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Hundreds of East Germans Reported in Prague Embassy

September 22, 1989

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ A visiting West German official said Thursday that more than 500 East Germans are camped out at the West German Embassy in Prague, seeking free passage to the West.

Peter Glotz, head of a visiting West German parliamentary delegation, said many were determined to stay until their demands were met.

″Well over 500 refugees, including 170 children and two pregnant women, are camping out on the embassy grounds,″ Glotz told a news conference in Prague.

″There are very many young people ... and there are people who quite strongly say they will not return to (East Germany),″ the official said.

The flood of East Germans emigrating to the West through Hungary continued Thursday, with 465 crossing into neighboring Austria in the previous 24 hours. Austrian border officials said nearly 18,000 East Germans have entered since Hungary opened its western border 11 days ago to the emigrants.

From Austria, the East Germans are heading to West Germany, where they are granted automatic citizenship. West German officials said 304 arrived overnight.

Most have cited East Germany’s hard-line Communist government as their reason for leaving.

In East Berlin, Deputy Culture Minister Klaus Hoepcke was quoted in the youth newspaper Junge Welt as calling for an investigation into the causes of the refugee wave and social changes needed to stem it.

About 250 would-be emigrants last week accepted an East German offer of impunity and the chance to apply for legal emigration and left the Prague embassy, reducing the number there to about 150.

Over the past few days, however, hundreds more have scaled the 6-foot-high fence around the compound.

Many were reported to have come to the embassy after having been turned back at the Hungarian border by Czechoslovak authorities. Hard-line Czechoslovakia has condemned Hungary for allowing the East Germans to go West.

″Our delegation tried to urge a humanitarian solution″ in talks with Czechoslovak officials and Foreign Minister Jaromir Johanes, Glotz said. ″But at this point I cannot raise any hopes.″

Many East Germans have told reporters in Hungary and West Germany that Czechoslovak authorities were trying to prevent them from traveling to Hungary. Reports have emerged of people illegally crossing from Czechoslovakia to Hungary by crashing through road barriers or swimming the Danube.

Czechoslovak officials denied the charges.

The Hungarian news agency MTI meanwhile said Thursday that East German refugees who left for the West through Hungary will be able to reclaim hundreds of cars they left behind.

It said 200 cars abandoned by refugees were previously returned to East Germany, but about 600 cars remain. MTI said they will be sent to Austrian and West German motor clubs so refugees can recover them.

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