Related topics

Reception Camp Awaits East Germans Tired of Capitalism With AM-East Germany, Bjt

November 18, 1989

MAGDEBURG, East Germany (AP) _ A civil defense commander says he has room at his training center for at least 200 East Germans returning to their Communist homeland, but no one is banging down the door.

″We expect more to come as Christmas and New Year approach,″ Lt. Col. Horst Romeis said Friday over a camp lunch of soup, a roll and East German beer. ″It needs some time to develop. The weather is getting colder.″

As of Friday, only 14 people had turned up at the reception center normally used to train civil defense recruits in this drab industrial city 25 miles east of the West German border town of Helmstedt.

More than 200,000 East Germans have arrived in West Germany this year. In the new reform mood of the past two weeks, the government has urged the refugees and emigres to come home.

Nationwide figures are sketchy, but they suggest that perhaps several hundred former refugees or emigres have taken advantage of the invitation to return.

The East German government hastily set up centers to welcome back up to 10,000 returnees. But of the 18 reception centers opened Monday in Magdeburg district, all but two had closed by Friday for lack of business.

A returnee arriving Thursday evening by train in Magdeburg, about an hour’s ride from the West German border, would have been directed to an apprentices’ residence, a brisk 15-minute walk from the train station.

But the home had gone back to its original purpose earlier in the day after only seven returnees showed up.

″Our 350 apprentices were angry that they had to interrupt their training for people who had turned their backs on us,″ said residence supervisor Hans- Georg Friedebold, 32. ″That’s understandable.″

Romeis predicts a bigger inflow of disoriented, needy returnees in the coming weeks as East Germans find a new life is not so easy to build in capitalist West Germany.

The few East Germans who had turned up to enjoy Romeis’ hospitality included a family of six who ran out of money and were unwelcome with their West German relations, and two teen-agers who were obeying parents’ orders to end their two-week adventure in the West.

Klaus-Dieter Krueger, 16, and Matthias Langner, 15, fled on a motorcycle via Czechoslovakia on Nov. 4, just five days before East Germany’s surprise decision to open its borders.

In a refugee camp near Cologne they received clothes and about $100 from the government.

″We just stayed lazy and rode around the country,″ Krueger said.

Matthias’ parents, taking advantage of the new travel freedom, crossed the border, found the boys in the refugee camp on Thursday and told them to come home.

Matthias Paessler made his own decision to return after a year and a half in West Germany.

″It’s not bad over there but you dream too much about making a career and all that,″ said Paessler. ″Back here, it’s more secure.″

Living in a small Bavarian village with his family proved frustrating.

″The young people were cold,″ he said. ″They gave you strange looks if you didn’t smoke hash with them. The girls had this attitude of ’I’m so rich.‴

He worked odd jobs and made enough money to visit London, Belgium and Canada, but couldn’t afford his own apartment in West Germany’s extremely tight housing market.

Update hourly