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East Germany: All But Closing the Door

1 minute read

At first it looked almost as if the Wall had come tumbling down. A startling number of East Germans who had been waiting as long as seven years for permission to move to West Germany were being granted exit visas: 25,400 in the first four months of this year, more than three times as many as in 1983.

Now, just as abruptly, East German Communist Party Leader Erich Honecker has all but slammed the door shut. In May, only 1,100 were allowed to leave, compared with 9,800 in April.

Honecker was apparently trying to get rid of political dissidents, church activists and malcontents, as well as to clear the backlog of applications of people who wanted to be reunited with their families in the West. For those who did not succeed in leaving or who have participated in the country’s fledgling peace movement, new restrictions have been imposed. Sixty thousand East Germans, most of them youths, have had their identity cards confiscated and must now apply for permission to travel anywhere outside the cities in which they live.

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