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The Motives of Ethnic German Remigrants [Spätaussiedler] (June 15, 1989)

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Why did they want to leave in the first place? “Germans should live on German soil,” the wife responded with shining eyes. How do they envision their future? “We want to live and work in peace,” answered her husband. “And show our thanks to the FRG.”

The wave of ethnic German remigrants from Romania is small at the moment. Only a good 600 people left Ceausescu’s empire in the first five months of this year. Things went quickly for the Ziegler family from Transylvania once they filed their application. “We were allowed to leave only four months and twenty days later,” explained the father, Johann Ziegler (47). “We’ll be moving in with my sister in Wuppertal. My mother also filed shortly before we left . . . ”

He and his wife Gerda (47) were accompanied by their daughter Gerda (18) and son Albert (22). “No, in Kleinkopisch [Copsa Mica] and its environs there is no evidence of systematization, the euphemistic name that the communists in Bucharest have for the destruction of villages,” said Ziegler in response to a corresponding question. He also said no when asked if he lost his job as a carpenter after filing his application to leave.

The whole family speaks perfect German. “Learned it at home and in the elementary school in Kleinkopisch,” explained Gerda. She attended an academic high school ten kilometers away in Medias. There was no longer a Protestant pastor in town, but there were still two German-language newspapers.” “And we’re allowed to listen to German radio stations,” she added. “But listening to Radio Free Europe is strictly prohibited.”

Ziegler shook his head when asked about food shortages, gasoline shortages, and cold apartments. “We had our own house,” he explained, “so we could keep chickens and two pigs. The pigs were slaughtered on Christmas, and that was enough meat for the whole year. Sugar, flour, oil, meat, and bread were rationed. Up to 30 liters of gasoline was available per month, but we didn’t have a car. . . . And our home was warm. We heated it with natural gas.”

The Zieglers are not worried about finding work and a place to live. “I’m looking for work,” said mother Gerda. “And I’ll take whatever is available, no matter what.” Father Johann is also confident that he will find work in construction. And daughter Gerda has firm plans: “First, I’ll finish secondary school and take the college entrance qualification exam.”

Source: Walter H. Rueb, “Thanks to Gorbachev we were allowed out” [“Dank Gorbatschow durften wir raus”], Die Welt, June 15, 1989.

Translation: Allison Brown

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