The GDR carried out a total of eleven large-scale amnesties, i.e. pardoning of prisoners, on the occasion of important anniversaries. According to the conception the leadership of the GDR had of itself, these were a sign of the "socialist humanitarianism". The large number of freed prisoners however will have also served to make space for newly sentenced prisoners in the prisons which were completely overfilled at regular intervals due to the excessive criminal prosecutions.
The system of persecution was stabilised in this manner. In addition, the official statistics figures for criminals were lowered artificially as those who had been pardoned were no longer listed in the statistics. During the time of the changeover, two amnesties were carried out. The first one took place on 27/10/1989 and affected all prisoners which had been imprisoned due to an attempt to flee the Republic. The second amnesty on 12/12/1989 applied to prisoners which had been imprisoned for a period of up to three years before 6/12/1989 due to "intentional and negligent offences". Serious offences were excluded from the amnesty.