Hundreds of thousands of East Germans took to the streets again in cities around the country Monday, demanding more reforms than the government is offering.
The biggest turnout was in Leipzig, East Germany's second-largest city, where hundreds of thousands of people gathered at churches and then marched in a peaceful demonstration through the city center in the rain. Other demonstrations were reported in Schwerin, Dresden and three other cities.
The marchers called for free elections, unrestricted travel abroad and recognition of opposition groups. The official East German news agency ADN put the size of the Leipzig demonstration at several hundred thousand, calling it the largest rally in that city since the country's political turmoil began in September. Estimates by Protestant church sources in Leipzig ran from 200,000 to 500,000.
Meanwhile, ADN said that more than 23,000 people had fled the country over the weekend by way of Czechoslovakia, which has opened its border to West Germany for people who wish to leave East Germany. The latest wave of emigration was touched off Saturday when East Germany liberalized travel to Czechoslovakia, which is the only country to which East Germans can travel without official permission.
So far this year, about 185,000 East Germans, taking cars, buses and trains, have crossed into West Germany through Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland--more than 1% of the entire population. When the Czechoslovaks, after consulting with the East German regime, opened their border with West Germany, they created the first direct route to the West available to the refugees.
The Communist government in East Berlin attempted to stem the tide Monday by publishing a draft of new regulations that will liberalize travel abroad for East Germans.
Under the new regulations, East Germans will be allowed to go abroad for 30 days a year, and the process of getting the necessary papers will be simplified. Officials also promise that anyone wishing to emigrate will be able to complete the process within six months.
Fleeing the country will no longer be a criminal act, although it will still be unlawful to cross the Berlin Wall or the fortified border with West Germany.
Many East Germans made it clear that they are not satisfied with the proposed changes.
"Everyone should be issued a passport," a spokesman for the opposition group New Forum said in East Berlin, "and be free to go where and when they want to go."
Other opposition leaders suggested that the proposed reforms do not go nearly far enough, now that the demonstrations are reaching massive proportions. The turnout in East Berlin on Saturday was estimated at nearly a million.
Sebastian Pflugbeil, one of the founders of the New Forum group, said that travel is not the No. 1 problem in East Germany, and that "too many have left the country already."
Pflugbeil, speaking on radio, said: "The leadership must take other steps to prove it is earnest in its reform effort and to win the trust of the people. The tension between the people and the (Communist) party has never been so great as it is today."
In West Germany, officials warned that East Germany and West Germany will both suffer as a result of the exodus.
Martin Bangemann, a member of the European Commission, called for West European support of reforms suggested by East German leader Egon Krenz, on the grounds that although they are limited, they are better than nothing.
Bangemann and other West German officials expressed concern Monday that the flood of East Germans could severely strain the West German job market and living accommodations. And they said this could touch off an adverse reaction by West Germans against the newcomers.
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said additional reforms are critically needed to persuade East Germans to stay where they are.
Egon Bahr of the opposition Social Democratic Party said that joint East-West ventures should be considered as a way to spur economic growth in East Germany and dissuade Germans living there from attempting to seek a better life in the West.
Bahr suggested that relations between the two Germanys have been jeopardized because of the recent shift of young people from East to West.
"We can do each other a lot of damage," he said.
West German officials expressed concern over estimates that as many as 1.5 million more East Germans might wish to flee the country.
East Germans arriving in West Germany qualify immediately for citizenship and social benefits, and this has caused some resentment among some West Germans. Some officials suggested Monday that the warm reception for East Germans has already begun to cool.
Increasingly the newcomers are being looked upon as competitors in the tight West German job market and in the quest for scarce low-cost housing.
In addition to East Germans, about 300,000 ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union, Poland and other Eastern countries are expected to arrive this year. They too are entitled to the benefits, but few of them will bring with them the technical skills of the East Germans.
In East Germany, meanwhile, the refugee flight is having an undeniable effect on the work force. The West German newspaper Bild reported that East Germany plans to fire 15,000 secret police and put them to work in factories and offices to replace lost workers.
WHERE THREE NATIONS TOUCH
East German emigrants by the thousands are flocking to western Czech region near West German border. There, they cross to the West by car or foot at five checkpoints. Many also take trains from Prague to Marktredwitz, West Germany.