Surprise E. German move frees youth to travel west

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

The East German government is cautiously giving its youth more freedom to travel west. At the same time it is warning its fledgling domestic peace movement about the limits to its freedom.

The two contrary directions can be seen in the hints that select youths will be allowed to visit West Germany, France, and Austria - and in what was apparently a two-day detention of a Lutheran pastor who initiated a public peace appeal.

The indications of a modestly liberalized travel policy was given in a published announcement of the East German Travel Agency Youth Tourist, and in East German comments to a visiting delegation from the West German Free Democratic Party.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Youth Tourist is suddenly offering trips to West Germany, France, and Austria , along with its more usual East European destinations. The young West German politicians were asked by their host to help arrange East-West German seminars and exchanges of youth delegations.

The initiative by Youth Tourist chairman Egon Krenz surprised the West Germans, since until now Krenz and other East German officials have maintained that Bonn must recognize exclusive East German citizenship before the general ban on travel to the West by East German youths could be lifted.

The East German gesture toward liberalization comes two months after the December summit meeting between West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and East German party and state chief Erich Honecker in East Germany.

At that meeting the West German side made clear its interest in liberalization of human contacts between East and West Germans. The East Germans indicated privately that they would take some steps in this direction, but only in their own time and as a sovereign state, and not in conjunction with the East-West German summit.

East Germany has not yet undertaken any changes in the area that concerns West Germany most - the high compulsory fees charged West Germans visiting East Germany. These fees (formally a required exchange of West German for East German marks) were doubled, and in some cases quadrupled, a year and a half ago, and the number of West German visitors has dropped sharply because of it.

West German officials still expect some movement in this area too. East-West tensions over Poland have not altered this expectation.

East Berlin's cautious moves to liberalize East-West German contacts apparently do not extend to any enthusiasm for the indigenous East German peace movement that is directed toward East German and Soviet governments as much as toward the West.

Pastor Rainer Eppelmann, the originator of a new appeal for a right to conscientious objection to military service in East Germany, was detained for two days by security officials, the West Berlin Lutheran study group for church information reported Feb. 11.

The appeal was originally signed by 30 persons, including veteran communist and veteran dissident Robert Havemann. According to West German reports it picked up 200 signatures in the past few days, and Eppelmann was seeking official permission to print and circulate the appeal.

Eppelmann's appeal also called for substituting instruction about peace for military instruction in East German schools, and ending civil defense exercises and the production or sale of war toys.

It also called for an all-European nuclear-free zone and for withdrawal by the victorious World War II powers of their troops from East and West Germany, the reports said. It spoke of the ''senseless waste of the work and riches of our people in the production of instruments of war.''

East Berlin has been ambivalent on peace movements. It praises whatever comes up in the West in the way of protests against NATO nuclear weapons. It also joined in to sponsor the East-West ''peace congress'' called by East German writer Stephan Hermlin last December - and despite some Western objections to Soviet SS-20 rockets at that meeting, a similar congress is said to be in the works for March.

Nonetheless, the East German government has been sensitive to the continued calls by various East German Lutherans for the right of conscientious objection and an end to compulsory military training in East German schools. This is assumed by observers to be the reason for the recent exclusion of West German reporters from various Lutheran regional meetings - to avoid giving publicity to these demands.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...