendly".
27/28 January: In a keynote statement at a congress in Berlin, Neues Forum says it sees a two-state situation as its political chance: "The two-state situation in Germany is for us today the chance for democratic self-realisation and for making our own contribution to the democratic development in Germany and Europe."
28 January: In East Berlin in the evening, the decision is taken to form a "government of national responsibility" in which all the opposition groups participating in the Round Table are represented by a minister without portfolio. The date for the Volkskammer election is brought forward by mutual agreement from May to 18 March 1990.
29 January: The chairman of the Council of Ministers, Hans Modrow, tells the Volkskammer that the economic situation of the GDR is worsening at an alarming rate. He says strikes are becoming more prevalent, a number of regional and local organs of government have disbanded or are not longer quorate, a feeling of insecurity is spreading through the entire state apparatus and the legal system is being increasingly called into question.
On 29 January an environmental report by the Modrow government is presented to the Round Table. It judges the ecological situation to be extremely critical. It says the pollution with sulphur dioxide, dust and emissions of nitrogen oxides in the Cottbus area and the region of Leipzig-Halle is ten to twenty times higher than in other regions of the GDR. The safety of GDR nuclear power plants is described as particularly precarious. On 22 January, the Hamburg news magazine "Der Spiegel" had already reported a near-catastrophe in the Nord nuclear power plant near Greifswald.
29 January: In the West German Ministry of Finance, of which Secretary of State Horst Köhler is in charge, the director of the unit responsible for "inner-German relations", Thilo Sarrazin, presents a memorandum with the title "Thoughts on an immediate inclusion of the GDR in the D-mark currency area." After secret talks with GDR finance experts, Secretary of State Köhler has been convinced since mid-December 1989 that the GDR is financially and economically on its last legs. Since this time, the pros and contras of a currency union have been discussed in the Ministry of Finance, unnoticed by the public. Köhler and Sarrazin reject the "step-by-step concept" of a gradual adjustment over a period of several years, because they say it cannot stop the flood of immigrants from the GDR. Even aware of such risks as the shock effect on the GDR economy and the high financial burden on West Germany, they call for a fast introduction of the D-mark in the GDR, with the proviso that this has to be accompanied by rapid economic reforms.
30/31 January: The chairman of the Council of Ministers, Hans Modrow, reports to Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow about the situation in the GDR and presents his concept of "Germany – united Fatherland", which envisages a gradual rapprochement between the two German states under military neutrality. Gorbachev tells the press that "the unification of the Germans has never really been called into question by anyone." West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl finds this reaction "encouraging". In retrospect, the Soviet party and state leader says this meeting with Modrow made it clear to him "that my main partners in finding a practical solution to the acute problems […] would be Kohl and Bush." He says that after Modrow had provided him with the facts to convince him of the inexorable collapse of the GDR, he wondered "who there was for West Germany to move closer to."
End of January: The wave of people leaving the GDR continues unabated in January: more than 70,000 people have left the GDR in this month for West Germany. In addition, in the first four weeks of the year, around ten million GDR citizens visited the West and more than eight million West Germans the East.
72,729 GDR citizens migrate to West Germany in January.