Tuesday, 30 September 2014

ausreise oder hiobsbotschaft

As Germany and Europe prepare for a series of summits to address the current refugee crisis, this day, twenty-five years ago, saw the resolution of another asylum-campaign, which seems to have a vastly different character from contemporary migration but there may be more similarities than first meet the eye. The Embassy of West German in Prague (das Prager Botschaft), housed in the Baroque Palace Lobkowicz, was the refuge of thousands of East Germans in flight from the oppressive regime—who managed to travel to Czechoslovakia and scale the walls to camp in the compound’s garden.
Overcrowding was becoming problematic as embassy staff tried to care for hundreds seeking sanctuary and climbing the barriers on a daily basis, and the West German government covertly (so as not to appear as a bad host) negotiated with the governments of East Germany and the Soviet Union to work out a deal that eventually granted the refugees safe passage to West Germany, announced by BDR Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher from the balcony of the palace on the evening of 30 September to the encampment below. This first chink in the Iron Curtain was followed and overshadowed by other momentous events in the later in the Autumn, but this stand against the DDR regime is commemorated with a metal sculpture of an East German Trabant by local artist David Černý on the embassy grounds.