Freedom's appeal

A fresh reminder surfaces of mankind's age-old yearning for freedom. It is the renewed increase in the number of East Germans who, with their government's approval, are emigrating to West Germany. Usually they number about 10 a day at this time of year, but for the past 10 days there have been some 100 daily.

Even this is a relative trickle compared with the demand: An estimated 500, 000 East Germans are waiting, sometimes for years, for permission to go to the West. And who can forget the torrent that flowed across the German frontier from the communist East to the West just before the Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to stop it?

This longing for freedom has been a major reason, although not the only one, for other migrations from repressive lands to the relative freedom of the United States and other countries.

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An estimated 100,000 Haitians have escaped the authoritarian hand of President-for-Life Jean-Claude Duvalier, many of them winding up in the United States.

In 1980 some 124,000 Cubans fled Fidel Castro's regime, most arriving in Florida aboard small and often rickety boats.

Hundreds of thousands of Indochinese have fled repressive governments in Vietnam and Kampuchea over the past decade, most risking their lives and braving the prospect of vicious attacks by high-seas pirates. The US alone has admitted over 400,000 Indochinese refugees.

The number leaving Vietnam now is well below the flood of 1979, the peak year of emigration. Nevertheless, tens of thousands now seek legal emigration, and other Vietnamese continue to depart their homeland in decrepit craft despite the enormous challenges that may confront them before they next see land.

But it is on Germany that the international spotlight is focused now. There many of the new emigrants are young families with children. Why East Germany is letting them leave, no one is certain. Two likely reasons are a desire to let some people leave who might become dissidents, and an effort to gain better relations with West Germany.

Whatever the motive of the East German government, that of the departing families is clear: to seek a better life for themselves and their children in the greater freedom of the West.

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