What caused the flood of refugees from the GDR in 1989?

  • Created by: becky.65
  • Created on: 18-05-18 16:39

1969 - Willy Brandt had become Chancellor of the FRG; he pursued a new relationship with East Germany, known as Ostpolitik 

December 1972 - Basic Treaty signed; confirmed the division of Germany into two states and set out the basis for better co-operation between the two countries 

The Hallstein Doctrine was firmly repudiated 

early 1980s - through the relationship between Honecker and Kohl, the two countries appeared to have reached a comfortable accommodation 

1987 - Honecker made a historic first visit of a GDR chancellor to the FRG

mid 1980s - GDR found itself facing new challenges

This dramatic development was predominately driven by the new leader of the USSR, Gorbachev 

The role of Gorbachev: 

  • 1985 - Gorbachev became leader of the USSR
  • Gorbachev's concept of Communism was different:
    • perestroika 
    • glasnost
    • economic reforms 
    • greater freedom of speech and political participation 
    • winding back of USSR economic aid to the Eastern bloc 
    • reduce military presence of USSR troops in Eastern Europe as their military budget was overstretched 
  • These policies had severe repercussions for the GDR
  • Honecker had no interest in pursuing a more open society or economic restructuring 
  • The economic situation in the GDR was declining, with money owed to the West rising 
  • early 1980s - GDR borrowed 1.95 billion marks from the FRG
  • With the debt increasing, it was more difficult for the country to maintain the policy of subsidies it paid to maintain a good standard of living for its citizens 
  • GDR could not afford to invest in industrial plants or R&D
  • Its economy was stagnating 
  • Honecker's social policies were becoming more problematic 

The rise in immigration to the FRG:

  • Honecker allowed a greater number of East Germans to visit relatives in the FRG
  • 1988 - GDR received hundreds of thousands of applications from skilled workers asking to emigrate to the West 

              - number of East Germans allowed to migrate to the FRG increased by 18,500 to a total of 30,000

  • 1989 - it had reached 48,000
  • 1987/8 - number of Germans allowed to travel from the GDR to the FRG increased by five million to 6.2 million 
  • GDR believed that if it allowed more of its citizens to visit the FRG, they would be less inclined to seek permanent settlement there - this did not work 
  • FRG made it clear it did not support a policy of encouraging emigration as it believed this would lead to government repression and the decline of FRG-GDR relations:
    • GDR citizens seeking refuge in the FRG embassies were encouraged to leave and pursue emigration through GDR official channels 
    • FRG attempted to reduce emigration from the GDR to the FRG by decreasing the benefits Eastern European refugees would be entitled to…


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