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Refugees’ Thoughts Turn to Finding Work

September 12, 1989

TIEFENBACH, West Germany (AP) _ In a jammed tent city in picturesque Bavaria, Uwe and Norma Koenig eagerly scan a bulletin board offering jobs ranging from bakers’ assistants to electricians.

For the couple tasting their first day of freedom, getting back to work is the No. 1 priority.

″It’s a little scary,″ said Koenig, who worked 10 years as a welder at a state-owned cooperative factory near Leipzig, East Germany.

″It’s going to be difficult at first, but we knew that when we decided to leave. We’re very optimistic, we didn’t leave everything we owned behind to just give up or fail,″ said Koenig.

For most of the thousands of East Germans streaming into Bavaria, the tent city in Tiefenbach is just a brief stop on the way to other facilities set up throughout West Germany to help them get started in a new life.

As the emigres shower and have their first meals in West Germany, relief workers and area businesses are at work compiling lists of job possibilities and lodging.

Bulletin boards with scores of job notices have been set up inside and outside the tent city.

Some large companies and hospitals have parked vans outside the camp where they are interviewing potential employees on the spot.

Local entrepreneurs have stuffed handbills listing job openings under the windshield wipers of the East Germans’ easily recognizable Trabant sedans.

Like most of the temporary residents at the Tiefenbach camp, the Koenigs are taking time to decide where they want to live and where to find work.

″The East German government told us for years what we could and could not do,″ said Mrs. Koenig. ″Now we’re going to do what’s best for us.″

The Koenigs said they hoped to eventually settle in the Dortmund area, where they have relatives.

″Most of these people here are young and have had technical training of some kind,″ said Michael Tietmann, the director of the tent city. ″For them, getting a job should not be a big problem.″

More than 500 people are staying at the camp, nestled in a small valley outside Tiefenbach, nine miles north of Passau.

In the crowded camp, Red Cross volunteers scurry through the narrow avenues between the tents serving meals, giving advice and tending babies as their parents rest from the long journey from Hungary.

Most of the East Germans will move on within a day, Tietmann said, but they are quickly replaced by new arrivals.

Uwe Brinkmann, one of the recent arrivals, said he hoped to eventually get a job as an elementary schoolteacher again. He admitted it would take some time to adjust to the West German system.

″In East German schools, the curriculum is pretty much dominated by (Communist) party doctrine,″ he said.

Brinkmann said he is prepared to take lesser work temporarily to make ends meet.

Richard Albrecht, a 33-year-old professional gardener, agreed.

″The main thing is to get going,″ said the divorced father of two children, who accompanied him West.

But he said it is also important for him and his fellow countrymen that they quickly be allowed to use their skills and knowledge in West Germany.

″I’ve worked hard and know my profession. We’re not beggars and we don’t want to be treated like poor cousins. We want to work hard and earn real money for honest labor,″ Albrecht said.

He said he was wary of some of the offers being made to the new arrivals.

″There are a lot of hucksters out there trying to offer jobs to us on the quick for much less than West Germans get paid. You have to be careful,″ Albrecht said.

For many of the young and unmarried arrivals, thinking about work is still far from their minds.

″I’ve been in the West now for two days and I’m going to enjoy myself for awhile,″ said a 22-year-old machinist from Dresden who asked not to be identified by name.

″I think I’ll go to Paris and then come back and look for a job,″ he said.

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