Background: Just before the final collapse of the German Democratic Republic, many citizens were able to leave the country through Hungary, which of course displeased the GDR’s leadership. Here are two news stories from September 1989, which were reprinted in an English-language pamphlet.
The source: “The great coup” from the FRG: Orchestrated provocation against the GDR (Berlin: Panorama, 1989).
Commentary by Neues Deutschland, 2 September 1989
Planned long in advance and organized with care, a cloak-and-dagger operation was begun yesterday to take a larger number of GDR citizens from Hungary to West Germany in a move that was both illegal and in breach of international agreements, and surrounded by a large propaganda campaign.
This incident, unprecedented in international life and in the relations that exist between sovereign states, constitutes open interference in the internal affairs of the GDR and other countries. Those who are in charge in West Germany have made and financed this move in spite of all suggestions and warnings, contrary to all constructive proposals and initiatives on the part of the GDR that were designed to bring about a joint settlement of the issue. An unbridled malicious campaign of slander was launched against the GDR, overtly tempting away and deluding citizens of our state, misusing the opportunities for travel and contacts, with the help of the mass media and through direct actions.
Regrettably, representatives of the Hungarian People’s Republic were induced to violate agreements and accords. International law and international agreements can by no means be cited to justify this decision, on the contrary they prohibit interference in internal affairs, disrespect for national laws and rules of other states as well as the arbitrary revocation or unilateral suspension of binding treaties and agreements.
The Bonn representatives are making full use of Hungary’s position to promote their anti-socialist and revanchist goals. The socialist German state has supplied evidence of its patience and flexibility, but naturally it has also proved that it will not yield in questions of principle. It has made constructive offers vis-a-vis all states involved. It remains willing to keep open the road that leads back to law and order for those GDR citizens who wanted to leave our republic for whatever reason, to treat them with magnanimity. This is in line with the humanist nature of our social system. It is, however, only logical that attempts at political and economic blackmail, threats and enticements must be decisively rejected.
This coup from the FRG [Federal Republic of Germany] is neither an accidental nor a single move. It is part of imperialism’s crusade against socialism as a whole in the course of which special prescriptions are given for each of the fraternal socialist states from Berlin through to Beijing.
Several things have seen a turn to the better in Europe, including relations between the two German states and between the GDR and West Berlin. The idea of a common European home is increasingly gaining ground.
Now one cannot but ask those in Bonn whether their alleged right to custodianship of all Germans may not be turning into a modern version of the notorious “back-to-the-Reich” movement, which treats human beings as mere objects of revanchism and chauvinism. The devastating consequences and innumerable human tragedies of such politics and practice should not be forgotten especially now as we are marking the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.
That the action is taking place at this particular point in time is not surprising. It was staged on the eve of the GDR’s 40th anniversary. It is a situation in which the laws governing the class struggle inexorably come to the fore. Not everyone stands firm in the face of these challenges and pressures, and it happens that people leave their homeland due to the enemy’s psychological warfare. The victory of socialism on German soil and 40 years of the socialist German state’s successful development are an expression of the defeat of German imperialism. The enemies of socialism are trying to cover up historical turning points by staging provocations and propaganda campaigns, something they have done repeatedly in the course of history. With all attempts to put a spoke in the wheel of history having failed, imperialist circles now seem to believe that the chance of the century has come from them to take a kind of “social revenge” for the defeats they have suffered since the October Revolution of 1917.
The GDR as a cornerstone of peace and socialism at the divide between the two world systems through lures, promises and threats is subject to blackmail attempts aiming at forcing it into giving up fundamental principles and standards of value of socialism.
Official statements made in Bonn at the weekend have once more made it clear that organized human trafficking is being cloaked in the guise of humanitarianism. And once again it has been shown that August Bebel’s words, “Be on your guard when your enemy commends you” have retained their validity.
The working people of the GDR through their performances and activities to mark the country’s 40th anniversary are giving an appropriate response to these imperialist machinations. The powerful meeting in Berlin’s Bebelplatz on the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Nazi Terror and Day of Struggle Against Fascism and War as well as impressive actions in towns and villages throughout the GDR have unequivocally demonstrated people’s commitment to their socialist state, to the policy of peace, disarmament and cooperation with all countries in the world. It is here, in this socialist state on German soil, that peace, humanism, material security and a sense of belonging have cast firm roots. It is here that everyone is needed and given every opportunity for self-realization. Socialism on German soil is an indispensable part of peace, security and stability in Europe. Our socialist system is just as irreversible as our alliance with the Soviet Union and our friendly relations with the other fraternal socialist states.
by ADN correspondent Horst Schäfer from Passau, 11 September 1989
Alone the events in the night between Sunday and Monday in the reception camps in the area along the Bavarian border between Freilassing and Passau were a singular confirmation of how orchestrated the preparation of the illegal cloak-and-dagger operation to tempt away GDR citizens in Hungary was. Systematic preparations for “X-Day” have been taking place for a longer period of time in cooperation with a variety of Federal authorities, Bavarian government sources revealed. The “Operational directives” were fully worked out. Part of the scenario on Monday was the appearance of entire battalions of Western reporters and camera crews, in order to whip up publicity for this major provocation against the GDR.
Under the leadership of senior staff from the Ministry of the interior in Bonn a “special command” was set up at the Federal Border Guard’s Southern Headquarters ready for “X-Day”, which according to its own information was in session “round the clock.” The Federal Border Guard also conducted the “supervision” of the camps, among them military barracks. The camp administrations each included a representative of the Federal Ministry of the interior and an officer from the Federal Border Guard.
Disinclination and even bitterness have increased amongst the population of Bavaria in the face of the hysterical fluster over the so-called refugees. In the areas close to the border groups of citizens repeatedly expressed in front of journalists their anger over the hypocrisy involved in this campaign. It was emphasized that the motives from this action have not even the slightest hint of humanity and love for one’s fellow human beings — it is a case of cold-blooded political trade. Many of the GDR citizens affected will soon become painfully aware of the yawning gap between the unscrupulously cultivated illusions and the realities of life in the FRG.
In this refugee story much of what is wrong in the country is being glossed over, a West German newspaper quoted a citizen of Passau as saying. One worker said, according to the report, that her boss was “all for it” because he was hoping that he would get “cheap labour.” The question as to whether those who have left the GDR are “really welcome” in the FRG was answered by the Deggendorfer Zeitung with the assertion that a clear outbreak of grumbling was evident on the part of a majority. Former GDR citizens “will have to reckon with frostiness here”, it said.
Two taxi drivers at Freilassing station, a post clerk in Vilshofen near the tent camp set up there, and a retired couple on a Sunday walk in Hengersbach, likewise intended as a reception camp, were all agreed: an evil game is being played with human lives here. Over there is more work than in the Federal Republic, they said. The situation of unemployed people in the FRG will only worsen, many fear. Incidentally, reference is made to a statement by the director of the Vienna Caritas relief organization according to which the term refugee under the terms of the Geneva Convention does not apply to those leaving the GDR. Persecution, war, starvation or other criteria endangering their life or existence are not in evidence.
Even on their first day in the reception camps, including those in Trostberg, Deggendorf near Regensburg, Vilshofen and Passau, GDR citizens who had been tempted away experienced a sobering up about their prospects in the labour and housing markets. In most of the conversations conducted by officials with the GDR citizens, they refused to give any commitments. In the Trostberger Tagesblatt they read that the “generous” offers of rooms or even flats, which have recently received so much publicity in the media, often had reasonable conditions attached to them. In the employment office district to which Trostberg belongs, there are 3,620 West Germans registered unemployed. In Regensburg’s Mittelbayerische Zeitung the former GDR citizen Kerstin Scheuner related her experiences: she was given until 30 September this year to leave her flat by her landlord, on the grounds that she had temporarily given shelter to her relatives in her flat.
FRG politicians have not concealed the massive economic and sociopolitical interests, calculated in marks and pfennigs, which underlie the long-term trade in people as commodities. The Generalanzeiger newspaper in Bonn described the newly arrived labour power as “potential for economic growth” for the FRG, which, in the face of the shrinking and aging West German population, could serve to allay the concerns of labour market politicians about the long-term guaranteeing pensions. State secretary Waffenschmidt spoke in the same context of an “elixir of life for the Federal Republic.”
In interviews with Bonn politicians on Sunday and Monday journalists repeatedly indicated that they had received information about payments being made by the FRG to Hungary for its action.
On the subject of the tempting away of well trained personnel from the GDR the Regensburg paper Woche reported that “Employers are rubbing their hands together in glee.” There had been generous payments of “head money.” The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported at the weekend that certain firms in particular are placing “great hopes in the emigrants from the GDR.” There is a specific shortage of dish washers in the catering industry. The “beer and roundabout barons” are talking about profiting in the truest sense of the word from the GDR people at the Munich Oktoberfest, the Munich tabloid “tz” wrote. Two fairground rides, the Ghost Train and Vulture’s Dive, are looking for helpers to build the rides and collect money.
As a spokesman for the Bavaria district of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) stated, there is no doubt that wages for GDR citizens will be “miles under” the union rates and that this is intended to put pressure upon the unions. The Passauer Neue Presse wrote that doctors could “work as lorry drivers and brick layers if necessary“. According to the US news agency AP temporary labor firms, who push workers into jobs at short notice as and when they are needed without social insurance cover, see unemployed people and the fully unacquainted new arrivals as special targets for their unscrupulous methods.
The one-sided campaign in the West German media stifles all voices of reason, objectivity and responsibility. The declaration by the writer Dieter Lattmann for example, the long-time president of the Writer’s Union of the FRG, to the effect that the issuing of West German passports to GDR citizens “on top of that on the territory of another country” was an infringement of the Basic Relations Treaty, was to be found in no Bavarian newspaper. Lattmann pointed out that the West German media and parliamentary circles in Bonn revived the FRG’s claim of the fifties to be the sole representative of the German people. Using the vocabulary of “freedom” and “human rights” something quite different is being attempted by the West, namely the destabilization of the GDR.
Referring to the propaganda preparations by West German television for “X-Day” Die Zeit writes that in the face of these preparations “common sense is playing a small role at present. In truth, however, it is only prudently moderate steps that can preserve stability and peace also in the future.”
The reality behind the hullaballoo about Bonn’s humanity can be seen from another event which took place in the very same Passau where the spotlight is currently on GDR “refugees.” 60 Lebanese refugees and Turks were recently discovered almost frozen to death in a refrigerated lorry. They were not welcomed by the police as they came from Austria, but rather arrested and later deported. 23 Yugoslavian citizens, among them 13 children and three infants, a report in the Freilassinger Anzeiger said, were turned back by the FRG border authorities at Walserberg.
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