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The first of 8,000 East German refugees arriving from Czechoslovakia cheered from the windows of a train they dubbed "Freedom Express" as it rolled into West Germany at dawn Thursday to cries and cheers from hundreds of waiting citizens.

The first of eight trains carrying refugees from Prague crossed the border from East Germany to Hof shortly before 6 a.m. Seven more trains were expected to arrive through the morning.About 500 citizens and officials, many of whom waited all night in freezing cold, rushed out to greet the train with laughter, cheers and tears and immediately began passing food and coffee through the windows to the exhausted travelers.

Many of the refugees were forced to stand throughout the 9 1/2-hour ride from Prague roaring a tearful greeting to their new homeland.

As they disembarked, the refugees were given hot drinks, food and warm clothing. The weariest refugees and those with small children were escorted to a special train with sleeper cars in which they would be escorted to nearby reception camps.

"I am just so happy to be here now," said Doreen Brettscheneider, 19, who said she had no idea where she would go or what she would do in West Germany.

Brettscheneider said the train, which normally completes the trip in six hours, was delayed several hours outside Dresden, East Germany, and that passengers believed police were clearing away local would-be refugees who hoped to leap on board at the station.

When they finally passed through, the Dresden station was deserted, she said.

The respected West German daily Die Welt said 5,000 people had gathered Wednesday near the station at Dresden in hopes of joining the exodus. But they were cleared away by police who chased several hundred people along the tracks, kicking and beating them, the paper said.

Officials said the refugees, the largest single group to leave East Germany since a mass exodus began three weeks ago, each would be provided with new passports, $100 and temporary accommodation until they can settle in their new country.

Many private citizens have offered to open their homes to the new arrivals and potential employers circulated through the crowded Hof train station looking for people with particular skills. Many of the refugees are highly trained workers who have felt their creativity was stifled in East Germany's centrally controlled enterprises.

Authorities initially estimated 11,000 people were waiting in and around the West German Embassy in Prague to make the trip, but a spokesman said after the last train pulled away that the number who boarded "certainly did not exceed 8,000."

About 40 people remained at the embassy planning to accept an East German offer of legal emigration within six months, he said. No decision was announced on the future of hundreds more who have sought refuge at West Germany's missions in Warsaw, Poland and Sofia, Bulgaria.

The latest wave of refugee arrivals will bring to 40,000 the total of people who have reached West Germany through Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland since Sept. 11.

In Prague, West German officials turned their attention to cleaning up the embassy compound, which was turned to muddy and malodorous swamp after being used as a campground by two huge masses of refugees.

But it is "still too early for the Red Cross to take the tents away," said a spokesman who warned that officials are braced for yet another wave of refugees to pour into the compound. The latest group defied Czechoslovak police to rush into the grounds immediately after 7,000 people were removed to the West on Sunday.