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Refugee Movement (1950-1963)

In the 1950s, massive numbers of refugees left the GDR and headed to West Berlin and the Federal Republic. It was hard for the GDR to make up for the resulting personnel loss. Between the founding of the Federal Republic in 1949 and the closing of the border between the two German states in August 1961, around 2.7 million people went to the West. The refugee wave crested in 1953, the year of the GDR workers’ uprising. Within a single year, around 330,000 people fled the country. After the construction of the Wall, it was predominantly older, retirement-age people who were granted permission to leave and settle in the Federal Republic. Over the course of the 1960s, the number of resettlers quickly dropped to under 20,000.

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Source: Bundesministerium für gesamtdeutsche Frage [Federal Ministry for All-German Affairs], ed., SBZ von A bis Z [Soviet Occupation Zone from A to Z]. Bonn, 1965, p. 133.

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