Lights 3/8 Camera 3/8 German Unification Action Starts
WEST BERLIN (AP) _ Workmen set up floodlights outside the Reichstag today and camera crews from around the world filmed the carnival-like scene at the Brandenburg Gate, in the final countdown to German unification.
It looked more like a Hollywood set than the remnants of one of the most sinister sites of the Cold War.
Organ grinders played, young women hastily planted new flowers and the sellers of Soviet bloc military memorabilia could hardly keep with the demand from thousands of visitors.
At midnight Tuesday, as many as million people are expected to pack the squares in front of the Reichstag and at the Brandenburg Gate 200 yards away. Chancellor Helmut Kohl will lead the official celebrations close to where the Berlin Wall once divided the city.
The mass-circulation Bild newspaper said that 10,000 leftist radicals were expected to rampage in Berlin on Tuesday night and into Wednesday to disrupt the unity fest. West Berlin police spokesman Joerg Gallas said he thinks the predicted number was ″exaggerated,″ but said authorities were prepared for trouble from leftist and rightist extremists.
″For 40 years, there was dictatorship in East Germany,″ said 60-year-old Ferdinand Scheben of the West German city of Cologne. ″Now, I’m glad that we’re finally unifying in a peaceful way.″
Scheben promised to be at the Tuesday night celebrations. ″I plan to film the whole thing,″ he said, holding up his video camera.
Germans from East and West, joined by thousands of foreign tourists, will start the nation’s party of the century Tuesday afternoon.
The beer will flow and fireworks will light up the sky as the Germans usher in unification with a wild street celebration that will be repeated in dozens of cities nationwide.
Still, there is trouble on the horizon, as many predict clashes between leftist and rightist radicals.
″I’m afraid that’s something we will have to count on,″ said West Berlin policeman Manfred Seelig.
But for the jolly, barrel-chested Seelig, there was much more satisfaction in thinking about the historic merger.
″Certainly, everyone thought it would come, but no one, not even the politicians thought it would come so quickly,″ said the 42-year-old policeman.
Around him, there were dozens of cranes and booms hauling up film crews to get a better shot of the scene.
Thousands of people strolled the area, jamming the Pariser Platz on the Eastern side.
Under the Communist regime, East Germans were hauled in to the police just for approaching the deserted square, while those on the Western side looked on to the site from special bleachers.
But for some, the joy of unification was tempered by apprehension.
″There are a lot of negative things that will happen,″ said Sylvia Reichenbach from East Berlin. ″And unemployment is in first place among them.″
The 26-year-old nurse said she still has her job, but her mother will lose hers next week and her father most likely will be out of work next year.
″I don’t plan to come here tomorrow night. We’re worried about riots,″ said Ms. Reichenbach, holding onto her 3-year-old daughter, Julia, as she tottered along one of the low walls in front of the Reichstag.
The Reichstag, the historic site of the German parliament, will on Thursday play host to the first meeting of the joint parliament comprised of German lawmakers from East and West.