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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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Holding the Line: Policing the Open Border

Holding the Line: Policing the Open Border

(p.89) 4 Holding the Line: Policing the Open Border
Behind the Berlin Wall

Patrick Major (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Turns to the counter‐measures to the open border in the fifties, adopted by East German authorities forced to walk a tightrope between repression and liberalization, either of which could accelerate flights to the West. The regime's inbuilt tendency to identify ideological factors and conspiracy theories as motives was coupled with a blind spot to the fundamental reasons driving away its citizenry. Instead, the apparatus was often blamed for the superficial handling of policy. Schemes in the early 1950s to recruit West Germans proved fanciful. More problematic was the drastic curtailment of legal travel to the Federal Republic in 1952, which petitions reveal to have caused considerable internal discontent, only partially defused by travel liberalization following the June 1953 uprising. Certain key groups such as the intelligentsia were bought off with privileges which antagonized other sections of the population. The author's research also reveals the importance of ‘legal’ defections on holiday visas in the mid‐1950s, and of the criminalization of Republikflucht in December 1957 in shifting the pattern of flights to Berlin as the easy outlet to the West. The chapter finishes by showing the police and Stasi's frantic efforts to seal off Greater Berlin with a human cordon in 1960, followed by the final decision in 1961 to resort to a physical wall.

Keywords:   gatekeepers, Volkspolizei, Stasi, repression, liberalization, moral blackmail

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