The Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu allowed people of German descent to leave for Germany during the Cold War – in return for money.
This secret trade cost the German government billions and continued for more than 20 years. The communist regime in Bucharest used the foreign currency to pay down its state debts.
Around 250,000 Romanians of German descent were ‘bought out’ this way – in fact, almost all of them. Their ancestors had lived there for more than 800 years. This was the biggest buy-out in history and the German public wasn’t told about it. Ceausescu insisted on the utmost secrecy; the world wasn’t supposed to find out that Romania was selling off its citizens. But few people in the German government knew about the operation either. The only negotiator acting on its behalf was Heinz Günther Hüsch, a lawyer from Düsseldorf. Between 1968 and 1989, he met the Romanian secret service, the Securitate, hundreds of times, carrying suitcases full of money and a firearm. 25 years after the raising of the Iron Curtain, the former Christian Democrat politician opened his archives and discussed this secret Cold War deal for the first time.