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The Causes of Migration to the West: Report from a Central Committee Brigade on Security Issues (May 24, 1961)

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A not insignificant role is played by ideological influences under the impression and the exploitation of the current economic situation here. This has given rise, among the most varied strata of the population, to “idealized notions” about the situation in West Germany, and they believe that life there is “better, easier, freer.” If you want to travel abroad, you need neither a passport nor foreign currency.

Many citizens who travel to West Germany or who receive visitors from the West see a contradiction between our accounts of the situation and development of West Germany and their own, superficial view, which has been formed under the impression and influence of the current economic situation. This also finds expression in arguments like “nobody in West Germany wants war and speaks of war.”

The channels and connections through which these influences penetrate are still being inadequately uncovered and insufficiently targeted. That applies both to the offensive ideological-political work and to the operative activity and defense by the organs of the state.

The recruitment methods and the appeals to leave the republic are very diverse. In this context, measures by the Bonn government, such as the generous issuance of the “Refugee ID C” to farmers, craftsmen, and tradesmen, play a role. In addition, in 1960 numerous legal regulations were passed, for example the 13th amendment to the Equalization of Burdens Law, which stipulates that all those who flee the republic will be eligible for the subsidies for household goods. Loans on favorable terms are granted to doctors, other members of the intelligentsia, craftsmen, tradesmen and others, so that people who flee the republic can “gain a foothold more quickly,” so to speak. [ . . . ]

As for organized recruitment, there is the added fact that West Berlin has increasingly emerged as the hub of recruitment. In 95% of cases of Republikflucht, West Berlin is the chosen path.

Through the Lemmer ministry and other agencies, conferences, congresses, exhibitions, and revanchists’ meetings are organized in West Berlin, with the goal of engaging in inflammatory agitation against the GDR and establishing contact with citizens. No small portion of the escapees from the district [of Halle], especially young people, participated in such events or spent time in West Berlin. [ . . . ]

In many instances it was also noted that individuals who committed Republikflucht and then returned to the GDR for a visit, sometimes with a car, to look up their acquaintances and even their old workplaces, contributed to additional cases of Republikflucht by glorifying the West.

On numerous occasions, Republikflucht was also prompted by the influence of returnees and new arrivals. The chief method here is the glorification of the West. [ . . . ]

When it comes to the development of German-German tourist traffic, one must bear in mind that numerous GDR citizens whose family members left illegally have a particularly strong desire to visit [them in West Germany], and that conversely, those who committed Republikflucht are trying to obtain residence permits. In keeping with the decision of the Politburo in 1957, the majority of these applications have been turned down. In no small number of cases, the bureaucratic handling of these problems adds to the disgruntlement. For example, certain members of the intelligentsia are given travel permits to West Germany or residence permits without exception, while these are denied to members of other social strata or are granted only with difficulty. Many of these citizens are saying: “Are we second-class citizens? Why aren’t our applications accepted, and why are such distinctions being made?” The rejection of such applications often leads to Republikflucht.

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