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Abstract

When we survey the situation in East Germany during the Cold War we find at the beginning of the decade of the 1980s an increasingly deteriorating economic situation. The GDR’s growing indebtedness to the West, the restriction of its imports and widely felt shortages of food and other goods made for a desolate economic situation. Demoralization and resignation dominated the emotional tone of the country, drawing a large part of the population into a sort of “collective depression.”One consequence of this was the increasing number of people who sought to leave the GDR and relocate in the Federal Republic of Germany (FDR) despite the risk that they themselves and their families would likely be labelled as criminals and be discriminated against by the state. Between 1962 and 1983 10,000 relocations into the FRG were registered annually, but from 1984 to 1988 the rate increased to 40,000 per year. 1 This persistent grey shade of the eighties was sensitively described by the East German writer Christa Wolf in her novel Kassandra:“Gerade die Gewöhnungan den Zustand war es, die mir die Hoffnung nahm” (“It was this getting used to the normality of it all that took away my hope”). The situation got worse in other ways too. The State Secret Service (Staatssicherheit or “Stasi”), intensified its presence, expanding its personnel to as many as 91,000 by 1989.

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