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East Germans Prepare to Leave Poland

October 16, 1989

WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ The first of more than 1,300 East German refugees here renounced their citizenship today and received special permits allowing them to join thousands of their countrymen who have fled to the West.

″We are free,″ read a hand-lettered banner unfurled as the cheering refugees emerged from the East German Embassy.

Even as preparations were made for the departures, several dozen more refugees arrived today seeking help at the West German Embassy. Diplomatic sources said 200 to 300 new refugees were taken in over the weekend.

The first group of a dozen refugees, mainly mothers and children, arrived for processing at the East German Embassy from a holiday camp outside Warsaw.

They first signed a form labeled ″Request for release from citzenship of the German Democratic Republic.″ Then they were given a new identity card allowing them to leave the country and were taken to the West German compound.

Checks also were made for any criminal background, East German Ambassador Juergen Van Zwoll said.

The East Germans will be allowed to go to the country of their choice without crossing their Communist homeland, said Falko Schreiber, press attache of the East German Embassy. The arrangement was announced Saturday.

A West German official said it was possible some refugees could leave as early as this afternoon, but that was unlikely because transport arrangements had not been completed.

The West German government, which will pay to get the refugees to the West, contacted LOT Polish Airlines to discuss possible arrangements but no flights were confirmed, said Jacek Jaworksi of the LOT charter department.

The West German Embassy here is having difficulty finding room for the increasing number of refugees. Its staff, taxed by two months of handling the refugees, is being augmented by officials flown in from Bonn to help with the complex housing and transportation arrangements and the issuing of new citizenship papers.

A West German diplomat overseeing the refugee situation said a better solution must be found.

″At this rate, this thing could take a half a year with more of them coming in,″ he said.

There was no indication of any time limit to the exit permits agreed to by Communist East Berlin, which has been shaken in recent months by the exodus of thousands of its citizens and widespread pro-democracy demonstrations.

″The action will last as long it is necessary,″ Schreiber said.

Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Stefan Staniszewski said the agreement ″has no term″ and Poland may be a transit point for more refugees for some time to come.

″It looks that we may have to deal with it for a long period of time,″ he said. ″It will all depend on the situation in East Germany.″

The exodus grew elsewhere over the weekend, as more than 3,800 East Germans escaped West through Hungary.

More than 52,000 East Germans have flooded into West Germany since Sept. 10 from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Some 70,000 more have been allowed to emigrate legally so far this year, or have refused to return to their homeland.

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