Full Citation

  • Title What a momentous night to remember
  • Author Leslie, Ann
  • Publication Title Daily Mail
  • Collection Daily Mail
  • Date Saturday,  Nov. 11, 1989
  • Issue Number 29049
  • Page Number 3
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Associated Newspapers Limited
  • Copyright Statement © Associated Newspapers Limited.
CHEERS AND TEARS AS WEST GREETS EAST What a momentous night to remember ,y,, COLLAPSE "*"• M THE WALL Pulling together: Helping hands from the West as jubilant East Berliners clamber over the Wall I CANNOT believe this is happening. Here I am in a massive queue of East German cars approaching Checkpoint Charlie and tears are streaming down my exhausted face. At this exultant moment, I feel convinced that I will never feel such an intensity of emotion again in my life. I no longer care how undignified I look, the mascara puddling down my cheeks, nor how inappropriate it is for me to be proclaiming President Kennedy's famous words, 'Ich bin ein Berliner!* How dare I feel such emotion, I who have been free all my life, when sitting beside m j H By ANN LESLIE WHO FOR THIS HISTORIC 24 HOURS BECAME AN EAST BERLINER TO SHARE THEIR HOPES AND FEARS me in the car and sobbing like me is teacher Wiebke Reed, who today has become free for the first time in her grey and fear-filled 48 years. We are hugging each other and she's screaming, 'I love you, Ann!' and I'm screaming back, 'I love you, Wiebke!' We're screaming the same at the huge crowd of West Berliners who are cheering Wiebke's battered little red Wartburg as it inches and coughs its way slowly across the no-man's land where so many have died. A massive roar erupts from the West German crowd as we approach that sign which, adorned with British, American and French flags, tells us and all the hundreds of little coughing Wartburgs and Trabants behind us, 'You are now entering the Allied Zone.' 'I cannot BELIEVE this!' sobs Wiebke. 'Here I am, Wiebke Reed, driving freely across Checkpoint Charlie. All our lives we have dreamed of this. All our lives we have waited for this and suddenly now, at last, it is happening. Next month maybe we will Just be another nice, boring little demo¬ cracy, but today I think we are the most extraordinary country in the world.' We crank open the Wartburg's sunroof, I jump onto the car seat and. emerging bodily out of the roof into the freezing sunshine, I wave my arms in victorious salute. The cheers redouble and a forest of answering victory-signs ripples wildly above the West German crowd as though a huge wind was sweeping us along Turn to Page 4, Col. 3 As one: West (left) and East Berlin police mingle COLLAPSE ifi THE WALL ■>wm> Swept along in the wave of jubilation p Gripped by emotion: A couple celebrate in East Berlin WITH CHAMPAGNE AND CASH, WEST BERLIN WELCOMES FRIENDS FROM ACROSS THE CITY Continuing the Ann Leslie report from Berlin Continued from Page 3 towards them from across the border. Suddenly we are in the Western Sector. 'Endlich! Endlich!" the crowd shouts. 'At last! At last!' Arms reach in at us from all sides. Our cheeks are almost bruised from the myriad faces, young and old, which thrust themselves into the car to kiss us. The crowd starts banging on the Wartburg and the whole car begins to vibrate like a tinny drum. Any minute now, I think, this decrepit masterpiece of East German auto¬ motive engineering will die of shock and metal fatigue. But it's not just the car which is stressed. Wiebke gasps, 'My heart is pounding so hard I think I am going to die right now.' Suddenly an open champagne bottle is thrust at me as I stand above the car and as Wiebke struggles to get the Wartburg out of what sounds like a terminal stan. The bottle explodes over both of us and Uke victorious Grand Prix drivers we are soaked in champagne and a kind of delirious triumph. My clothes are drenched. And at this insane moment I feel I never want them to be dry again. Por, swept along by historic emotion, I feel for these moments as if I was an East German, experiencing freedom for the first time. Small children in their high trebles, Uke chattering starUngs, * They actually seem to love us flock around us chirruping excit¬ edly, 'Welcome! Welcome!' and throw chocolates, sweets and pocket-money coins into the car. 'These West Berliners love us they actuaUy seem to love us! cries Wiebke wonderingly. 'We are not enemies any more.' As we head further into West Berlin, struggling through the huge traffic jams now gripping the city, passers-by wave copies of the morning papers whose ecstatic headlines declare, "The WaU is no more. BerUn is one.' 'Ixx>k over there!' says Wiebke. y country and it is my home. Now d E Official: Paper evidence of a successful crossing That poster says that so many al fever confesses almost shame¬ o 'That East and West Berliners have been having breakfast together today that West BerUn has actuaUy run out of bread rolls.' A middle-aged woman winds down her car window. 'Welcome. My apartment, you know, is now full of East Berliners, sleeping everywhere.' Two young men in a sporty jeep lean over and ask Wiebke, 'Do you want your East German number plates — we'd like them as souvenirs.' 'Sorry,' she shouts back. 'I can't give them to you because I am going back to the East — it's my home.' At the luxury Hotel Kempinsky S" -*We4st Bern's glittering KurfUrstendamm, the man behind the service desk tells me, 'It's incredible. AU these East Germans have been flooding into the lobby to have a look!' A Stuttgart businessman, a typi- caUy stolid burger and not, I'd have thought, a man Ukely to give way to this extraordinary emotion- a f m s c G w c c e c o * f c ' j w t t o w B c fever, facedly that, yes, he had been the man who'd been handing out sheaves of 50 mark notes to the crowds of sightseeing East Germans in the hotel lobby. 'I just wanted them to have some hard currency so they can enjoy the city whUe they are here,' he explained. While they are here: that is the crucial sentence. The vast majority of the East BerUners I met Just to see with our own eyes flooding across the border con¬ curred with the view of one: 'We've come because we can. We just want to see with our own eyes what the West looks like. We see the West on television but it is not the same, of course.' As Pierre Zimmerman, a 21-year- old East Berlin student, told me as we stood on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate: 'I love my jr^ **% 'SZ-jy People power: thousands of youngsters throng the top of the Wall as East German border guards look on helplessly things are really changing I don't think there is any reason to leave. 'I think we should all stay here and help our country get over its mistakes and create for all of us a new future which is nothing like the past.' Late on Thursday night, East Berlin, an ill-lit city which usually shuts its bored eyes early, was electric with excitement. In the small hours, cars raced up and down the street outside my hotel, honking their horns and flashing their headlamps. Looking down on them, I felt that the cars themselves had grown skittish and were, like their own¬ ers, frisking noisily about in the night streets like hordes of puppies suddenly let out to play. Today they are still playing; haU the city seems to have taken the day off work in order to head for a party across the border. At Checkpoint Charlie, the border police are not bothering with the regulation which says that East Germans must still go to a police station to get an instant visa. 'We've been told not to cause any provocation or frustration today,' said one. 'People must believe that this freedom is real, so we are letting * The situation is too chaotic everyone through. Tomorrow I think we must be a little more strict because this situation is too chaotic. It is like a bit of anarchy.' Today, I said a final farewell to all my stereotypes about the dour, dutiful Prussianness of the East Germans, apparently content (as the romantic Poles and Hungari¬ ans never were) to live the lives of the undead in their gloomy I just want people to enjoy themselves says the businessman handing out piles of 50-mark notes communist morgue. Never have I heard so many jokes and baffling political puns (or endured so many explanations of them: 'In German, you see, this is a very funny joke, because when we say banana in German we are meaning ...') But for lovers of stereotypes, there is still some Prussianness left. A burly border guard at the Brandenburg Gate pointed across the 300 yard space between the barrier and the Wall itself, puffed out his great-coated chest and declared pompously to me: 'Last night I was very proud of our people.' Why? 'Because unlike all those people over there dancing and shouting on the Wall, our people were so disciplined. But of course people in the West are usually not at all disciplined, are they?' I asked a group of armed border police at the Gate what they thought 'of that crazy night last night'. 'Why do you use the word crazy?' a bespectacled 21-year-old sergeant asked me indignantly. 'It wasn't crazy, it should have happened many years ago.' He and his three colleagues were, however, reluctant to give me their names. 'We are a little confused right now because the situation is changing so fast. We've never been allowed to talk to people like this and certainly absolutely forbidden to talk to Western journalists like you. Until we get our new orders we perhaps should not risk giving you our names.' He continued wistfully: 'I've never been to the West because I was born after the Wall was built.' 'Oh, before it was built,' an * No more secret shamefaced guilt elderly woman interrupted, 'we used to go back and forth every day. It'll be like that again now.' No more ravening dogs ready to tear out chunks of fleeing flesh; no more mines exploding a few feet lAPSE"3'^ dfcTHE WAU ^« away from us; no more human yet animal-like screams tearing the night air; no more secret and shamefaced guilt on the part of those who heard the screams and who would not, could not and, above all, dared not try to help. But the woman was not interest¬ ed In dwelling on that terrible and bloody past. 'You know what I want to complain about now, because it has angered me for £ Now it's a vast debating society years?' she said to the young sergeant, jabbing his chest with an angry finger. 'I want to complain about the ridiculous situation in which gov¬ ernment guest houses are staffed and heated all the year round. even when they don't have a single guest for months on end, while we have ordinary workers who are shivering in their flats because the heating is so poor. Our country has wasted so much precious money over the years on stupid things like this and now it must stop.' The young policemen nodded their heads in earnest agreement: after 40 years in which debate of any kind was declared to be contrary to the interests of the state, the whole of East Germany has suddenly become a vast debat¬ ing society. A 60-year-old man rushed up to join us and shouted: Why are you border police facing us here on this side of the wall. We are not the enemy. You should be facing them over there in West Berlin. They are the enemy.' The crowd erupted in protest and one young woman asked: Why do you call them enemies? They are not enemies. That Is Just old Stalinist thinking and you must open your mind because no one thinks like that anymore.' A 34-year-old border guard, whose toothbrush moustache I might previously have described as Hitlerian, said. 'It makes me very happy that we in the armed forces in East Germany can talk freely like this. We in the middle ranks felt the same about our terrible system and the mistakes our lead¬ ership has made as all these people here. But we were not in a position to tell the high-ups, who would not have listened anyway, and we could not share our feelings with ordinary people either. 'It has been terrible. People hated us, and sometimes they spat at us and yet we could not tell them that In our hearts we agreed with them, that we were no different from them under our uniform.' As we walked away, Wiebke. the mother of a 13-year-old. looked back at the young guards and sighed. 'They are so young and so I It's impossible to go back eager. And yet. to think, not so long ago, they might have been told to shoot all these people who are talking to them now, and of course they would have done It.' A 21-year-old factory worker, Dieter Ren/., thought that they would not obey such orders now. 1 feel it Is now impossible for the government to try to go back and choose to have "the Chinese solu¬ tion", a Tiananmen-style massacre. If they did. we believe that not alt the armed forces would agree to do their bidding now. and we would have a bloody revolution instead of a peaceful one, like now. The government cannot win the Chinese way, and now I think it knows it.'