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Germany

Iraqi Refugees Housed in Historic German Camp

The first of 2,500 Iraqi refugees have arrived in Germany, where they'll follow in the footsteps of many migrants before them. They'll stay in the Friedland camp, which has housed 4 million refugees since World War II.

The entrance to the Friedland Refugee Camp in Goettingen, Germany

The Friedland Refugee Camp was opened in 1945

The refugee camp at Friedland was established on the border between the British and Soviet zones. British troops took over a research farm formerly owned by Goettingen University, and the area was officially named a "border crossing camp" on Sept. 20, 1945. It has been under the control of the state of Lower Saxony since 1948.

Historically, it was the place where people from the Soviet-controlled East entered the West. Among them were refugees, displaced people and ethnic Germans from the formerly German-controlled areas in the East, as well as Soviet prisoners of war trying to return home.

The last 10,000 of them reached the border station in 1955 -- ten years after the war had ended. In the Soviet Union they were seen as war criminals and showed up once diplomatic relations between the USSR and West Germany were opened.

Pieces of a puzzle

Black and white photo of people walking towards a zone designating the start of the British zone

The camp was founded on the border between the British and Soviet zones

After the creation of the two German states in 1949, the Friedland camp remained an initial destination for migrants from East Germany and so-called late German repatriates -- Germans from Russia and Eastern Europe who returned to Germany years or decades after the war ended.

In Friedland, there was a multitude of data about millions of repatriates, emigrants and others returning home as well as over 200,000 German prisoners of war. German governmental departments put this material to good use, but it was also looked upon with great interest by secret services from all over the West, who interrogated all of the new arrivals.

Each person coming from the East carried with bits of information, which were important to the military in developing of larger picture of their Cold War enemy.

After the Iron Curtain

An Iraqi Christian kisses a cross in Baghdad

Some 2,500 Iraqis, many of them Christians, will start a new life in Germany

More than four million people have passed through the camp, which many considered their gateway to freedom.

Starting in 1990, emigrants from former Soviet satellite countries have made up the majority of arrivals. Since that time the camp has been the site of integration courses for those coming to Germany.

Since its origins, Friedland has seen a host of refugees from many countries. In 1956, 3,000 Hungarians, who had fled their homeland after a failed uprising, arrived at the camp. Chileans suffering from political persecution after the Pinochet took control of Chile in a coup on Sept. 11, 1973 also made their way there.

Later the camp became the first stop in Germany for so-called boat people from Vietnam, Tamils from Sri Lanka, refugees from Albania and, as of 2009, refugees from Iraq.

Author: Jochen Vock / Mark Mattox

Editor: Kate Bowen

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