RBI Grade B officers are exalted employees

Reaction of the population to the events in the ČSSR and Poland

March 22, 1968
Individual information no. 330/68 about the reaction of the population of the GDR to the events in the ČSSR and in the VR Poland and related incidents in the GDR

In the districts of the GDR, what is happening in Warsaw is at present1 and in the ČSSR2 discussed among all social classes. In particular, the expressions of opinion about the phenomena in the ČSSR have steadily increased in scope and intensity. On the other hand, the volume of expressions of opinion about the incidents in the PR Poland is steadily decreasing. The basic tendency has to be assessed that the overwhelming part of the population shows little sympathy for the incidents. Above all, the riots by Polish students are frowned upon.

A large part of the statements contain a condemnation of the actions of "negative opportunistic and liberal forces" in both countries and emphasize that the perpetrators and backers of these provocations should be brought to their just punishment. The USA and West Germany are mentioned several times as initiators.

Often comparisons are made to the situation in the GDR. It is emphasized that through correct leadership in the construction of socialism in the GDR and visible economic successes, incidents like in the VR Poland and in the ČSSR are unthinkable here.

In a series of expressions of opinion, considerations are made about the nature of the incidents in the PR of Poland and in the ČSSR. The "seriousness of the disputes, particularly on the ideological level" in the ČSSR, the effects of which cannot yet be overlooked, is emphasized. The riots in the VR Poland, on the other hand, are referred to as »temporary and z. Partly already completed development "is considered, which is already" under control "by the government of the PR Poland and does not entail any major political effects at national or international level.

The argument is known from all strata of the population that the events in the GDR took them completely by surprise, since nothing in this direction has been published about the development of our socialist neighboring countries. Such incidents would have been more likely B. for VR Romania3 because of their attitude to international issues and towards the SU and the other socialist countries4 thought possible.

A larger extent in the reaction of the population of the GDR take up »Findings about an allegedly insufficient information on the part of the GDR publication organs, whereby in the last days z. Sometimes such an opinion is beginning to emerge that the publications in our press organs have improved. Although it is correctly recognized by many citizens that the GDR press cannot engage in sensationalism in the sense of Western journalism and does not allow polemics about a friendly country, arguments in which further detail is required are present in all sections of the population.

The districts agree that information from western radio and television stations is currently predominantly the basis for interested citizens.

Increasingly, there are references to the fact that broadcasts in German from "Radio Prague"5 systematically pursued. Interested citizens make each other aware of broadcast times and wavebands. These statements apply to groups of people such as students, cultural workers and intellectuals as well as to members of companies, state administrations and social institutions (e.g. employees of the central board of DSF.)

The following tendencies can also be seen in the reaction of the population of the GDR: In all strata of the population in the GDR, doubts are often expressed about the continuation of the unity and cohesion of the socialist camp, whereby connections are seen between occurrences in the VR Romania, VR Poland and the ČSSR. In this development, any further occurrences such as B. in the VR Hungary and the VR Bulgaria no more surprises. It is noted that the PR of Poland and the ČSSR are the socialist hinterland of the GDR; If the development continued like this, the GDR would ultimately be the "only ally" with the SU. Under the impression of such arguments, there is occasional uncertainty and fear that the occurrences could either lead to an "isolation of the GDR" - i. H. to a separation of the socialist hinterland - or extend to the GDR and bring unrest and insecurity.

Speculations about the causes of the incidents occupy a large extent in all sections of the population, whereby the discussions mainly dealt with the ČSSR. The arguments clearly reflect the influence of the centers of political-ideological diversion. The following tendencies prevail in these speculations:

  • "Dogmatic course" by Novotný6 and his allies;

  • Complete collapse of the economy (although these "arguments" are reinforced by discussions between tourists and ČSSR citizens residing in the GDR with a series of "examples");

  • Inconsistency and formation of cliques in party and state leadership;

  • considerable tolerance towards Western influences (while on the one hand an "administrative and dogmatic course" has been taken, on the other hand the door will be opened to Western influences. The officially permitted influence of West German tourists and an obvious emphasis on the range of goods from Western countries are emphasized the GDR would be treated as 2nd degree Germans.);

  • Solution from the "embrace of Moscow" based on the examples of Albania, China and Romania;

  • Treason and interference by foreign intelligence agencies;

  • Result of a long-calculated and prepared enemy strategy, effects of Western "Ostpolitik";

  • Interference by church leaders.

Opinions of people who have traveled to the Czechoslovakia are often expressed and disseminated: The people of the Czechoslovakia are not as politically informed as in the GDR. The party's influence is not felt. There was general dissatisfaction with the political and economic conditions among the population of the Czechoslovakia.

Further assumptions are made about the possible effects of the events in the ČSSR on a national and international level. The following tendencies predominantly appear:

  • The leadership of the KSČ7 under the direction of Comrade Dubček8 give more and more power out of your hands. The leading role of the party and the state power can only be regained later through the use of force or armed force.

  • The indecision of leading positive forces and the ambiguity of the decisions of the various bodies lead to a "national catastrophe", which in the end would amount to a deviation from the path of socialism.

  • The anti-socialist forces in the ČSSR would slowly increase their demands in accordance with the concessions made to them. Thus a similar counterrevolutionary development as in 1956 in Hungary is slowly taking place.

  • A separation of the ČSSR into two states: Czech Republic and Slovakia is planned.

  • The current general line of the KSČ party towards "democratization in all areas" transcends the line of socialism and forms the basis for further actions by liberal and opposition groups.

  • The ČSSR would build its "own socialism", similar to Yugoslavia. The development in the ČSSR proves that "different ways of building socialism are possible".

  • Relations between the ČSSR and the GDR would deteriorate, as the trend towards West German products and the West German mark was strong. The ČSSR would fall in the back with the reference to West German interests of the GDR despite the existing friendship treaty.

A large number of arguments reflect existing ambiguities about developments in the ČSSR and basic political questions, e. B. over

  • the abandonment of certain positions of the socialist state leadership in the ČSSR,

  • the exercise of the leading role of the SU and the CPSU in the socialist camp,

  • the possible influence of other socialist countries on the development in the ČSSR,

  • the roles of comrades Novotný and Dubček,

  • possible necessary changes in basic economic orientations in the ČSSR and other socialist states with the aim of accelerating the increase in the standard of living of the population,

  • the state of the "progressive fragmentation" of the socialist camp.

The negative and hostile discussions are of minor importance and are largely limited to the opinions of individual people. The influence of political and ideological diversion is obvious. The following basic directions in the discussion can be determined:

  • Agreement with the »liberalization and democratization efforts« in the ČSSR, partly under the tenor that a similar development is desirable in the GDR;

  • Demand for "more freedom". This includes, inter alia. Roger that:

  • Freedom of movement for travel to West Germany and for entry into the restricted area of ​​the border districts,

  • Preservation of the "right to strike" also in the new constitution of the GDR,9

  • more permissive shaping of cultural development (especially among cultural workers), based on the profile of so-called western culture,

  • freedom of expression with assurance of impunity,

  • free exchange of information (distribution of western newspapers and magazines, removal of »censorship«),

  • Abolition of any "constriction",

  • a "permanent general crisis" developed and deepened in the socialist camp.

The negative discussions are, to a lesser extent, linked to the spread of rumors:

  • The events had an impact on the travel of GDR citizens to the ČSSR. The first blockages of tourist trips by GDR citizens to the ČSSR are ordered. The closure of the border with the ČSSR is expected shortly. (The VR Poland has already closed the border with the ČSSR).

  • Novotný announced his resignation as president;10 he has the fleeting Šejna11 favored.

  • The situation in the ČSSR is to be equated with that in the GDR in June 1953.

  • All political prisoners would be released.

  • A »free democracy« would be proclaimed in the ČSSR.

From the information and instructions available so far, it is clear that especially in Circles of students, cultural workers and intellectuals the discussions about the events in the PR of Poland and especially in the Czechoslovakia have become large.

The above-mentioned tendency towards an increase in listening to German-language broadcasts on Radio Prague applies particularly to these groups. Often one draws one another's attention to this »information possibility«. In this context, there has been an increase in discussions in which the reporting in the GDR press is particularly critical of the events in the ČSSR (e.g. students at the Humboldt University, the Potsdam University of Education, at universities in the Halle district, etc. ). In addition, a number of examples are known where cultural workers and intellectuals who are known to be representatives of negative attitudes "get information" by listening to western broadcasters and by taking advantage of personal relationships with ČSSR citizens.12

In the reaction of these circles the prevailing opinion is that such events as in the ČSSR and in the VR Poland are not possible in the GDR (because there are no such faulty conditions in the GDR as e.g. in the ČSSR), but Representatives of negative views combine these discussions with the "argument" that this is prevented by the "unfree" social conditions in the GDR. Such persons have repeatedly glorified the events in the ČSSR and associated them with speculations about the "leading role of the intelligentsia". In individual cases it was said that the writers and intellectuals in the GDR were "too cowardly and too corrupt" to "imitate their colleagues".

Some students at the engineering school in Koethen13 also took the position that the events in the ČSSR should be seen as "a political turn in the direction of Romania's attitude" and as an expression of the existence of "several roads to socialism". Above all, it is about the "replacement of Stalinists." In this context they welcomed the demands of Polish students for "freedom in literature and art".14

There were several discussions and statements among students from various universities and colleges. B. expressed that the true nature of the student riots in Poland was not recognized. Occasionally, students at Humboldt University took the view that student demonstrations were a “legitimate means of forming political will” and that they could contribute to the further development of socialism. At the Faculty of Education and Philosophy15 was criticized by students for not talking to them about such and similar problems. Occasionally, it was "argued" that the GDR would "isolate itself more and more through its dogmatic politics."16

Students specializing in metalworking at the Institute for Marxism-Leninism at the Bergakademie17 Freiberg, 2nd year of study, compared inter alia the measures against the student riots in the VR Poland with the emergency laws18 in West Germany. A discussion on the draft constitution in seminar II / 1 - specializing in math and physics - at the Berlin Humboldt University on February 29, 1968, ran in a similar direction.19 Essentially, it was about two problems:

  • In the GDR there was always so much talk against "freedom of expression in the West." There wouldn't be any with us either. Our freedom of expression only serves the implementation of the party's preconceived constitution. B. in the ČSSR - people act more freely,

  • If the enforcement of the emergency laws in West Germany were tantamount to a coup d'état, then with us - see Conscription Act -20 many such coups have already taken place.21

Medical students at the Humboldt University "argued"22 that they are "in fact without rights". One would let them [sic!] Feel at every opportunity that they are economically dependent. Some students of the Philosophical Faculty claimed that the Faculty "shouldn't discuss" the events in Poland and the Czechoslovakia, because otherwise consequences could be expected.23

Ambiguities and negative views also came to light among some employees of the publication organs. So designated z. B. several employees of the correction department of the "Märkische Volksstimme"24 the disputes in the ČSSR as a "triumphal procession of reason". Several employees of Radio DDR International25 considered a »return to the bourgeois republic« when discussing possible developments in the ČSSR. On the other hand, the editorial staff of the Political Editing of the German Television Broadcasting Corporation, after initially tending to a certain sensationalism, rejected the current role of the publication organs in the ČSSR.

From the statements of some prominent writers there is no direct or not always an immediate reference to the events in the ČSSR or in Poland, but they are moving in a similar direction. So was z. B. by the writers Kurt26 and Jeanne Stern27 and Christa Wolf28 take the view that the work in the DSV would only be interesting if groups with different aesthetic views could be formed. The writer Benno Pludra29 said that the party and state leadership had "too little trust" in the population, which was reflected in the "one-sided information" about what is going on in the world and in the fact that writers were "not allowed to write openly". From Paul Wiens30 it became known that he was of the opinion that the party and the government would soon be able to regain control of the situation in the ČSSR. At the same time, however, he also expressed that he considered it expedient to shape the cultural policy of the GDR on the basis of that of Yugoslavia.

Kaspar Klaus Riemschneider31 (Institute for Orient Research at the DAW) attributed insufficient current political discussions in his field of work to the fact that the "fundamental political liberalization of political life" had not yet been established in the GDR. (It is not advisable to name the persons listed in this part in the event of an evaluation of an official character because of the risk of deconspiracy of the sources.)

The MfS is aware from internal information that leading church circles be extremely interested in the events in the PR of Poland and in the ČSSR, especially in the further development in the ČSSR.

The focus of these groups is currently on collecting information from church circles in the Czechoslovakia and - as has also been said - "exploring" it in order to be able to draw conclusions about the situation of the church in the Czechoslovakia.

Particularly leading Protestant church leaders endeavor to use connections to church-bound forces, insofar as they are currently in the GDR, for talks about the development of the ČSSR. Such conversations took place inter alia. instead of

  • between the head of the "Prague Christian Peace Conference", Žiak32/ Prague, in preparation for the III. All-Christian Peace Assembly (March 31 - April 5, 1968 in Prague)33 from 13.3.1968 stays in the GDR for talks and evangelical church leaders,

  • between four speakers from the ČSSR (leading church personalities of the ČSSR), who were at the Evangelical Academy Berlin-Brandenburg / Stephanus-Stift for scheduled conferences on March 9th / 10th, 1968 and leading members of the leadership of the Evangelical Academy, among others.

The reaction of church evangelical leaders currently shows three directions:

  • One has to wait for the further development as well as the effects and hold back at the moment.

  • Approval of the "liberalization measures" in the ČSSR with the undertone that they could also have a "positive" effect in the GDR in terms of loosening relations between the state and the church.

  • Resignation and fears that the development in the ČSSR could have a lasting effect in the GDR in the form of the implementation of a "hard course" in order to get all attempts at imitation "under control" so that the relationship between church and state could worsen even further.

The managing director of the »Gossner Mission«34 Bruno Schottstädt35/ Berlin expressed z. B. before functionaries of the lay convention of the »Gossner Mission«, the democratization in the ČSSR must be seen as a »model case«; Liberalization is also possible in the GDR. The strong commitment of a certain section of state officials leads to wear and tear in a very short time, so that a change in behavior towards the church can be initiated.

Some leading functionaries of the Evangelical Church Berlin-Brandenburg welcomed the "freedom" and democratization efforts in an internal conversation. In this context the person became Havemann36 mentioned, which one had to rely on if similar problems were to arise in the GDR.

Prof. Schönherr37 said during a preachers' seminar in Leipzig in connection with the ČSSR events that we should first be prepared for a "hard wave".

Leading Catholic church circles are currently still exercising a certain restraint in their statements. However, a comprehensive orientation through west radio is widespread.

In the Ordinariate of the Catholic Church in Berlin, senior staff members said several times that such incidents were not possible in the GDR because the party leadership was "self-contained".

The situation in the Catholic Church of the GDR is also "more favorable" than in the ČSSR, since the government of the GDR is more humane in its behavior towards the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Bengsch38 characterized the situation in the ČSSR towards other people with the expression: "The layman is on the loose." What is happening in the ČSSR is not the concern of the Catholic Church in the GDR. The ordinariate must continue to regard it as its main task to enforce the post-conciliar resolutions.

Unofficially, the MfS became aware that the existing connections between citizens of the ČSSR and the GDR were increasingly being used to "inform" the citizens of the GDR about the events in the ČSSR. The main focus of the discussions is on the causes and the current situation. According to the information available so far, it can be estimated that the expressions of opinion of the ČSSR citizens are mainly based on communication media distributed in the ČSSR, whereby so-called liberalization efforts are supported. It is noteworthy that attempts are made several times to spread these efforts and to influence the GDR citizens in such a way that a change must follow the same line in the GDR.

Essentially, the opinions of ČSSR citizens have the following problems and speculations:

  • The "overthrow of President Novotný" is expected shortly.

  • President Novotný was to blame for the current occurrences because the “party leadership had no idea of ​​the real popular opinion.

  • Comrade Novotný would have pursued a stubborn and dogmatic policy, which would also have been directed against the Slovaks and would have led to the demand for his replacement.

  • The old party leadership would not have recognized that there was such unrest in the people of the ČSSR, caused by the "suppression of democracy and freedom".

  • Comrade Novotný had planned an overthrow with the army to prevent a new line from being established in the country.

  • In this context, the Šejna case is associated with the mistakes made by Comrade Novotný.

  • "Greatest hope and joy" is expressed about the path that is currently being taken. At last there would be freedom of the press; people would breathe a sigh of relief.

  • Few voices (presumably comrades in the KSČ) warn against exaggeration.

In detail, inter alia. expressed that for some time there has been a situation in the ČSSR where you never know where the wind is blowing from. Newspapers and radio brought things like: in the "old republic" and in the party the "democrats" would increase visibly. All of them had only supported the "police regime" against their own will. The party is constantly announcing its mistakes and political slogans such as "The SU - our role model" have completely disappeared.

The opinion is also expressed that the great "popular debate" is very necessary. There had been tension in the country between government and people for years and no progress in the economy had been seen. The flight of Šejna apparently gave the signal for a change of course in internal politics.

There is also speculation that many statesmen will be "sawed off" "because they do not meet the new, progressive requirements of democratic governance." Many of the "culprits" were already walking around with their heads bowed.

"Democratization" is welcomed in further discussions because "everything can finally be freely expressed". In general, one reckons with greater personal freedom and justice without having to "fear" as before. Certainly everything would improve and those who had previously "had to suffer" and were the "great nothing" would be very satisfied with this change.

There is also such a tendency that only "experts" can and should work in the government. It was noticed that party and economic functionaries are by no means identical.

Discussions on the »liberalization of information« occupy a large space. People could hardly understand how much "freedom and democracy" they would be given. Everything is allowed to be published. The newspapers would be very interesting and always sell out quickly. There is so much to report and to sweep in front of your own door that there is no room left for articles against the revanchists.

In individual opinions it is expressed that the GDR also wanted to tread this path, although the GDR was not as tight and dictatorial as in the ČSSR. A large number of people regret that it took so long before a "change for the better" came about.

Individual ČSSR citizens, including members of the KSČ, are of the opinion that President Novotný and Defense Minister Lomsky39 would have to be replaced because of mistakes made. Lately there has been no open and honest atmosphere within the party and the comrades who oppose the "Novotný course"40 occurred, were subject to reprisals. There would have been no discussion of specific measures. The party would only have instructed and ordered. The population and party members were outraged that the leading representatives had "lived a luxurious life at the expense of the whole people." President Novotný had taken a negative attitude towards the Slovak people and only tolerated people around him who supported him and his policies.

This group also assesses that the replacement of some functionaries would cause a certain unrest, but that nothing would change in the cooperation with the Soviet Union, the GDR and the other socialist countries. The attitude towards the ruling circles in West Germany would not change either. In this context, it is expressed that the party must take the fate of the party even more firmly in hand in order to offer a chance to those forces who, taking advantage of the current events in the Czechoslovakia, want to weaken the leading role of the party and the working class.

In connection with the events in the PR of Poland and in the ČSSR, the following incidents and hostile actions on the territory of the GDR have been ascertained so far:

The student [first name name 1]41 from the 1st year of study at the engineering school for plant construction42 Glauchau made the following remark to classmates: "In Glauchau there is no bread to chew on Mondays, you would have to do it like in Warsaw, draw a sign saying 'Hunger' and go through the city with it." At this engineering school, a letter of protest was written with the following text: »The majority of students repeatedly criticized the dish Sour Potato Pieces with stains. Unfortunately this has not yet been listened to. We ask the kitchen management not to include this dish in the menu ”. Below the text were 94 names of students from all three years of study. The protest letter was posted on the notice board in the school building.43

On March 7th, 1968, a color light picture lecture about Picasso, organized by the Kulturbund, took place in Karl-Marx-Stadt44 instead of around 220 people - mostly young people45 - participated. The speaker, Dr. Diether Schmidt46 from Dresden, stated in the course of his lecture, inter alia. Basically: In the GDR you have to see everything "historically" today, only later would it become clear whether we had done everything right after 1945. The erection of many monuments is not a good thing, the Stalin monument47 disappeared again overnight. He also took the view that art should be made by artists and politics by politicians, otherwise many mistakes would arise.

In the post office and various streets of Aschersleben, [district] Halle, a total of eight typewriter slips were laid out on March 11 and 13, 1968 (10 × 12 and 10.5 × 10 cm). The text read: »Poland's students are fighting in Warsaw, Gomułka48 in the Kremlin. Novotný by Dubček put aside. ›Information die Brücke‹ - signed with W. Gr. - death + devil. (On the back it says: "Read and throw away!")

On March 17, 1968, three slogans smeared on by unknown perpetrators were discovered on the Lübben motorway bridge (Berlin - Dresden motorway, at km 35): "Long live June 17th". The agitation slogans were smeared with white oil paint and are 7 m long (letter height 70 cm). There is a hate speech on the side of the bridge in the direction of Dresden, in the direction of Berlin and on the inner surface of the bridge.

On March 15, 1968, leaflets "Fresh Wind" (publisher: Bundeswehr) were smuggled into the GDR for the first time by post, which tie in with the situation in the ČSSR and in this context contain agitation against the conditions in the GDR and its leading functionaries.

On March 11, 1968, 49 apprentices refused from the VEB apprentice dormitory49 Wood processing plant Klosterfelde, [district] Bernau, the meal after the situation had not changed despite multiple complaints to the BGL due to poor quality of the food and poor hygienic conditions. The apprentices only changed their behavior after the management had argued about it on March 12, 1968. Measures initiated by the MfS together with the VP confirmed the conditions criticized by the apprentices. With their behavior they only wanted to achieve a change in conditions. (There is no suspicion of hostile or criminal acts, the apprentices have not appeared negatively in the past.)50

In the VEB Ermafa, operating part Borna, [district] Karl-Marx-Stadt, the slogan was smeared in the toilet of the administration building: "It already started in Poland, we'll be back soon too!"

On March 13, 1968, a slogan "The ČSSR is going ahead", smeared by unknown perpetrators, was discovered in the toilet on the first floor of the Charité administration building. (The solution was immediately removed and only then was the security authorities notified.)

On March 12, 1968, the slogan "For freedom, life" was smeared with red chalk by previously unknown perpetrators on the sign to the town of Neurüdnitz, [district] Frankfurt / O.

On March 21, 1968 it was established that in the Institute for German History51 or two posters in the anteroom of the cafeteria of the Humboldt University Berlin, which were put up on the corresponding notice boards on the occasion of the 3rd Student Day and show the portrait of Marx, with the text "Prague - model" pasted over it. The adhesive strips used for this were cut out exactly in the shape of the mouth and were stuck in this shape onto the mouth of the Marx figure.52

The MfS initiated the necessary measures to clear up the above-mentioned incidents.

In an anonymous inflammatory letter to the German television station, besides the glorification of the events in Warsaw, the worst incitement is carried out against the Chairman of the State Council of the GDR. This letter also calls for broadcasts on the "uprising" in Warsaw.

On March 14th, 1968 the Polish citizens [name 2, first name], born on [day, month] 1944, residing in Leipzig, student of polygraphy at the Polygrafisches Institut Leipzig, [name 3, first name] and [last name 4, first name], both also currently working as students at the Leipzig Polygraphic Institute, arrested by the Trapo for insulting the train driver. Two of the students admitted to being involved in the Warsaw riots. These students were already on March 13th. on the way from Frankfurt / O. Negative incurred when entering Berlin from Poland. They told the inspector that the GDR press had not reported extensively on the events in Poland. The [Name 2] also stated that he heard of the events in Warsaw on March 5, 1968 in Leipzig and that he immediately went there to take part in the demonstrations. [Name 2] said, among other things, that “Germany will also be free in a month”. Student demonstrations would also take place in Leipzig and other cities in four to six weeks in order to "fight for personal freedom" for the students and the population of the GDR.53

(Further investigations to elucidate the connections are still being carried out.)

  1. To the next document Prevented group desertion in the Storkow Pioneer Regiment
    March 25, 1968
    Individual information no. 337/68 about a prevented group desertion by members of the 3rd Company of the Pioneer Regiment 2 in Storkow-Küchensee
  2. Go to the previous document Six members of the Dresden Cross Choir fled the republic
    March 19, 1968
    Individual information no. 317/68 about the flight from the republic of six members of the Dresden Kreuzchor during a tour abroad