The first admitting facilities and reception centres for returnees and migrants to the GDR open in the summer of 1953. As of the fall of 1957, all newcomers must pass through a reception centre. By the mid- 1960s, such central reception centres are located in Eisenach, in Barby, near Magdeburg, in Pritzier in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, in Thuringian Saasa and in Berlin-Blankenfelde.
West Germany views the mass exodus from the GDR as a sign of dictatorship and oppression in East Germany, and of the superiority of the West German political and economic system. The GDR in turn sees the growing number of West-East migrants in the 1950s as proof of both the crisis of capitalism and the appeal of the socialist system.
In the early years of the GDR, there is no official plan for incorporating returnees and immigrants into society. Migrants are supposed to integrate as discretely as possible within one year, with the help of various businesses and factories, as well as party and mass organisations.
The Ministry of State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, or MfS, also known as the Stasi) closely monitors returnees and migrants from West Germany. A secret intelligence service, the MfS sees itself as the “sword and shield of the Party” and regards newcomers from capitalist West Germany with suspicion.
One of the biggest state secrets of the GDR comes to light in the course of the Peaceful Revolution of 1989/1990: ten former members of the Red Army Faction (Rote Armee Fraktion, or RAF) who had gone underground in the GDR are arrested within a few days in the summer of 1990. Officially, the GDR opposes all forms of terrorism and signs corresponding international agreements.
The exact number of men and women who work for the Ministry of State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, or MfS) in the “operation area,” i. e. in West Germany, is unknown. It is presumed that the Main Directorate for Reconnaissance (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, or HVA) and Main Department II Counter-Intelligence (Hauptabteilung II Spionageabwehr, or HA II) together handle around 3,500 agents at the same time.