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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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Republikflucht is also being abetted by existing shortcomings and deficiencies in the production sector and in the social-human aspects [of the workplace]. For example

- difficulties in the production process
- deficiencies in planning, non-continuous production process
- waiting periods – reduction in wages
- constant changes in construction and technology
- shuffling of workers, etc.
- use of skilled workers outside of their specialty.

Many members of the technical intelligentsia and workers blame these deficiencies and shortcomings for personal discontent, wage issues, overwork.

This discontent is intensified through the heartless, bureaucratic behavior [of officials], and [their] disregard for personal difficulties. The resulting personal discontent and difficulties nourish a disbelief in the correctness of the policies of the party and the government. [ . . . ]

Not infrequently, fear of punishment prompts Republikflucht. In these cases, the expected punishment typically would not have been severe. The brigade reviewed 17 cases and found that only 2 involved serious crimes and transgressions. For the most part, it is young people or citizens who have committed a punishable offense for the first time and who do not yet have real confidence in our state organs and in the socialist legal system.

A spirit of adventure and a craving for change is often the cause of Republikflucht among young people. Here, great influence is exerted by the pulp fiction that is smuggled in, by Western radio stations, by contacts with film and jazz clubs, Radio Luxembourg and the like, and by existing cliques of young people who pursue a certain “hobby.”

Oftentimes this spirit of adventure is also nourished by comments from older colleagues, who say: “When I was your age, I ventured out to see the world.”

Three young people from the secondary school Barnstädt/Querfurt repeatedly attempted to leave the GDR in order to become cowboys in America.

In Hettstedt, four young people who fled the republic had had postal communications with jazz clubs beforehand, and subsequently committed Republikflucht after their groups were “broken up.”

No small influence on Republikflucht is exerted by personal and social problems, as for example

- marital strife
- housing difficulties
- moral transgressions
- material difficulties. [ . . . ]

The present account of the causes and circumstances of Republikflucht and of recruitment methods makes clear that the security agencies alone are unable to deal with this problem. The brigade deployment in the district of Halle has helped to create greater clarity in this area among party, state, and economic organs and mass organizations.

Source: BArch P, DO 1/11/18, Bl. 25–26/44–51; reprinted in Dierk Hoffman, Karl-Heinz Schmidt, and Peter Skyba, eds., Die DDR vor dem Mauerbau: Dokumente zur Geschichte des anderen deutschen Staates, 1949-1961 [The GDR before the Building of the Wall: Documents on the History of the Other German State, 1949-1961]. Munich: Piper, 1993, pp. 384-89.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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