Exit application

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
To emigrate from the GDR, the option “one-time” had to be marked in the application to leave the GDR in the information on the intended duration of the trip

An exit application was a common expression in the GDR for an application to leave the GDR permanently . With such an exit application, a GDR citizen announced to the state that he intended to live permanently outside the GDR, i.e. to want to emigrate from it.

In order to legally leave the GDR as a citizen of the GDR, i.e. to pass the inner-German border or the Berlin Wall without endangering freedom, life and limb, and to avoid fleeing the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR , an approved exit application was required. Any attempt to turn one's back on the GDR without state approval was threatened with criminal law as an “ illegal border crossing ”. Anyone caught ended up in political detention .

The situation was different in the Federal Republic of Germany, where, then as now, a maximum of one passport was required for permissive departure, which in most cases was also granted without harassment. In this sense, the GDR government denied its citizens the freedom to travel until the fall of the Berlin Wall . With the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the era of exit applications ended.

Those who submitted an application to leave the West had to reckon with lengthy and severe harassment, up to and including criminal prosecution and imprisonment. But it was actually possible to leave the GDR in this way. The emigration movement was a major problem for the GDR rulers. A number of secret orders and orders were issued for this purpose. Although applicants, from 1975 onwards , invoked the guaranteed right to freedom of movement in the Helsinki Final Act signed by Erich Honecker , they were defamed as "illegal relocation seekers" and subjected to massive personal, family and professional reprisals.


An application for “permanent departure” to West Germany, ie emigration , was not provided for in the laws of the GDR. If a citizen provided one, the state organs (expression for authorities in the GDR) could not ignore it, however, since from their point of view it represented an unacceptable rejection of the "real existing socialism" propagated in the GDR. The exit application was often combined with an application for release from GDR citizenship in accordance with Section 10 of the Citizenship Act.

The applications were accepted by the Interior Department of the council of the respective district or city district. These departments worked closely with the Ministry of State Security (MfS) , which monitored the applicants. Waiting times for approval ranged from a few months to a few years.

However, there could be no question of an official acceptance of the application, as is comparable in the administrative law sense in the Federal Republic of Germany. Applications to leave the country were referred to as "illegal requests - RWE" and were registered as such, but not processed in the sense of an administrative procedure. Not a single applicant has ever received a written approval or rejection notice.

The secret MdI instruction “About the processing and decision-making of applications to relocate citizens of the GDR to the FRG and to West Berlin” prescribed a procedure for the internal affairs departments that was completely opaque to outsiders, but strictly formalized and internally was sealed off. Anyone applying for a relocation permit was summoned to a “debate”, during which their motives had to be explored in detail and the application had to be rejected as illegal. Application documents were only accepted when it had been internally clarified that there was a chance of success.

Resettlement requests from active or former members of armed organs, other people who kept secrets and their relatives, as well as children and spouses of "refugees from the republic" were hopeless from the outset. The applicant had to be informed of the rejection of his application orally and without any reasons. It should not be announced immediately before or after social highlights and had to be coordinated with the Volkspolizeikreisamt (VPKA) and the MfS district office (KD) so that control measures could be initiated against the rejected applicant. Obviously, "demonstrative actions" such as escape attempts, short-circuit reactions, etc. should be prevented.

Legal basis

Some persons wishing to leave the country invoked their right to free movement from the CSCE Final Act of Helsinki 1975 and / or Article 13 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948:

"1. Everyone has the right to move freely within a state and to choose where to stay.
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. "

Applications for permanent departure to western countries were initially generally rejected. Applications for temporary departure to these countries were only granted to travel cadres . In rare cases, people who were no longer wanted in the GDR were allowed to leave the country temporarily or permanently.


Pensioners could travel to Germany for four weeks a year. For them was a visiting mechanism . Therefore, they did not have to submit an application to leave the country even if they were planning to move. Due to the Federal German laws (entitlement to a pension for every German within the meaning of the Basic Law, i.e. also for GDR citizens) and the economic burden associated with the pension payment for the GDR, East German pensioners were able to move to the Federal Republic quickly and without restrictions from the GDR authorities . The education historian Alexander-Martin Sardina explains :

“In the official pronouncements of the SED and GDR laws, only“ working people ”were mentioned, not“ everyone ”or“ citizens ”. This choice of words explicitly excluded all non-working people such as schoolchildren, students or pensioners who brought the GDR no economic benefit and therefore as economic failure or as a cost factor and not as equal members of the GDR society from the SED have been defined. "

This assessment on the part of the SED is the reason why there have been no criminal restrictions, only financial (foreign exchange / currency) restrictions on freedom of travel for people of retirement age since 1964, because for the GDR leadership, pensioners meant that they had to leave a trip did not return to the West or to the Federal Republic of Germany in the GDR, a relief for the pension fund (a payment of foreign pensions on the part of the GDR did not exist in either socialist or western countries).

MfS and consequences for the applicant

On the other hand, applications for permanent departure (relocation) before retirement age had negative consequences for the applicant, ranging up to the loss of the job and / or the prevention of educational opportunities. The application could also contribute to the fact that the applicant was internally classified as hostile-negative by the MfS .

The Central Coordination Group (ZKG) of the MfS was in charge of implementing this catalog of measures . It steered the procedure of all other state authorities, companies and institutions ( political-operational cooperation ). In principle, a so-called operational process was set up with the aim of determining the entire living conditions of the “target person” in order to then induce them to withdraw their application to leave the country by means of an individually tailored “ decomposition measure ” that could take years.

This was independent of how the decision to leave the country was made. As a rule, the so-called processing time, which lasted months, often years, was socially disadvantaged due to government restrictions. The authorities sometimes withdrew the job when a family member applied to leave the country. Many people wishing to leave the country were socially harassed and deliberately criminalized. The identity card was almost always withdrawn. According to his label, it was considered to be the “most important document” of the GDR citizen, which he “had to carry with him at all times” and “to hand over to members of the security organs upon request or to show to other authorized persons”. Instead of an identity card, the applicant was given a so-called PM-12, popularly known as a “folding card”, which also had special labels.

"According to the MdI-Ordinance 118/77 valid from 1977, applicants had to be dissuaded from their project in continuous debates. For this purpose, in coordination with the SED, the MfS and the company of the applicant, citizens with strong conviction and high authority should be deployed personally. Critical statements by the applicant about compliance with the obligations from the final act of the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe could already lead to the involvement of the Kripo and the Stasi. In this case, the discussion with the Department of Internal Affairs was to continue until the Stasi had made a decision on imprisonment. "
"With his order 6/77 for the 'prevention, prevention and combating of hostile negative acts in connection with illegal attempts by citizens of the GDR to move to non-socialist states and West Berlin', Mielke ordered that convictions, character, lifestyle, professional function, To comprehensively clarify the motives and connections of the applicants. All information obtained in this way was to be bundled in the Central Coordination Group (ZKG) formed in 1975 in the MfS. The aim was to prevent 'hostile-negative actions' while 'exhausting criminal means'. "

In the last few years of the GDR, numerous people wishing to leave the country made their application public, including using white ribbons on the car antennas. This sometimes led to persecutions for "illegal standard use" by the People's Police . Based on this, in 1983 a Jena group of those wishing to leave the country who wanted to make their concerns public called themselves the White Circle . In addition, Gerhard Schöne published a song entitled “The White Ribbon”.

Consequences for the GDR

Leipzig Monday demonstration on October 23, 1989

In the short term, the departure meant a relief for the GDR, because dissatisfied people left the country, and the payments of the Federal Republic of "fees" for travelers and for the departure of political prisoners were very important for the GDR state budget. In the long term, however, the disadvantages predominated:

  • The number of applications did not decrease, because people realized that there was a difficult but realistic way out of the GDR.
  • Above all, better qualified people, namely skilled workers and intellectuals such as doctors, engineers, scientists and artists, left the GDR, so that the talent drain became noticeable as a shortage.

The number of requests to leave the country grew in the course of the 1980s. The concern about it became big enough that the problem was also taken up in propaganda songs, among other things in the song When people leave our country of the October Club from 1988. In the alternative rock music of the GDR, titles were published that alluded to the desire to leave, for example Boredom and Give Me a Sign , two titles by Pankow from 1988. In the same year, people wishing to leave the GDR (“applicants”) organized regular demonstrations. Most of them were prosecuted for these activities with criminal proceedings and imprisonment. Because of their open attitude, many of those who wanted to leave the GDR were exposed to denunciations and social exclusion. The Monday demonstrations of 1989 were based in part on the activities of those wishing to leave the country.

Number of departures

Between 1961 and 1988, around 383,000 people left the GDR legally. During the same period, about 222,000 people left the GDR in other ways:

According to statistics from the State Security's “Central Coordination Group on Combating Escape and Resettlement”, between 1977 and mid-1989 around 316,000 GDR citizens submitted an initial application to leave the country, of which almost 93,000 withdrew.

Applicants for permanent departure (in thousands) 1977–1989 1
year Applicant (31.12.) First-time applicant annually Redemption applicant annually Annual increase in applicants Departures a total of 2 annually
1977 8.4   0.8   8.0   3.5  
1978 5.4   0.7   4.7   4.9  
1979 7.7   4.3   3.4   5.4  
1980 21.5   9.8   4.7   4.1   4.4  
1981 23.0   12.3   5.0   7.3   9.2  
1982 24.9   13.5   6.5   7.0   7.8  
1983 30.4   14.8   5.6   9.2   6.7  
1984 50.6   57.6   17.3   40.3   29.8  
1985 53.0   27.3   11.3   16.0   17.4  
1986 78.6   50.6   10.8   39.8   16.0  
1987 105.1   43.2   12.8   30.4   7.6  
1988 113.5   42.4   11.7   30.7   25.3  
1989 (June 30) 125.4   23.0   1.4   21.6   34.6  
total    316.0   92.9   222.5   176.2  

1 Excluding pensioners and “changes of residence” (reunification of parents with their underage children, relatives in need of care and spouses) and only in relation to the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin; Compiled from annual analyzes of the Central Coordination Group of the Ministry for State Security by Bernd Eisenfeld
2 Including the ransom of political prisoners

In 1989, before the fall of the Berlin Wall in November, about 102,000 people were able to leave the GDR by September, according to Bernd Eisenfeld in his essay "Flight and departure, power and powerlessness". Alexander-Martin Sardina comes to differentiated information in his subchapter "German-German relocation statistics for the years 1949 to 1989" in his dissertation : According to this, the initial reception camps in the Federal Republic numbered 343,854 GDR citizens, of whom 101,947 came to the West with approval. According to the GDR, there were a total of 203,116 people in 1989.

Until 1989, the Federal Republic of Germany paid for 250,000 people who were allowed to leave the GDR with an exit permit.


  • Falk Blask, Belinda Bindig, Franck Gelhausen (eds.): I'm packing my suitcase. An ethnological search for traces of people emigrating from the East-West and late resettlers . Berlin: Ringbuch Verlag 2009, ISBN 978-3-941561-01-4 .
  • Amnesty international: German Democratic Republic - case law behind closed doors , Bonn 1992.
  • Richard Bessel, Ralph Jessen (ed.): The limits of the dictatorship. State and Society in the GDR , Göttingen 1996, pp. 7–24.
  • Bernd Eisenfeld : The central coordination group on combating flight and relocation . In: Klaus-Dietmar Henke , Siegfried Suckut, Clemens Vollnhals , Walter Süß , Roger Engelmann (eds.): Anatomy of the State Security. History, structure and methods . MfS manual. Volume 3: Important service units / 17. The Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic, Department of Education and Research, Berlin 1996.
  • Dietmar Riemann: Routing slip. Diary of an exit . Volume 3 of the series: Biographical Sources. Edited by the Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic (BstU), Göttingen 2005, pp. 9–24.
  • Bernd Eisenfeld et al.: Leave or stay? Regulatory Strategies of State Security (Series B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998.

Web links

Wiktionary: exit application  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Eisenfeld and others: Leave or stay? Regulatory strategies of state security. (Row B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998; P. 67 ff.
  2. Bernd Eisenfeld and others: Leave or stay? Regulatory strategies of state security. (Row B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998; P. 70 ff., P. 80 ff., P. 89 ff.
  3. Bernd Eisenfeld and others: Leave or stay? State Security Regulatory Strategies. (Row B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998; P. 61/62.
  4. Bernd Eisenfeld and others: Leave or stay? Regulatory Strategies of State Security (Series B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998; P. 20 ff.
  5. a b c Alexander-Martin Sardina: "Hello, girls and boys!" - Foreign language lessons in the Soviet Zone and GDR. Wolff Verlag , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3941461-28-4 . P. 26.
  6. Bernd Eisenfeld and others: Leave or stay? Regulatory Strategies of State Security (Series B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998; Page 23, Paragraph 5 to Page 24 Paragraph 1
  7. Bernd Eisenfeld and others: Leave or stay? Regulatory Strategies of State Security (Series B: Analyzes and Reports, No. 1/97). Ed. BStU. 2nd edition, Berlin 1998; Page 24, paragraph 4 sentence 2 ff.
  8. Klaus Dietmar Henke et al. (Ed.): Anatomy of the State Security. History, structure and methods. MfS manual. Part 3: Important service units. Part: 17: The central coordination group combating flight and relocation, Berlin 1995, p. 50
  9. Bernd Eisenfeld: The departure movement - a manifestation of resistant behavior. In: Ulrike Poppe, Rainer Eckert and Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk (eds.): Between self-assertion and adaptation: Forms of resistance and opposition in the GDR. Berlin, pp. 192-223.
  10. Bernd Eisenfeld: Escape and departure, power and powerlessness. In: Eberhard Kuhrt (ed.): Opposition in the GDR from the 1970s to the collapse of SED rule. Opladen 1999, p. 399.
  11. Klaus Schroeder: Der SED-Staat , Munich / Vienna 1998, p. 191.