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Behind the Berlin WallEast Germany and the Frontiers of Power$
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Patrick Major

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243280

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243280.001.0001

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Crossing the Line: Republikflucht between Defection and Migration

Crossing the Line: Republikflucht between Defection and Migration

(p.56) 3 Crossing the Line: Republikflucht between Defection and Migration
Behind the Berlin Wall

Patrick Major (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Examines the motives for Republikflucht or ‘flight from the Republic’, the GDR's term for defection to the West. After a brief discussion of the merits of political and economic explanations for the exodus, which accounted for one in six East Germans, the chapter charts the flights using the detailed statistics compiled by the GDR's Volkspolizei. The impact is explored of political campaigns, for instance ahead of the insurrection of 1953 or accompanying the 1958 economic campaigns outlined above. Particular weight is given to economic motivations, especially from the mid‐1950s. Finally, the author suggests that ‘situational factors', regarding an individual's fortunes during and after the Second World War, one's subsequent political exposure within the party and state apparatus, and one's personal psychology, were an often ignored trigger for the final decision to leave. The chapter uses a mixture of official GDR police and Stasi reports, as well as letters from leavers and West German interviews. Collectively, East Germans were able to blackmail the system with the threat of flight, even if they did not choose to leave.

Keywords:   Republikflucht, migration, defection, motivations

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