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Hard Times Followed Euphoric Wall Crossing for E

November 5, 1994

Hard Times Followed Euphoric Wall Crossing for E. Berlin Couple With AM-The Wall Plus Five, Bjt

BERLIN (AP) _ For Helmut and Catharina Erdmann, native East Berliners, the five years since the Berlin Wall fell have been euphoric - and troubling.

After the East German cleaning company where Helmut worked went bankrupt, he spent months without a job before finding a new position at a western cleaning firm.

Their daughter Nadine, 17, had a bitter experience when she began her apprenticeship at a hotel and was treated as an incompetent easterner, a ″second-class citizen.″

The Erdmanns miss the East German comprehensive welfare system, in which maternity leave and sick leave were less complicated. Catharina, 38, has been on sick leave since last year and worries about what will happen to the family if she can never work again.

They often reminisce about little things. The three children talk about candy they can no longer find, and Helmut, 36, longs for the East German mustard he grew up with.

But before the Wall fell, the Erdmanns had emotionally bid farewell to East Germany. They had endured the endless bureacracy and threats of the Stasi secret police and had finally gotten permission to go to the West. They were to join Helmut’s mother and sister, who had already defected.

But after the historic night of Nov. 9, 1989, when they walked through the Wall with thousands of other East Germans, they decided to stay in the east.

″We thought, they can’t close the Wall again. That would have caused a war here. So we decided to stay here, and that was a good decision,″ Catharina said.

Although the relationship between East and West Germans remains tense, Helmut thinks it will eventually work out. ″Maybe when our children have grown up.″

Despite the problems, he is satisfied with the way things have turned out. ″There’s no way we would want to turn back,″ he said.

The euphoria returns when the Erdmanns remember the night they crossed through Checkpoint Charlie.

″That was really a fantastic time,″ Catharina said. ″So much is natural now, as if it had always been so. But that night really shook the world.″

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