Full Citation

  • Title Capitalism reclaims its own
  • Author Bridge, Adrian Clough, Patricia
  • Publication Title The Independent
  • Collection The Independent
  • Date Monday,  Nov. 13, 1989
  • Issue Number 965
  • Page Number 10
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Independent
  • Copyright Statement © Independent Print Limited.
Capitalism reclaims its own Adrian Bridge and Patricia Clough describe the joyous scenes in Berlin as its citizens lay claim to a freedom denied them for a generation OVER half a million East Ber? liners ? more than half the en? tire population of East Berlin ? seized their new freedom yester- day and surged through the Wall to join West Berliners in a joyous mass reunion. The East German authorities said that 3.7 million East Ger? mans had received visas to travel to the West, although during the weekend innumerable people were allowed across without any documents whatever. Loud? speakers hastily rigged up out? side bars and cafes provided a free, instant disco; local radio stations broadcast live on-the- spot roadshows; guitarists took to the street corners providing impromptu concerts for all to share in. "It's a beautiful chaos. All these people ... all these years ... wunderbar!" beamed one West Berliner soaking up the atmosphere near the Kaiser William Memorial Church in the heart of the city. At the famous Glienicke Bridge, the setting for numerous real-life and fictional spy stories, cheer? ing, whooping, rhythmically clap? ping crowds gathered to wel? come the streams of East Germans heading across for the first time in 40 years. Many of them broke down and wept as A border guard adds a floral touch to his passport-stamping equipment BRIAN HARRIS they passed the high iron fence dividing East from West in the middle of the bridge. The bridge has hitherto only been used by members of the three Western allied military missions stationed at the headquarters of the Soviet armed forces in Potsdam, and has been the scene of many East- West swaps of spies and political prisoners. The last of these, it is believed, was Anatoly (now Na? tan) Sharansky, the Soviet dissi? dent, who was handed over on an icy day in February 1986. Ironically, queues ? a notorious feature of life on the Eastern side ? formed everywhere: outside the supermarkets, at bratwurst stands, newspaper kiosks, clothes shops and above all out? side the banks which were handing out the DM100 (?35) "begrussungsgeld" (greetings money) provided by the West German authorities as a tangi? ble expression of welcome for the East Germans. Their own, officially uncon? vertible marks were being changed on the black market for up to 11 to I, as opposed to the of? ficial rate which is one to one. While many East Germans headed straight for the shops, others made a beeline for the Olympic Stadium to watch their favourite football team, Hertha, live for the first time. Tickets for the game were provided free to East Germans ? as were tickets for special concerts at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall and the Ger? man Opera House. At home streets were deserted, shops, pubs and restaurants empty. Industrial production came to a standstill as factory workers downed tools and went off across the Wall. The city was devoid of taxis ? evidently they had all gone too, The normally pungent air in East Berlin was untypically fresh and clean be? cause most of the city's Trabant and Wartburg cars with their choking exhaust fumes were pol? luting West Berlin air instead. The scene on the Eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate was quiet, military and orderly, a striking contrast to the media circus on the Western side. There, a satel? lite dish, a towering transmitter, TV platforms, trucks and equip? ment have been drawn up ready for the moment that the Wall at that great symbolic point will be torn down. East Germans swarmed into Hamburg's infamous red-light district but found out in a hurry that their Communist currency would not get them very far. "They all want to pay with aluminium money," one St Pauli district prostitute complained on Saturday night, referring to the flimsy East German coins. East Germans crammed into Hamburg sex shops as well, leafing through magazines, examining merchandise and get? ting a close look at what they have long been told is Western moral decadence. As the East German bulldozers began breaking down huge chunks of the Berlin Wall, West Berliners had already decided to take the chisel into their own hands and strike a few blows for freedom themselves. By yester? day afternoon, in addition to sev? eral newly-opened official cross? ing points, hundreds of little cracks had appeared in what un? til only last Thursday had been an impenetrable barrier. "Look, there's the Television Tower," said one excited child pointing to East Berlin's most famous landmark as she peered through one of the smaller open? ings carved out by defiant West Berliners and enterprising Wall- souvenir hunters. "This is the police," came a pleading voice through a mega? phone to the crowds at the Potsdamer Platz late on Satur? day night. "Please stop hammer? ing away at the Wall here ? this section is coming down anyway." On the other side of the Wall, the sounds of drilling and the sight of clouds of dust swirling above the stark monument to the city's division provoked rounds of frenzied applause and calls of "encore, encore", and "come on, hurry up". I}y 6.30am yesterday a crane was lifting the first slab of the Wall at Potsdamer Platz, re? vealing the barren wasteland that is all that remains of what was once the bustling heartland of a great European metropolis. East and West German police linked arms to hold back the teeming masses as the mayors of both sides of the city, Walter Momper and Erhard Krack, shook hands in a symbolic ges? ture of the new reality. The square immediately filled with thousands: East Berliners racing to join the heady throngs aiming for the bright lights; West Berlin? ers heading the other way ? for breakfast in the Alexander Platz. Hardly had the new arrivals reached the West than they were literally bombarded by Western capitalism ? young people sit- ting on top of a van were throw? ing down free packets of Ameri? can-style cigarettes as welcom? ing gifts. As they crowded back home they carried plastic bags containing their modest pur? chases ? cheap Western prod? ucts, small electronic gadgets, special offers put on by shops ? for their money would not run to expensive goods.- "I've bought mainly sweets for the children," said one woman. "I have bought them liquorice ? you know they have never tasted liquorice." One woman, asked about an armful of magazines she was carrying ? laughed loudly but did not reply. News stands and sex shops have been raided by East Germans for pornographic magazines, pin-ups and other products unknown at home. New crossing points were being breached in the Wall but hardly seemed to ease the pressure. Tailbacks of cars reached up to 60 kilometres. The first to open was at the Eberswalder strassc, breached on Friday night, where people from nearby tenement blocks poured across the no man's land into the West while Berliners scramble to get a piece ofthe wall from a demolition worker border guards tried dutifully to stamp each identity card as it passed. This incongruous and Germanic insistence on bureau? cratic correctness was swept away at several spots because the crowds were simply too vast to handle. Meanwhile the two police forces, whose members have had flowers thrust into their button? holes and breast pockets as they tried to cope with crowds at the WaU, set up direct telephone lines to each other in order to co? operate in keeping order. An East German woman gave birth on the streets of West Ber? lin on Saturday in the first such incident since East Germany al? lowed its citizens to travel freely through the Berlin Wall. The official East German news agency ADN reported from the West that the woman, a 24- year-old from Potsdam, south? west of Berlin, went into labour on the street and gave birth to a girl. "Numerous passers-by were eyewitnesses to the unusual birth in the district of Charlot- tenburg,'* ADN said. The unnamed woman, who was accompanied by her hus? band, was rushed to a clinic by a doctor summoned to the scene.