[...] A new type of refugee, hitherto unknown on such a vast scale, had stepped onto the stage of history: the prosperous refugee. Because these were not the wretched of the earth, these people arriving with a child on one arm and a plastic bag on the other. Most of them left behind a job, a three-room apartment, a TV set, and a car. Now they were standing in line to move from what was supposedly the tenth-wealthiest economy in the world to the third-wealthiest. Were they economic refugees? Of course they were, but that doesn't fully describe the phenomenon. The more intangible things they hoped to gain by giving up so much and crossing the border struck West Germans as strangely romantic: freedom, dignity, the right to live your life as you pleased. Such declarations reminded Western leftists of right-wing propaganda, and rightists of campaign slogans that had been worn to death. What were these people talking about? Did they know no more about the West than the commercials on TV? And did they really take them seriously?
This revealed a cultural gap as wide as the Wall was high: people who lack basic freedoms don't have to think very hard to name them, while people who enjoy them usually find it hard to perceive their concrete value--from which it follows that when people claim they don't know what high-sounding notions like "human rights" really mean, you can be pretty certain they already have those rights.