In this month, the Hungarian government opens Hungary’s border with Austria for East German citizens without asking Moscow for permission – thus tearing the first hole in the Wall.
September 4: Following the regular Monday prayer for peace in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, there is a demonstration by around 1,200 people. Demonstrators express their desire to be able to leave the country freely by chanting "We want out!" and demand to be allowed to travel to the West – In Böhlen, representatives of a socialist opposition group meet and formulate an appeal "for a united left wing in the GDR," which argues in favour of radical socialist reform and sees the best economic and political conditions for such a reform in East Germany and the CSSR.
September 8: Persuaded by assurances from the GDR lawyer Vogel, all East German citizens leave the West German Permanent Mission in East Berlin. It is then shut to visitors. – In Budapest, Stasi members do not succeed in convincing would-be emigrants to return to the GDR.
September 9: The West German news programme "Tagesschau" reports that East German refugees are about to leave Hungary for the West.
September 10: In the night of 10-11 September, the Hungarian government opens the border to Austria for East German citizens. In the following days and weeks, tens of thousands of GDR citizens travel to West Germany via Austria. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, later confirms that Hungary did not ask permission in Moscow before carrying out this step.
September 11: Another prayer for peace in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig; the Volkspolizei closes off the church yard to prevent a demonstration. Numerous people are arrested.
September 12: At the Tuesday Politburo meeting, Günter Mittag, standing in for an ill Honecker, brings up the question of how "to close the hole in Hungary" as the most important issue, as the number of applications for travel to Hungary has risen steeply all over the GDR. To prevent "heavy losses" of citizens, Mittag proposes "not to allow departures on such a universal basis anymore. Why do the doubtful contenders have to travel? But this internal regulation must not affect our party and the majority of the population. We would make them angry. The Ministry of Security and the Interior Ministry should be the ones to carry out these measures."
On the very same day, Stasi minister Mielke orders a "programme of measures for the timely recognition and prevention of the abuse of trips to or through the People’s Republic of Hungary." It stipulates that all applications for travel to Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania are to be checked by the Stasi. "The unit responsible has to decide whether objections should be raised against allowing the trip for security reasons" on the basis of the material collected about the applicant, and these objections are to override the Volkspolizei, the authority actually responsible for such applications.
September 12: At the invitation of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB), the chairman of the Free German Trade Union Federation (FDGB), Harry Tisch, arrives in West Germany. When asked by journalists about the flood of refugees from the GDR, he angrily demands, among other things, that the "mud fight" stop.
September 14: In Bonn, the Erfurt pastor Edelbert Richter announces the founding of the GDR opposition group "Demokratischer Aufbruch" (Democratic Awakening), which champions a "socialist social order on a democratic basis" and speaks out in favour of human rights, freedom to travel, freedom of expression, of the press and of assembly, and free elections in the GDR. – The West Berlin Senate discusses the growing number of East German refugees and how to put them up. It decides that everything possible should be done to organise emergency accommodation.
September 18: Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets in Leipzig after the prayer for peace in the Nikolaikirche: they chant "We’re staying here!" and not "We want out!" as in previous weeks. Numerous demonstrators are arrested. – In view of the number of people leaving the country, rock musicians, songwriters and entertainers issue a public resolution demanding forms of democratisation and reform that are compatible with socialism, saying that cowardly delay provided "arguments and preconditions for all-German ideas."
September 19: The group "Neues Forum," which has made a public founding statement on September 10, applies to be officially registered as a citizens’ association. Two days later, the Interior Ministry rejects the application, saying that the Neues Forum was a "subversive platform". Three thousand people have so far signed the statement by the Neues Forum. – The synod of the Federation of Protestant Churches (Evangelischer Kirchenbund) passes a resolution in Eisenach in which it calls for a pluralist media policy, a democratic diversity of parties, freedom to travel for all citizens, economic reforms and freedom to demonstrate, describing all these things as "long overdue reforms".
September 20: The West German embassy in Warsaw has to be closed because of overcrowding. – The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union issues a statement on nationalities policy, in which republics are promised economic independence.
September 22: Erich Honecker, firmly resolved to put a swift end to all demonstrations and "provocations," sends a telex to the First Secretaries of the SED district administrations, telling them "that these hostile actions must be nipped in the bud, that no mass basis for them is allowed." They are also to make sure "that the organisers of the counterrevolutionary activity are isolated."
September 24: The West German embassy in Prague becomes a meeting place for GDR refugees, because the CSSR has tightened checks on its border to Hungary.
September 25: At the “Monday demonstration” in Leipzig, 5,000 to 8,000 demonstrators call for democratic reforms and official recognition of the Neues Forum movement. Those wanting to leave the GDR have now become a minority among the demonstrators.
September 26: The deputy Stasi minister, Rudolf Mittig, calls together the deputy leaders of the district administrations of the Ministry of Security and gives them the watchword to "operatively work on" the "hostile, oppositional alliances" with the aim of destroying them. The Ministry of Security, he says, is to provoke infighting, sow mistrust, split up the members and try to stop the politicisation of the groups by raising issues regarding organisation and structure – a major role here is to be played by the "inoffizielle Mitarbeiter" ("unofficial collaborators") in their ranks.
It is also on this day that Honecker orders the "Bezirkseinsatzleitung Berlin" ("Berlin District Operational Command") and the various "Kreiseinsatzleitungen" ("Operational Commands") of the Berlin districts to be ready to take command to "ensure security and order" and "to prevent provocations of various sorts" for the 40th anniversary of the GDR. On the basis of this order, Defence Minister Kessler orders the National People’s Army (Nationale Volksarmee/NVA) to take up position for action in Berlin from 6 to 9 October as a precautionary measure.
September 27: The CSSR government says that there will be no Hungarian solution for the now more than 900 people occupying the Prague embassy.
September 29: Union members from VEB Bergmann-Borsig, a large Berlin company, express their outrage to the FDGB chairman and Politburo member Harry Tisch "for depicting the desertion by so many of our people as being the result of machinations on the part of the class enemy, where these GDR citizens are supposedly mere victims or pawns." Along with rock musicians, artists, authors, academics and representatives of the "block parties," they call on the SED to enter into dialogue with all social powers.
September 30: The GDR yields to Soviet pressure in the Prague embassy conflict: West German Foreign Minister Genscher and Chancellery Minister Seiter travel to Prague and announce that the people occupying the embassy can leave the country. Several thousand East German refugees are taken to West Germany via GDR territory in special sealed trains.
In September, 33255 GDR citizens manage to flee to the West; 11903 are given permission to leave the GDR.