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From Der Spiegel:

Jetzt entschied jeder selbst, ob er gehen wollte. Das Regime musste sich bewegen, sonst würde es seine Bürger verlieren. So stärkte die Flüchtlingskrise in Ungarn, später in Prag und anderswo die Oppositionsbewegung in der DDR.

"Die Option der Ausreise ließ sich als Druck- und Drohmittel einsetzen, um für das Dableiben einen politischen Preis zu verlangen." schreibt der Historiker Hans-Herrmann Hertle über die Lage nach der Grenzöffnung in Ungarn: "Die Abwanderung schwächte das politische Widerspruchspotenzial nicht länger, sondern gab ihm gesellschaftliche Berechtigung.

I don't understand the meaning of the sentences in bold.

The option of leaving the country inserted itself as a means of pressure and threat. What pressure and threat?

What does the politischen Preis refer to in this context?

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To start with a little disclaimer: I'm not a historian; so please take my statement regarding German history with a grain of salt.

At first, each critic who left the GDR weakened its political opponents (because one critic less is one opponent less) [Die Abwanderung schwächte das politische Widerspruchspotenzial...].
When the leave (via Hungary) became broadly accessible to GDR citizens, they had nothing to lose anymore. They could apply pressure to the people in charge by threatening to leave the country [Die Option der Ausreise ließ sich als Druck- und Drohmittel einsetzen...] if they did not get more privileges (for example proper, non-faked elections, or the right to choose your education on your own and many more) [...um für das Dableiben einen politischen Preis zu verlangen]. In a metaphorical sense they said: If you don't give us what we want, we'll leave.

Which improvements of the situation in the GDR are contained by the politischer Preis cannot be told from the paragraph you provided. In my opinion, this surpasses the limits of a site for German language since that's a mainly a question of history.


You translated the phrase ließ sich einsetzen as inserted itself. This is a (twofold) mis-translation. Here, einsetzen translates as use (Pikachu uses Thunder Shock = Pikachu setzt Donnerschock ein).
Additionally, sich X-en lassen means to be able to be X-ed. So ließ sich einsetzen should be translated as could be used.

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The sentence, as I understand it, means that the people got the ability to request certain political agreements in exchange for not leaving the country.

Given the people do not have the right to vote. Then, the people could request to vote and threaten to leave the country, if their request is denied. In this context, the politische Preis is the right to vote.

  • What do you mean by "Given the people do not have the right to vote."? Do you mean the people back then did not have the right to vote? – boaten Oct 13 '14 at 3:11
  • It was a fictional example. People in the GDR had the right to vote (for the details: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_East_Germany). – Abrixas2 Oct 13 '14 at 9:53
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The misunderstood word here is "einsetzen," which in this context means "to use" instead of "to insert." Apart from that, Abrixas2 explains it correctly:

The sentence, as I understand it, means that the people got the ability to request certain political agreements in exchange for not leaving the country.

Given the people do not have the right to vote. Then, the people could request to vote and threaten to leave the country, if their request is denied. In this context, the politische Preis is the right to vote.

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