Pollution the New Smell of Freedom in West Berlin With PM-East Germany, Bjt
BERLIN (AP) _ ″Ach, the stinking fumes from those terrible one-lung wrecks 3/8 Who would have thought pollution was the smell of freedom?″
With that, cabbie Augustin Vogel left the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz taxi and helped a laughing, cheering crowd of West Berliners push another backfiring ″Trabbi,″ the East German two-cylinder car, through the newly opened hole in the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz.
Two blue-bereted French soldiers amused the crowd and shocked the children peering out the streaky windows of the stalled car by chipping away at the Wall with hammers and chisels.
The big weekend shopping spree that saw 3 million East Germans live the fantasies that tantalized them for years on western TV had slowed from a torrent to a steady gush, but every daylight hour was still rush hour on the streets of West Berlin.
You had to wait in line to get into Woolworth’s on Tauentzien Strasse, but on the opposite side of Checkpoint Charlie sales girls looked out the windows of empty boutiques with names like ″Lotus″ and ″Panda″ along Leipziger Strasse, East Berlin’s fashion avenue.
Shoppers hurried through the chilling fog with baby carriages, shopping carts and rucksacks crammed with free world goodies.
Even a sale on the eastern side - ″stark reduziert″ - of snuggie wool damen slips, ladies’ almost knee-length panties from China, at 4 marks and Russian-made Strumpf Hose, at 14 marks, failed to stem the exodus to the big mall over the Wall.
A surpising consensus of sidewalk opinion along the Kurfuerstendamm, West Berlin’s Fifth Avenue, blamed the fog on the fume-spewing Trabants and the slightly larger Wartburgs.
″Still it’s a miracle to see all those DDR plates,″ enthused refrigeration repairman Otto Esser, who played hookey from work to spend his third day watching the flow of traffic through the Wall.
″This has been the happiest time of my life. I was two years old when the Wall went up. I’m taking pictures for my infant son, who hopefully won’t even have the Wall, as a memory.″
″Oranges, bananas and coffee, that’s what the Easties mainly buy with the 100 marks handed out free to them by the banks,″ reported Helga Rosmunsen, a beautician who also called in sick to spend another day watching the ceaseless flow of humanity along a dust-beaten thoroughfare that only a week ago had been a death strip.
″Even on a crowded downtown street you can tell an East from a West Berliner by the happiness in their eyes. No wonder. Have you ever tried to get real coffee over there?″
Absenteeism was only a minor problem as another work week began in East Berlin, but the weekend of wonders glowed brighter than the few Christmas tree lights looming faintly in the fog.
The Volkskammer, the Communist-dominated parliament, was electing a new prime minister in the old town hall up by the Brandenburg Gate, but at a Bierstube just a few blocks away blue-collar beer drinkers switched off the government television news to see if the Western channels were reporting any new holes in the Schandmauer, the wall of shame.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate, now sheared of its barbed wire curls, a procession of famous Western TV anchors from several dozen countries waited their turn to do stand-ups in the floodlit splendor of this landmark rubbled arch.
Even at the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie - with its bizarre collection of motorbikes, battered buses, homemade submarines and hot-air balloons that had confounded East Berlin’s wall guards, patrol dogs and mine fields - NBC’s Tom Brokaw and crew had to line up for an interview with the curators.
At the CSSR Kultur und Informationszentrum just a few hundred yards to the east, there was no wait for interviews and no culture customers either, despite a display of children’s patriotic poster art.
″The Easties will be back in even larger numbers this weekend,″ predicted postcard vendor Axel Gruber at the Potsdamer hole in the wall.
″This time it won’t be for just shopping. They’ll want to see our famous zoo and the Rembrandts and the Head of Queen Nefertiti in the Dahlem Museum. They know free Berlin has more to offer than blue jeans and cassettes of the British rock group Exodus.″