Publication: The Times

Full Citation

  • Title Herr Ulbricht's Withering Empire
  • Author OWN, OUR
  • Publication Title The Times
  • Collection The Times Digital Archive, 1785-2008
  • Date Friday,  Feb. 14, 1958
  • Issue Number 54075
  • Page Number 7
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Times Newspapers Limited
  • Copyright Statement © Times Newspapers Limited.
BERR ULBRICHT'S WITHERING EMPIRE BOURGEOIS COMFORTS PREFERRED FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT BERLIN, FEB. 13 Contrary to the Marxist theory of the eventual withering away of the State, in east Germany it is the population that is withering away. In the past nine years about 2,250,000 persons, or 12 per cent. of the population, have fled to the Federal Republic. This is a growing threat to the east German economy; it is as if six million persons had emigrated from Britain since the beginning of 1949, the vast majority ot working age and one-third having recently finished apprenticeships and higher forms of education and technical training. The total is based on figures admitted by the east German {iovernment. The number of refugees between 1949 and 1956 inclusive was 2,216,000. of whom 222,000 returned. Nearly 300,000 arrived in the Federal Republic last year. These figures far exceed the natural increase in the population. The excess of births over deaths in 1956 was 69,000, but about 297,000 residents of east Germany fled to the west. The present population is estinated at less than 17,400,000, compared with 19 million nine years ago. RATHER MORE HARASSED It is little wonder that Herr Ulbricht looks rather more harassed than some other satellite leaders. In no other part of the Soviet empire can the iron curtain be crossed as easily as in Germany. No other central and eastern Europeans can -flee without becoming political refugees, with all the difficult adjustments and material difficulties that this implies. The refugee from east Germany has- the advantage of staying in his own country. Nearly half of them come through Berlin, and one of the remarkable features of this extraordinary city is that the underground used by the refugees is not a secret, dangerous route run by a clandestine resistance movement. but the ordinary underground railway. The refugee has only to buy a 30 pfennig ticket at Stadtmitte, for example, to emerge a few minutes later in west Berlin. The flow could be stopped only by stopping normal traffic between east and west Berlin, by making Berlin a divided city, like Jerusalem. This desperate measure is understood to have been canvassed by the cast German regime, but the Soviet authorities have refused to contemplate it. The tightening of passport regulations and other measures have not stopped the flow: indeed, the former actually increased it for a time, probably because people feared that movement would be more difficult in future. ROCK 'N ROLL The regime does all it can to satisfy young people. Educational facilities are in many ways superior to those of the Federal Republic. No youth of average ability need do without a good free education. Concessions have been made in what is called the " cultural " field. Rock 'n roll is danced in many east Berlin dance halls. and blue jeans and check shirts are on sale in State shops. The average youngster is prepared to take advantage of all this. but youth is not eternal, and by the time adolescence has passed many are ready to move on to the bourgeois comforts of the Federal Republic. BERLtN, Feb. 13.-The east German news agency A.D.N. reports that Herr Grotewohl, the Prime Minister, has left Berlin for a cure which is to last several weeks. The report did not say where. he was going or what he was suffering from.-Reuter.