Transcript of the SED Politburo Session held on 5 September 1989 East Germany
Hungary began dismantling the barbed wire along its border with Austria in May, 1989. Over the summer months, thousands of East Germans risked their lives crossing over the Hungarian-Austrian border before heading north to West Germany. East Germany pressured Hungary to close its border with Austria, but on September 10, 1989 the Hungarian government announced that it was officially opening the border and no longer recognizing or enforcing the travel restrictions placed on East German citizens by the GDR government.
During this SED (Socialist Unity Party of Germany- the communist ruling party in East Germany) Politburo meeting, less than a week before the official border opening, the leading members of the East German Communist Party discuss their strategy. In the excerpts included here, it is clear that the SED knows the Soviet Union will not pressure Hungary to close its border and prevent the exodus of thousands of East Germans. Foreign Minister Fischer had asked for a meeting of the Warsaw Pact foreign ministers, but was turned down by Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet foreign minister.
Others in the meeting voice their concern that the actions in Hungary amounted to a betrayal against Socialism. Interestingly, at least one member, Mielke (head of the Stasi secret police), argued that the Hungarian government could still be won over by theoretical arguments regarding the practical steps necessary to avert a collapse of the Socialist system. This statement (and many others by ranking Politburo members at the time) illustrate how detached the aging GDR gerontocracy was from the reality of the situation around them.
Wolfgang Herger, "SED Politburo Session," transcript, 5 September 1989, trans. Christiaan Hetzner, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).