Full Citation

  • Title Champagne Charlie
  • Author Leslie, Ann
  • Publication Title Daily Mail
  • Collection Daily Mail
  • Date Friday,  Nov. 10, 1989
  • Issue Number 29048
  • Page Number [1]
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Associated Newspapers Limited
  • Copyright Statement © Associated Newspapers Limited.
From spy-drama checkpoint to freedom crossing CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE hitiiht of freedom Champagne at Checkpoint Charlie: East Berliners toast a historic night CHECKPOINTS at the Berlin Wall erupted into a huge carnival last night. Thousands of East Germans flooded through, brandishing champagne and beer bottles. Many danced on top of the wall near Checkpoint Charlie with good-humoured border guards making no attempt to remove them or break up the bedlam. Hours earlier, the Wall had been consigned to the history books as the infamous symbol of a divided E e e G c — s n s t h s c b ANN LESLIE REPORTS FROM BERLIN ld ithin two years it would be defunct to the West — for 20 minute t d g r e e r o e n s d Europe. East Germany's new lead¬ ers said their citizens could now emigrate freely and directly to West Germany. On both sides of the Wall there was celebration that Checkpoint Charlie dramatic backcloth of countless spy films and novels — was now nothing more than a tourists' turn¬ stile. Crowds of East Germans hurried through the no man's land where, hours earlier, they would have been shot at by guards. Thousands more crossed at other checkpoints, simply by showing their identity cards. The developments surprised the West as much as the East. When, in June 1987, Ronald Reagan stood at the Wall built by Erich Honecker and called out: 'Mr Gorbachev, tear this Wall down* no one imagined that w M B a st re a b S e a h e o B t f p within defunct. Mr Reagan's successor, President Bush, said of the news: 'I feel good about it.' He advised East Germans to stay on and 'participate in the reforms that are taking place.' At first, a trickle of citizens arrived at the border in East Berlin. It soon became a deluge. In Bornholmer Strasse, border police gave up and let everybody through without checking, and first-aid teams were on hand to help some people who fainted with emotion. On the West Berlin side, crowds shot off fireworks and clapped as the East Berliners surged through. At one o'clock this morning, I spoke to Uta Ruhrdanz and four student friends at the Friedrichstrasse check¬ point In East Berlin. 'We've Just been minutes!' cried Uta. 'It's unbelievable! Still we can't understand how this happened and why. but for the moment we are just so excited and happy that we cant think much further! 'As soon as we heard the news we thought, "Can It be true — let's go and see." When we arrived the border guards said, "OK you can go across tonight and come back if you want. But tomorrow morning you should go and get your police stamp.' There were lots of us crowding on to the train to West Berlin and we were all singing and laughing and some were trying to dance. 'And some people were still a little bit scared: they were saying, "Perhaps it's all a trick, perhaps they won't let Turn to Page 2, Col. 1 DATELINE BERLIN: MOMENTOUS' DAY FOR DIVIDED EUROPE Years of fear end in tears of joy Continued from Page One us come back again." We, too, felt a little bit frightened and so when we were in West Berlin we rushed out into the Kurfustendamm and bought souvenirs and then rushed back again. I think we were not believing com¬ pletely that all this is true — but here we are. We are back and there has been no problem. It is so wonderful!' As I returned to my hotel cars were honking, people were shouting greet¬ ings and a middle-aged couple came up to me and embraced me, beaming with excitement. It had taken several hours since the historic announcement before East Berliners really began to blih I believe what was now possible. Half-an-hour after the announcement, I had gone to Checkpoint Charlie where I interviewed a border guard. A fine drizzle fell, draping his cap with diamonds of light from the floodlights at the Wall: the scene was straight out of a spy thriller. But this border guard In his huge greatcoat had suddenly' been transformed from a creature of totalitarian nightmare into an affable East German bloke clearly delighted to know that the more murderous part of his role was, as of half an hour earlier, effectively over. Around me the people were gathering, some toasting the great news with champagne. The guard looked up the road where foreign cars were lined up already. 'Isn't it great?' an East German friend with me asked him. "Wouldn't it have been wonderful If they'd announced this four months ago?' 'Yes — it is wonderful but I don't think it's too late now. I think now there is hope for the country!' he replied. 'Oh, but you know that 43,000 people have left since the weekend?' my friend informed him. The border guard looked aghast 'As many as that? I didn't realise.' I asked him whether he was happy at the developments. He smiled rue¬ fully. 'Personally, no — because it's go ha qu c m m em o th d fo te h sp fe going to mean I have to work much harder coping with the enormous queues that will be coming.* The queue at the Friedrichstrasse checkpoint was growing by the minute. The people — young, old, middle-aged — were laughing, crying, embracing and all were telling each other (and me) exactly how and where they heard the news. It had been yet another astonishing day In the city. Even yesterday I found that East Germans, for so long terrorised by the state security — the hated Stasi — would hesitate before speaking to me. They had developed a fear that even the walls in the streets were listening to them. But last night that fear seemed finally to have gone. In the queue at Friedrichstrasse one woman said: 'They are still spying on us — look at that man listening over there. He is Stasi!' In fact he turned out to be a harmless Swedish reporter and even though people in the queue had looked at him you could tell that they suddenly didn't care whether he was Stasi or not. The Wall still exists physically but in effect it has been destroyed. The psychological symbol of the Wall with its watch towers and its terrible no man's land had entered deeply into every East Berliner's soul. Now that the symbol, if not the physical presence, had been removed I found East Berliners looking on it as a simple border marker. 'I don't think they should pull the wall down yet.' said my East German mend. 'After all every country marks its border. But of course people on both sides should be able to pass to and fro — and now, at last, that is happening. This has been the most exciting day of my life.' When we parted she flung her arms round me and kissed me, crying: 'Who would ever have believed that this would happen today!'