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East Germany: Intolerable Conditions

2 minute read

“If people in Africa were treated like people in Central Europe, there would be an enormous outcry,” West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer told a recent visitor. “It would cause a great crisis and speeches in the U.N. Yet 16 million Germans live under completely intolerable conditions in East Germany, and no one takes any notice.” Events in East Germany last week went far to illustrate Adenauer’s point:

> Determined to raise a conscript army in addition to the existing workers’ militia, Communist Boss Walter Ulbricht’s regime sent out draft orders to 524,000 men. The move provoked a rare outburst of vocal opposition. Ex-servicemen wrote indignant letters to the press recalling their pledge—signed when they were released from Soviet P.W. camps—never to bear arms again. In embarrassed newspeak, Communist officials reassured the veterans that they “need not worry about breaking the pledge. You are being called to protect freedom, to help the Soviet Union protect the working class.”

> Cologne’s Industrial Institute reported that East Germany last year lost $400 million in production because of time spent by workers in compulsory political indoctrination and other Communist Party activities. Passive resistance also contributed to the industrial slump; in the third quarter alone, more than 850,000 days of production were lost through absenteeism. Chief reason for the sagging economy continues to be the serious labor shortage caused by the mass flight of skilled workers to the West until the Reds sealed off the border with the Wall.

> The shortage of physicians is so acute (one for every 7,000 people) that East Germany is importing 55 doctors from other satellite countries to serve three-year terms in the most critical areas.

Since 1955, 3,300 doctors have fled to the West, along with 50,000 other professional men and students. A trickle of escapes continues, despite the fact that anyone suspected of planning to flee is arrested on charges of Republikflucht (escaping the Republic). A 78-year-old East German summed up the prevalent mood of East Germany in a bitter letter to his granddaughter in the West: “When I die I want to be cremated and have my ashes thrown in the Elbe River. It’s the only way to get out of here.”

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