26. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany1



  • Letter From FonMin Genscher on Would-Be Emigrants at U.S. Embassies
Following is text of letter from FRG Foreign Minister Genscher received by Secretary on March 29 1984 concerning treatment of East German would-be emigrants at US embassies and consulates. Response is under preparation and will be transmitted separately.2
Begin Text.

Dear George.

At the breakfast with you in Washington on 5 March, the Federal Chancellor voiced the urgent request that no German from the GDR who seeks refuge in a U.S. Embassy in a Warsaw Pact country be removed from the building against his will, and also requested close consultation with us in all such cases. The U.S. administration sent us a message on this problem via its embassy in Bonn on 18 March.3 Which message we have carefully examined.

The Federal Government appreciates the U.S. administration’s understanding for the desire of Germans to leave the GDR and its understanding for the care and responsibility of the Federal Government towards persons who opt for us to claim their rights deriving from German nationality. The Federal Government is grateful for your administration’s readiness to do its utmost to support emigration through normal channels.

The Federal Government shares the view of the U.S. administration that seeking refuge in embassies is not a suitable way of obtaining emigration. It has repeatedly stated this in public.

It respects the U.S. administration’s viewpoint that persons seeking to leave Eastern European countries will normally not be allowed to stay in U.S. embassies after office hours. The Federal Government earnestly strives to persuade Germans seeking emigration from the GDR to [Page 83] leave of their own accord the missions or posts of the Federal Republic of Germany both in their own interest and for the sake of preserving and improving their own and their compatriots’ chances of emigration.

However in such cases the Federal Government cannot, for legal and moral reasons, bring itself to remove Germans coming from the GDR against their will from its missions or posts. It is gratified to note that the U.S. administration is prepared to make allowances for such persons. I should like to ask, however, that the conditions set by your side be reviewed.

The time limits set by you can lead to situations that make it impossible to extend effective assistance to the persons concerned. In all cases where the persons seeking refuge cannot be persuaded to leave the missions or posts of their own accord, the Federal Government seeks to achieve a settlement with the GDR authorities with the emphasis on ensuring that they will not prosecute the persons concerned. The time needed to obtain a settlement may vary considerably, but the efforts to this end have always proved successful until now.

Your demand that persons seeking refuge be transferred to missions or posts of the Federal Republic of Germany is not only very difficult to put into effect but also detrimental to the interests of the persons concerned. In the light of our discussions with the GDR Government it is to be assumed that this would create insurmountable obstacles to an effective settlement. The Federal Government is ready to assist to the best of its ability all U.S. embassies whenever Germans from the GDR seek refuge there. We would therefore be grateful if we could be informed as soon as a case arises in order to determine the most effective action we can take. Staff members of our missions or posts are available, if necessary, for talking on the spot to persons seeking refuge. They can also, if need be, bring about contact with the solicitor engaged by the GDR authorities for such matters. Finally the Federal Government is prepared to make any contributions needed to solve such cases.

I fear that any forcible action against Germans seeking aid to obtain freedom would, even in an isolated case, lead to strong reactions among the public, which might be detrimental to the image of the United States as our main ally, as a country bearing responsibility for Germany as a whole and as a power protecting Berlin.

The Federal Government would be grateful if the U.S. administration could review its position on such cases in the light of my remarks above and, in particular, ensure that no force is used against Germans seeking refuge.

Yours sincerely,

(sgr) Hans-Dietrich Genscher

End text

  1. Source: Reagan Library, Secretary George Shultz Papers, Official Memoranda (03/30/1984) (2). Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Sent Immediate for information to East Berlin, the mission in West Berlin, Bucharest, Budapest, Prague, Sofia, Warsaw, Belgrade, and Moscow. Drafted by Gallup; cleared by Kornblum, Cynthia Smith (EUR/EE), James Shumaker (EUR/SOV), Niles, Thomas Randall (S/S–O), Burt, James Covey (S/S), and Michael Butler (S); approved by Burt.
  2. See Document 27.
  3. Reference is to telegram 78942 from the Department of State, March 17, which dealt with asylum seekers in embassies in the Eastern Bloc and the implications of recent West German radio and television broadcasts that encouraged asylum seekers not to turn to FRG missions. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N840004–0515)