It was in November of 1973, one year after Sweden had diplomatically recognized the communist-ruled German Democratic Republic, when prime minister Olof Palme wrote a letter to SED-party boss Erich Honecker. In it Palme asked the East German leader to grant a number of GDR citizens permission to emigrate to Sweden. The letter was recently discovered in a political archive in Berlin by Swedish linguistics professor Birgitta Almgren, who revealed its contents in a newly-written book about the relations between Sweden and East Germany.
Olof Palme sent his letter twelve years after the East German regime had sealed off the former Soviet zone territory from the west with the Berlin wall and with barbed-wire border installations along the demarcation line between East and West Germany. The border barriers were erected in 1961 to halt the rapid rise of the number of East Germans escaping the communist rule by fleeing to the west. In the 28 years before the wall came down in 1989, hundreds of refugees died trying to scale the border fortifications. They were either shot by border guards or fell victim to mines and automatic shooting devices.
Initiatives to secure East German citizens' emigration to Sweden came also from the Swedish Communist Party who had its own contacts with the SED regime. But these endeavors were not long-lived because bi-partisan relations deteriorated when the Swedish communists made it clear that their policy would not follow the course prescribed by the Kremlin.