Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

10 Sept: East Germans go West


Hungary opens its border for East Germans to leave


On 10 September Hungary's foreign minister appeared on television to announce that from midnight, thousands of East Germans who had taken refuge in the country were free to leave for the West.

At one temporary camp in Budapest, people cheered and broke down in tears. A few left immediately in cars for the Austrian border, blaring their horns. Others departed for the train station.

The decision came in the face of stiff East German opposition. It represented the first break with the convention among Warsaw Pact states of preventing each others' citizens from reaching the West.

Many of the East Germans were ostensibly on holiday in Hungary, having arrived on tourist visas. An estimated 7,000 refugees, including some who had taken refuge in the West German embassy in Budapest, had declared themselves ready to travel to the West.

Hungary's decision was a momentous one. For the first time, a Communist government declared that international covenants on human rights were more important than treaties with other Warsaw Pact nations.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific