Hundreds of refugees from East Germany filed into Marienfelde reception centre, West Berlin, Apr 20, bringing the number of arrivals since Apr 15 well over 5,000.
Hundreds of refugees from East Germany filed into Marienfelde reception centre, West Berlin, Apr 20, bringing the number of arrivals since Apr 15 well over 5,000. Congestion was acute and two former camps had to be reopened to accommodate the homeless multitude.
Mass flight followed the Good Friday announcement by the East German authorities that collectivisation of all agricultural land was now complete. Among the people who fled to West Berlin over Easter - most of them farmers with their families - were many self-employed persons who feared they might be the next victims. In view of the enormous influx - the biggest since just after the East Berlin rising in June 1953 - West Berlin officials largely abandoned the usual through "screening" procedure and decided to fly refugees out to the Federal Republic as fast as possible.
East Germany's collectivisation programme, formerly covering less than half of all agricultural land, was extended over the remainder within the last four months. Some 600,000 peasant families, representing a total working force of 1 1/2 million, were forced into "production cooperatives", making East Germany the first completely collectivised east European country outside the Soviet Union.
Peasants soon started to leave East Germany in increasing numbers. More than 2,400 fled last month, compared with last year's monthly average of 600. Then came the big Easter wave, with figures still steadily mounting. The sudden arrival of so many landless farmers will raise considerable problems in West Germany, where in ten years 347,000 refugees have been settled on 1 1/2 million acres and thousands are still awaiting land.