Full Citation

  • Title An End to the Misery after 28 Years
  • Publication Title Financial Times
  • Collection The Financial Times
  • Date Saturday,  Nov. 11, 1989
  • Issue Number 30,996
  • Page Number 2
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library The Financial Times Limited
  • Copyright Statement © The Financial Times Limited. All rights reserved.
. THE MEANING OF THE WALL SAn end to the miserv after 28 vears AL' IHIU^- AIguSt ~::i::a: !··: .; ·· 1~1~ i X, r·- t * t ~"' * r * 2*'~·L;III r i r . i t ·cp~ ;i- j·a; ·'t.* 1: crmrPa~h~~r~anni~fomas ihe rstEas~-0erman'~o*T^~eX~p;~·a~to~`~~ ,... Q~ I,;r? STANDING at Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint yesterday at 1.30am, watching thousands of East Berliners surge toward West Berlin in cars and on foot, was like seeing a 28- year-old film run backwards. I stood here shortly after the first rolls of barbed wire were strung out across the street by factory militiamen on the morning of August 13 1961. Only months later did the Wall begin to rise. But it was clear that the final and total division of Germany had taken place - so I thought. The city then was wracked by personal tragedies which Berliners accepted as the price Germany still had to pay for Adolf Hitler. But most East Berliners dutifully turned up for work early the next morn- ing. One of the thousands of Easterners who had spent August 12, a Saturday, in West Berlin was a relation of mine. The city was politically divided but physically still one. She was with her West Berlin husband, waiting for their new flat in the West to be finished before she resettled. When they heard the radio report that East Germans henceforth would get "appro- Leslie Colitt, one of the longest-serving foreign correspondents in Berlin, remembers the feeling of fnality when the Wall was built priate documents" to visit the West, she trustingly went back to East Berlin on August 13. Along with thousands of oth- ers she did not get out again until years later. Yesterday, the sons and daughters of our generation came rushing toward me at Bornholmer Strasse. But they reacted differently from their parents to the first official word on Thursday from the East German government, couched in convoluted Prus- sian bureaucratese, that travel would be allowed to the West after submitting the necessary forms. They simply walked toward the border and lo and behold it was open, 28 years and three months after it had been -incIed fnr thpir nrrpnts. When pass offices in polik stations opened in the mon ing, East Berliners were sti told that their applications i "travel" to West Berlin - 1 minutes away by undergroun - would take eight days I process. They protested ant after a few phone calls t police headquarters, were tol they could simply cross over, An entire ideological systel built on regimentation ha collapsed, 40 years after it wa erected on the ruins of Eas Germany. Up to 10,000 Ea, Germans a day fled from it I the weeks before the Wall we built. Those who remaine behind were adaptable an submissive. Many cooperate with the authorities. The GDI promised them it would pr vide what Germans ha always sought: stability, sect rity and Heimat - their nativ land. But West Germany wa excluded from this Heimat. The human misery and mi guided energies of the last 2 years could have been avoidei The late Walter Ulbrichi instead of building a Wa] (construction supervised b the recently deposed Mr Eric: Honecker), might hav launched sweeping reform which would quickly hav taken root in East German3 But both men feared the "third, German path" to socialism of the democratic variety. It was heresy to them and to the dogmatic Commu- nists in power in Moscow. Not until Mr Mikhail Gorbachev stepped onto the scene was change possible but by then it was too late for East Germany. "We missed the boat 30 years ago," a 50-year-old East Berliner, Mr Siegfried Dei- chsel, said yesterday while vis- iting West Berlin. His father was a party "comrade" of the old school, who regarded Mr Egon Krenz, the new leader, as a renegade. The son was standing near a West Berlin queue of thou- sands of fellow East Berliners waiting to collect their DM100 "welcome money" courtesy of the Bonn government. He and the easterners in the queue were aware of the moral and economic morass their leader- ship had left them in. "We work just as hard as people here and have to take their hand-outs," a young East Berlin machine toolmaker said waiting for his money. Most of the East Berliners who thronged West Berlin yes- terday were setting foot in it for the first time. In their enthusiasm few realised that an entire epoch had ended. The contours of the new era were fast taking shape at Bahnhof Zoo and Kurfiirsten- damm, where East and West Berliners mingled as one. This mangled and fractured city of Berlin was rejoined and reborn yesterday. West Berlin could no longer remain the West's most highly-subsidised symbol and an economic back- water of West Germany. Nor could East Berlin merely remain the capital of a politi- cally and economically muti- lated system. Inevitably, the two halves were destined to draw ever-closer in coming years, pulling the two Ger- manys together with them. Registered at the post office. Printed by St Clement's Press for and published by the Financial Times Ltd., Number One Southwark Bridge. London SEI 9HL. 0 The Financial Times Ltd.. 1989. "Reproduction of the con. tents of this newspaper in any manner is not permitted without prior consent of the publisher." H G