Voting With Their Cars and Feet

Later that same year, when Hungary ripped down its section of the Iron Curtain, hundreds of unhappy East Germans stormed across the Austrian border, from there traveling on to West Germany. When the Hungarians refused to act as border guards for the DDR, the East Germans took a startling, unprecedented step, forbidding their citizens travel to another Communist nation. But once the flow had started, it was impossible for East Germany to staunch it.

East Germans next sought an exit through Czechoslovakia , with thousands scaling fences to get into the West German embassy in Prague. Televised images of East Germans desperately seeking access to the embassy grounds stunned many people around the world and touched a raw, easily exposed nerve in the West German consciousness. After a very tense week, the two Germanys struck a deal whereby all those in the embassy were granted exit visas to the Federal Republic. But almost as soon as these lucky ones had arrived in the West, others took their place in the Prague embassy.

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