Mass influx 30 years ago

Mass influx 30 years ago

Before reunification, world history spilled into hammelburg in 1989. Thousands of frustrated GDR citizens turned their backs on their country along winding paths. A springboard to freedom was hungary. The eastern bloc state was one of the few countries where people from the other part of germany were allowed to go on vacation. People wanted to take advantage of this to flee across the green border to the west. More and more people piled up waiting for their chance.

For the diplomatic tug-of-war for a way out, the federal republic prepared itself for various scenarios. One of them was the spontaneous opening of the border. In order to be prepared for any eventuality, the federal army, the government, the district administration and the city decided before the first weekend in september to make the general heusinger barracks available as a reception center for 1,000 emigrants. From hammelburg, at least according to the plan, they were to take their first steps into west german life within four weeks. "It is a matter of course that we, especially here in the district of bad kissingen, take care of our compatriots", the then district administrator marko dyga explained.

Events overlapped

The bundeswehr coordinated overnight medical care, welfare organizations prepared to care for the refugees, and the city’s employment and registration offices set up offices in the barracks. Appeals for donations, especially for children’s equipment, met with a rough response. Alone, no refugee arrived. This was also because the border was still too impassable. Those who managed to cross the border spent the first few days in camps in lower bavaria and then found their way elsewhere.

On 11. In september, the events became more and more complicated. The hungarian government opened the border. From now on, the refugees could legally enter the federal republic of germany via austria. In hammelburg, the arrival of the trabi-train was slow the next day. The first to reach the finish line was gerhard meyer, one of the few people in the GDR to own a toyota. Gradually the camp filled up in the coming days with young families, older couples, but also single travelers. The new arrivals were marked by the hardships they had endured. But also full of positive impressions. "Oncoming drivers flashed their headlights, waved – friendliness was everywhere. We don’t know how we can make it up to you", swarming arrivals.

But there were also worries that the freedom to travel could soon be over again. "In a tent camp in hungary, there was a rumor that the GDR’s state security had kidnapped two children", reported an outraged mother. There was joy in the barracks that the supposed class enemy was not at all as the regime had portrayed him. But there was also reflection and sadness about having left loved ones or possessions behind in the GDR. Under these auspices, everyone jolted together in the mood of departure.

Accommodation in barracks and care by soldiers and sleeping in bunk beds could hardly have been more exotic for the new arrivals. Everything was overshadowed by the uncertainty about the political development in the GDR. The power struggle between the government and the opposition was still raging there, and deep mistrust of some political concessions or the stooge in the SED also prevailed in the heusinger barracks.

The six telephone booths in front of the barracks buildings were well used, and turned out to be important information points. It was still unclear whether the revolution would be peaceful. The remoteness of the camp did not make it easy for those without cars, although a bus line was set up. Employers in the region were pleased about the influx, because they hoped to hire skilled workers. "As soon as word got out that we were setting up a camp here, we were bombarded with calls from employers", a representative of the labor office reported. Municipal politicians urged the people of neuburg to stay in the region after all.

On 20. By september 1989, the number of residents had dwindled to 160. It was expected that the accommodation would be closed by the end of september. But things turned out differently. In the prague embassy, the situation escalated. Thousands of refugees held out there under the most difficult conditions. When hans-dietrich genscher, the german foreign minister, announced on the balcony of the embassy "that their departure has become possible today", this meant further challenges for the city of saale. Three of the trains with refugees were sent to saale city. The camp filled up again at the beginning of october. Wolfgang dunnebier



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