East German Refugees at the Order of Malta Relief Camp, Budapest, 10 September 1989: In the refugee camp at Zugliget Church [34/66]



August 27 - September 24 1989
Hungary, Budapest, Malteser refugee camp Zugliget church
Created By: Archiv Wolfgang Wagner

License: Creative Commons License

The West German ambassador to Hungary, Alexander Arnot (right) and Csilla Freifrau von Boeselager, co-founder of the Hungarian Malteser - Caritas emergency services, in the Malteser refugee camp for GDR citizens at Zugliget Church in Budapest; Malteser emergency services began a large-scale operation in Hungary on August 27, 1989: "10,000 refugees from the GDR are being cared for in three camps before they are allowed to travel to the Federal Republic of Germany." (Retrieved and translated from Malteser Hilfsdienst, Erzdiözese München und Freising: Chronik 1955-2005, on April 23, 2009)


group of people, logo


camp, celebration, Christian Church, crowd, embassy, joy, omnibus, press, the, refugee, television, wave of refugees


Order of Malta Ambulance Corps


Zugliget church

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"On Sunday, 27 August 1989, Dr. Matthias Neumayer (physician) and Andreas Wildfeuer (paramedic) set off from Munich for Budapest together with Georg Lengerke, Peter Grammelsbacher, and Wolfgang Wagner. They had been commissioned to do so by the West German branch of the Order of Malta Emergency Corps (MHD).

After driving for about ten hours, we finally reached the camp alongside Zugliget Church. After briefly informing ourselves about the care provided by the officers-in-charge, Mr. Mierse and Mr. Triller, we were taken to Camp 2, the so-called Csillebérc Pioneer Camp, eight kilometres away. Eight hundred people were staying there. It was like a huge campsite, with permanent toilets, a self-service restaurant with two dining halls, and bungalow accommodation. It also contained about 20 disaster relief tents. Our work mainly involved providing accommodation for the 300 to 500 new refugees who were arriving every day. […] It was quite a struggle each evening to find a place where the latest arrivals could sleep. There were days when we didn’t have a single woollen blanket or airbed left by 11 p.m.

After we had been working there for four days, there were about 2,000 people in Camp 2 […] When we received news from the West German Embassy that the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gyula Horn, would be reading a declaration at 8.15 p.m. on Sunday, 10 September 1989, we set up a folding picnic table with a television on a slight rise. Baroness Boeselager, who happened to be visiting the camp, translated what was broadcast from Hungarian into English through a microphone and loudspeakers. I allowed the press to enter the camp for the first time. They positioned themselves to the right and left of the television set, so that they could record the jubilant response to the declaration. Subsequently, they broadcast it – again via television – around the world. That night, the people in the camp celebrated the start of a new life. […] At 2 p.m. on Monday, nine buses drove up from Vienna. They formed the first convoy headed for the Federal Republic of Germany. Afterwards, about seven buses arrived each day to take the new arrivals, who still had East German passports, to Passau.

(This is a slightly modified excerpt from the report filed by the author on the care given to GDR refugees from 27 August to 24 September 1989 at the camps run by the Order of Malta in Hungary.)"

Wolfgang Wagner (München)