When the Eastern bloc whistled on the last hole – prelude to the fall of the Wall

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The then Federal Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared on September 30, 1989 at 19 o'clock on the balcony of the German Embassy in Prague several thousand GDR citizens that they may travel to the Federal Republic. With eyewitness indescribable jubilation, people responded. That is exactly what they wanted to achieve when they began to occupy the embassies of the FRG in Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and even the permanent representation of the FRG in East Berlin in the spring of 1989.
The day 30 years ago showed definitively that the SED leadership can only react with the Secretary General Erich Honecker and has long since lost the book of action. Meanwhile, there is an extensive literature with statements of contemporary witnesses as well as documents on the events. It shows how helpless and helpless the GDR representatives, including the Ministry of State Security, responded. Their own citizens ran away, disappointed by the immobility of the political leadership and their unwillingness to reform,

Attracted compatriots

At the same time they were lured: The FRG government refused to recognize until recently, the GDR citizenship. Article 116 of the Basic Law made all GDR citizens German under German sovereignty. Thus, the escape movement was possible to this extent, even if the causes for DDR were made. Significantly, Genscher addressed the embassy occupiers from the GDR with "dear compatriots".

On the other hand, in Hungary, probably not unlike in Poland and the CSSR, GDR citizens were invited in various ways to use the embassies and established reception centers to escape. For example, in the summer of 1989 in Budapest employees of the "Malteser" addressed specifically identifiable GDR tourists, seizing the opportunity to escape. The Catholic relief organization organized on behalf of the Hungarian government, the camps for GDR citizens. Not all of them at that time agreed, as the author learned at the time.

No longer did the SED top decide the course of events, but others. It played an important role, which makes a small episode from September 1989 makes clear. The former East German constitutional lawyer Ekkehard Lieberam reported on this in the newspaper "Junge Welt" at the end of August this year: "Even before the 'turn of the century', around 10 September 1989, an offer from the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the government of the GDR, to negotiate with each other over the unification. "The justification quoted by Lieberam of the Bonn representatives is interesting:" The prerequisites of the two-state, 'Yalta and the strength of the Soviet Union', have been eliminated. "

Weakness exploited

At the same time, on 11 September 1989, the still socialist Hungary opened its border with Austria for citizens from the "brotherland" GDR. According to the former GDR Prime Minister Hans Modrow, Bonn thanked Budapest for about three billion D-Mark financial aid. The episode mentioned by Lieberam is a small example of what leading circles in the West thought: the Eastern bloc whistles on the proverbial last hole.

This was already indicated by the fact that in April 1989 US CIA General Vernon A. Walters was accredited as Ambassador of the United States in Bonn. He had foreseen the "reunion" in his own words. The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" quoted the reactivated CIA putsch veteran on January 10, 1989 as saying, "One of my main responsibilities is to give the last rites just before the patient dies." The former US expert of the ministry for State Security (MfS), Klaus Eichner, stressed that the "Ölung" by Walters did not refer to the FRG. He wrote in the magazine "Ossietzky" in 2014: "The analysis of the US strategists said: The superpower USSR and its more or less secure allies in Eastern Europe are ready to attack, Now and here it's all about! "
The Soviet leadership under CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, who took office in spring 1985, at least knew about his own problems. She sought the way out in reforms and by liberating the other real socialist countries from the Moscow guardianship, in addition to the widespread rapprochement with the West, hoping for help from the former enemy. As a result, there was no Soviet opposition to Hungary's known cautious plans to open the border with the West.

Help not for everyone

When Federal Foreign Minister Genscher drove in late October in New York with police blue light to his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze and asked for help to clarify the situation of the completely crowded Prague BRD embassy, ​​he was not dismissed. Frank Elbe recently reported this in the Sputnik interview, which was Genscher's office manager. In the memoirs of the late Federal Foreign Minister, Shevardnadze's answer is reproduced as follows: "I help them." At that time, the foreign ministers were at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

There was also East German Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer present. He asked his Soviet counterpart unsuccessfully for help "against West Germany's revanchist intentions." It can be read in the book "Spark from Prague" about the events of that time. Shevardnadze is said to have replied, "that it used to be this way, but not today, because today you have democracy." He recommended that the people leaving the country leave.

According to author Karel Vodička, Fischer has told GDR party leader Honecker that the FRG has become more important to the Soviet leadership than the "brotherland" GDR. One has to expect "increasingly with decreasing support from Moscow". Vodička continues: "Honecker is on its own from this moment on. In the future, he can no longer readily rely on the support of the Soviet Union, both military and political. "

Helpless DDR reaction

Moscow exerted pressure on East Berlin on the information provided by Shevardnadze, the former state secretary in the German Federal Foreign Office, Jürgen Sudhoff, recently reported at an event. He was one of those who tried to clarify the situation in the embassies in the spirit of Bonn. The result: The Permanent Representative of the GDR in Bonn, Horst Neumann, informed the Federal Government on the morning of 30 September, that the embassy occupiers from the GDR are likely to leave for Germany. Genscher then flew with the news to Prague in the evening, where he announced them on the embassy balcony.

Among the helpless reactions of the GDR leadership was that the exiles were allowed to travel only in special trains on their own territory in the FRG. With that, the SED head wanted to once again prove the long lost GDR sovereignty. But she only reached more attention for the escape movement even in your own country. This led to sympathy on the routes and to violent protests such as those on 4 and 5 October 1989 in Dresden.
Genscher's memoirs read that on 27 September 1989, GDR Foreign Minister Fischer proposed two variants: First, the direct departure from Prague to the FRG, or second, trains on the GDR territory. GDR representative Neubauer then announced on 30 September in Bonn that East Berlin had opted for the second variant.

Boundary opening as a valve

And so in a sense in a last sovereign twitch MfS employees the outgoing GDR citizens in the trains from the identity cards and did not return them. Actually, they should only confirm the departure with stamps. This happened in the presence of two officials each from the Foreign Office and the Chancellor's Office, who took part in the special trains as security.

What began on the night of 30 September in Prague, in accordance with the GDR's commitments, happened at the same time in Warsaw. There, State Secretary Sudhoff and Franz Bertele, Permanent Representative of the FRG in the GDR, took care of the exiles. They camped in the German Embassy and in the Warsaw city area. In the end, on the night of October 1, 1989, 809 "Germans from the GDR", as they were officially called, drove in a special train from Warsaw to the Federal Republic. This can be read in a report by the FRG ambassador Franz Jochen Schoeller in Poland, which was published in a documentary collection on German unity.

As soon as the trains left on the night of October 1, 1989, new GDR citizens who wanted to leave the country arrived in the German Embassy. In Prague, the Czechoslovak authorities tried to prevent this, but failed in the end. The GDR government complained that Bonn did not abide by agreements to leave no one in their own embassies. In the end, it did not help anymore. The last helpless liberation of the new SED leadership under Egon Krenz – a travel law with freedom of travel for all GDR citizens – led only to the surprising uncontrolled opening of the border on November 9, 1989.



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