For Opposition, Opening of Berlin Wall a Bittersweet Victory With AM-East Germany, Bjt
LEIPZIG, East Germany (AP) _ In the grimy birthplace of East Germany’s peaceful revolution, the opening of the Berlin Wall was a bittersweet victory for the opposition.
″We’re really afraid of a sellout to West Germany,″ said Falk Hocquel, a leader of Leipzig’s branch of New Forum, the biggest opposition group.
″This opening of the border came too quickly, it was chaotic,″ Hocquel said. ″We see a real danger that the big firms move in here and East Germany becomes the poorhouse of Western Europe. Our people will go and work illegally in West Germany for six months to get hard currency, then come back. We have no interest in being bought out by big business.″
Hocquel’s ideals strike a chord among many in this polluted industrial center, East Germany’s second-largest city and the throbbing heart of its astounding popular revolt.
Many East Germans are proud of what they have achieved in 40 years of communism and are uneasy at the thought of being taken over by their rich brothers in the West.
In recent weeks, they have been strongly politicized, but ″they are nonetheless susceptible to Western wealth. This economically strong nation is our great danger,″ Hocquel said.
The opposition thus counted it a victory that, after a weekend in which 3 million East Germans went West - many for the first time in 28 years, at least 200,000 marched in Leipzig Monday night to demand free elections and shout anti-Communist slogans.
But the real test of popular belief in New Forum as a political movement will come Saturday, when the group is host to East Germany’s first legal opposition assembly on Leipzig’s market square.
″Before the opening of the borders, I would have said half a million people would come,″ Hocquel said. ″Now, I don’t know. I hope at least 300,000.″
New Forum, formed only in September as a national movement, has said it plans to contest the free elections promised by the Communists and due in 1991.
But the group, which is far more organized in Leipzig than in East Berlin, is trying to put the brake on calls for a vote next spring. It argues that fall 1990 is the earliest point it and other parties could stand on meaningful platforms.
To a foreigner, the call for an orderly, slower reform may sound typically German. To East Germans baffled by the stunning changes of one short month, it sounds like a sensible breathing space and a chance to avoid mistakes.
Reunification, they feel, should not be high on the political agenda.
″That’s not a theme until the people here have really created something new,″ said Christian Fuehrer, vicar of the Nikolai church whose weekly prayers for peace became the kernel of a mass pro-democracy demonstration.
″For 40 years,″ Fuehrer said, ″our identity was only three initials - DDR (East Germany).
″Now, we have to learn our history which for years in schools here started with the revolution in the Soviet Union in 1917. We must know what is German. Then, maybe you can talk about reunification. But it’s not something that can just be ordered, then administered. We’ve seen where that led for 40 years.″
The deep disillusionment with four decades of false promises and hardship comes through far more strongly in Leipzig than in East Berlin.
″Pure frustration drove these people onto the streets,″ said Uwe Dreilich, 32, a Communist Party member who has taken part in every Monday demonstration of the past two months.
″People were simply sick of being told what to do in every little thing,″ Dreilich said.
Leipzig added a special factor to that despair. As second city, it has always had a great rivalry with Berlin and resented the resources poured into the capital and denied the provinces. Residents complain of polluted air and decrepit, peeling buildings.
Side by side with a vibrant intellectual community are hundreds of thousands of workers toiling in outdated, polluting factories and thoroughly discontent with the rewards.
″For 28 years, we allowed ourselves to be oppressed,″ said Maria Mueller, 43, from a small town outside Leipzig. She has been marching for more democracy for the past eight Mondays.
″They exploited us,″ she said of the Communists. ″They grumble about capitalism, but they are much worse. And when I saw the police lined up here Oct. 9, I thought we got another 1938 (when the Nazis assumed power). The only difference was the uniforms.″
Such strong sentiments feed opposition hopes that the peaceful revolution can achieve much more than last weekend’s massive East-West border bash.
″After 40 years in the ghetto, the lid is off, and of course the people want out,″ Fuehrer said.
″But for me as a churchman, things like the promise to an alternative to military service, something we fought for for 28 years, are more important than drinking beer on the Kudamm,″ he said, referring to West Berlin’s main street.
″The beer goes, but these real changes remain. Every hand and thinking head is needed here now.″