" and "Republikflüchtling(e)
" ("deserters from the republic") were the terms used by authorities in the German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...
(GDR - East Germany) to describe the process of and the person(s) leaving the GDR for a life in West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....
or any other Western (non-Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...
) country (Eastern Bloc emigration and defection
Eastern Bloc emigration and defection was a point of controversy during the Cold War. After World War II, emigration restrictions were imposed by countries in the Eastern Bloc, which consisted of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern and Central Europe...
The term applies both to the mass desertion of millions who could leave the GDR rather easily before the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...
was erected on 13 August 1961, as well as those few thousands who made a dangerous attempt to cross over the Iron Curtain
The concept of the Iron Curtain symbolized the ideological fighting and physical boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II in 1945 until the end of the Cold War in 1989...
(e.g. the Berlin Wall, the Inner German border, or the western border of another country of the Eastern Bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...
), or who managed to obtain temporary exit visas and subsequently did not return, from 1961 to 1989.
Some estimates put the number of those who left the Soviet occupation zone
and the GDR between 1945 and 1961 between 3 and 3.5 million.
The numbers leaving the GDR following the construction of the Wall dropped sharply to several hundred a year as an attempt to flee the GDR via its fortified borders involved considerable personal risk of injury or death (see: List of deaths at the Berlin Wall
). Several hundred Republikflüchtlinge
were shot; about 75,000 were caught and imprisoned.
A propaganda booklet published by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany
The Socialist Unity Party of Germany was the governing party of the German Democratic Republic from its formation on 7 October 1949 until the elections of March 1990. The SED was a communist political party with a Marxist-Leninist ideology...
(SED) in 1955 for the use of party agitators outlined the seriousness of 'flight from the republic':
The former East German party leader Erich Honecker
Erich Honecker was a German communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic as General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party from 1971 until 1989, serving as Head of State as well from Willi Stoph's relinquishment of that post in 1976....
was charged in 1993 for ordering soldiers to kill people trying to escape. The trial was postponed due to his bad health, and he died in 1994.
- Volker Ackermann: Der „echte“ Flüchtling. Deutsche Vertriebene und Flüchtlinge aus der DDR 1945 - 1961, Osnabrück 1995 (= Studien zur historischen Migrationsforschung 1).
- Henrik Bispinck: „Republikflucht“. Flucht und Ausreise als Problem der DDR-Führung, in: Dierk Hoffmann, Michael Schwartz, Hermann Wentker (Hrsg.): Vor dem Mauerbau. Politik und Gesellschaft der DDR der fünfziger Jahre, München 2003, S. 285-309.
- Henrik Bispinck: Flucht- und Ausreisebewegung als Krisenphänomene: 1953 und 1989 im Vergleich, in: ders., Jürgen Danyel, Hans-Hermann Hertle, Hermann Wentker (Hrsg.): Aufstände im Ostblock. Zur Krisengeschichte des realen Sozialismus, Berlin 2004
- Bettina Effner, Helge Heidemeyer (Hrsg.): Flucht im geteilten Deutschland, Berlin 2005
- Helge Heidemeyer: Flucht und Zuwanderung aus der SBZ/DDR 1945/49-1961. Die Flüchtlingspolitik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland bis zum Bau der Berliner Mauer, Düsseldorf 1994 (= Beiträge zur Geschichte des Parliamentarismus und der politischen Parteien 100).
- Damian van Melis, Henrik Bispinck (Hrsg.): Republikflucht. Flucht und Abwanderung aus der SBZ/DDR 1945-1961, München 2006.