Precede WARSAW 125 East German Refugees Fly from Warsaw to West Germany
CAROL J. WILLIAMS
Oct. 17, 1989
DUESSELDORF, West Germany (AP) _ The first airlift in East Germany's refugee exodus flew in from Warsaw late Tuesday - with the 125 refugees flashing smiles, new passports and a teddy bear before heading off for the next stop of their journey to a new life.
The flight brought relief to only a small fraction of the latest refugee wave, as more than 1,700 other East Germans fleeing their reform-resista nt homeland remained behind in the Polish capital awaiting travel documents.
In a compromise solution announced Saturday, the refugees were allowed to renounce their citizenship at the East German Embassy in Warsaw, freeing them to go on to the West German Embassy to receive the necessary travel documents.
''Now, for the first time, we can look forward to freedom,'' declared 27- year-old Gabriele Holger after descending with her son and husband from the Soviet-made Tupolev-154 aircraft.
The Bonn government chartered the aircraft from Poland's LOT airline.
Twelve-year-old Michaela Ostmann clutched her teddy bear ''Sonny Heart'' as her parents and fellow passengers were hustled onto buses waiting on the tarmac for the refugees who touched down in this northern industrial city just after 8:30 p.m.
The refugees, the latest of more than 53,000 to arrive in West Germany since last month, were the first to fly to freedom. East Germany agreed to the arrangement apparently to avoid the near-riots that marred two previous evacuations from Warsaw and Prague, Czechoslovakia.
During a dramatic release of thousands on Oct. 5, East German police used force to prevent other desperate would-be escapees from jumping aboard the westbound trains as they passed through East Germany. A couple of dozen relatives, friends and well-wishers were left stranded inside Duesseldorf airport terminal when authorities prevented them from going onto the tarmac. The new arrivals were being quickly directed onto buses for the trip to a reception center at Schoeppingen, about 40 minutes to the north.
''We are a little disappointed,'' said Anika Roescher of Duesseldorf, one of those unable to greet the arrivals. ''We wanted to see if our friends were in this group.''
A distraught woman at the airport information office shouted over the public address system to the thwarted greeting-party, ''We have no possibility to let you get in contact with the arriving refugees 3/8 We understand very well that you are angry, frustrated and disappointed'' at not being able to talk to them, the voice said.
During arrivals of East Germans from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland in recent weeks, the public was generally allowed to greet the newcomers. Authorities at Duesseldorf airport explained, however, they wanted to get the new arrivals to Schoeppingen quickly.
One angry young West German, who declined to give his name, told reporters he was waiting for his uncle, ''and now I'll have to return home without knowing if he has arrived.''
In the Polish capital, refugee children at the airport held up a banner before their departure, reading, ''Thank you, Warsaw. Auf Wiedersehen.''
''Things can't go wrong now. We just hope we make it safely and don't crash,'' said a young construction worker from East Berlin as he stood in line with other refugees there to check in for the flight.
The plane took off on schedule for the two-hour journey.
West German Ambassador Franz-Joachim Schoeller boarded the plane in Warsaw shortly before takeoff to bid farewell to the refugees, and he said the number of East Germans remaining there has swelled to 1,667.
East Germans have been arriving at the embassy for weeks.
Tens of thousands of East Germans have fled East Germany recently, most of them skilled young workers who complain of repression by Erich Honecker's strict regime.
Hans Klein, chief West German spokesman, said in Bonn his government had asked the East Germans to process papers for the refugees in Warsaw in groups larger than the 40-50 originally planned. He said the East Germans had not responded.
The flood of German refugees began after Hungary removed all restrictions on its border with Austria on Sept. 10. An additional 70,000 emigrated by legal means or did not return from visits to West Germany.
Honecker's government requires the refugees in Warsaw to give up their citizenship in exchange for new identity cards, which allow them to leave for the West choice but prohibit them from traveling through East Germany.