Welcome to West Germany

The Federal Republic was the end of an escape route that was often dangerous, accompanied by fears and hopes for many East Germans. The great majority of West Germans welcomed them with open arms. They were provided with food and medical care even at the stations and border crossings.

The staff of the West German authorities dealt with the unprecedented and unexpected influx of people with impressive organisational skills and personal dedication. East Germans were not classified as foreigners, and formalities were dealt with quickly so that the refugees spent only a few days in the reception centres. They held up their brand new passports with pride for the television cameras.

The new West German citizens started out on the self-determined lives they had longed for, full of hope and optimism. They received support in the form of one-off welcome payments of 100 DM, low-interest loans from the state or help finding homes and jobs. Only a few weeks after their arrival, many of the new citizens were already integrated into West German society, having rented a flat, found a job or started attending school or university. At last they were free to live in a liberal democratic society.

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