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



  • Reply to Genscher on Would-Be Emigrants.


  • State 92819.2
Embassy is requested to deliver following letter from the Secretary to FRG Foreign Minister Genscher on would-be emigrants on US diplomatic and consular premises in East Berlin, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. The letter responds to Genscher’s letter sent reftel.
Begin text:

Dear Hans-Dietrich:

Thank you for your letter dated March 28 about US policy toward East Germans who seek emigration by staying at US embassies or consulates. I appreciate fully that this is an issue of great delicacy and concern for the Federal Republic. Let me assure you that our ambassadors have proceeded, and will continue to proceed, in each case on the basis of compassion and sensitivity toward the individuals involved.

In particular, we have recognized the need to take account of the readiness of the Federal Republic to make special arrangements to ensure the welfare and possible emigration to the Federal Republic of Germany of Germans living in the GDR who call at our embassies. It was for this reason that guidance to our ambassadors stated clearly that if such persons do seek assistance to emigrate, these ambassadors are to notify their Federal German colleagues immediately and, as appropriate, seek to make arrangements for German assistance to these persons.

We are prepared to provide the Federal Government all the relevant data in our possession related to such persons’ request to emigrate to the Federal Republic. Instructions to persuade the persons to leave our embassy by the close of the business day are based on our misgivings about using diplomatic premises as a haven from local authorities, but also on our strong feeling that the safety and welfare of such persons is seriously endangered if they remain on our premises overnight.

I recognize your concern that the deadline set by the US for departure of individuals from our embassies may in some cases be tight. But I should like to stress once again that our ambassadors are authorized to [Page 85] be flexible on this point. If arrangements for the individuals’ departure are underway and success is imminent—through the Federal Republic’s taking the individual from the embassy, through persuasion by the Federal Republic’s authorities, or through the intervention of intermediaries engaged by the GDR—our ambassadors may allow the individuals to remain temporarily pending completion of arrangements. We do not, however, foresee allowing such persons to remain indefinitely in the uncertain hope that in several days or weeks efforts to arrange their departure may succeed. We are willing to refrain from removing East German would-be emigrants from our embassies unless they threaten the safety of our embassy personnel, provided that the Federal Republic agrees in each case to take them physically off the hands of the US Embassy and to do so the same day. If this is impossible but arrangements are in process for the next day we will try to be flexible. The Federal authorities would escort them from the US Embassy and, if necessary, transport them to the Federal Republic’s Embassy or permanent representation, if the Federal Republic deems that advisable. Prolonged stays, in our experience, create the most serious and intractable problems for the individuals and for our embassies. However, if you think that some of these people should be allowed to stay for a longer period, we believe your government should assume responsibility for them and take them to your embassy.

I would like also to reassure you that forcing persons physically from our premises is an action we would take only with the greatest reluctance as a last resort. One such circumstance would clearly arise when the safety of our embassy personnel is at stake. Our policy is to treat the individuals with respect and sympathy, but to make clear from the outset that they must leave by the end of the first business day. This does not involve crude physical force or bodily ejection on our part. It does involve a firm US attitude. We may have our embassy officers escort individuals from the embassy and away from the local government’s nearby security officers. We are sensitive to the public opinion aspects. Disagreeable incidents between East Germans and US personnel in this regard have not occurred, and we do not anticipate their occurring in the future.

I recommend, in view of the importance and delicacy of this issue, that our governments conduct intensified consultations in the near future. Our representatives are prepared to join yours in Bonn or Washington to discuss this matter.



End text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, N840005–0450. Secret; Immediate; Nodis; Stadis. Sent for information to East Berlin, Belgrade, Sofia, Budapest, Bucharest, Warsaw, Moscow, Prague, and the mission in West Berlin. Drafted by Gallup; cleared by Burt, Palmer, Niles, Surena, West, Matthews, Eagleburger, Hill, Robert Pearson (S/S–O), and Thomas Farrell (S); approved by Shultz.
  2. See Document 26.