More than a hundred thousand people applied to emigrate to West Germany during the first six months of 1989 alone. They no longer saw any future in the GDR. Tens of thousands left the country during the summer. Many sought refuge in the West German missions in Prague, Budapest, Warsaw and East Berlin.
In May 1989, Hungary began to take down the installations on its border to Austria. The West German media reported widely on the story, prompting the largest wave of escapes in the history of the GDR since the Berlin Wall was built. Particularly young people fled the country via the neighbouring Eastern Bloc states during the summer holidays. With the falsified results of the local elections of 7 May 1989 still in mind, they now started voting with their feet.
More and more people climbed over fences and walls into drastically overcrowded West German embassies. On 30 September the West German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher made the long-awaited announcement in Prague that they were to be allowed into the Federal Republic. The joyous cries of the refugees drowned out his voice. The GDR leadership was incapable of reacting appropriately to the mass flight and the will for reform in the population.