BERLIN: THE FALSE QUARREL
BLAIR FRASER IN A TORN LAND: “BOTH SIDES ARE WRONG, A GIRL SAID. I AGREED"
IN A SMALL EAST BERLIN nightclub, a shabby but rather pleasant place where lonely youngsters go to meet each other and dance, my young companion was dancing with a pretty girl he didn't know. When the music stopped he brought her back to our table. “I told her who you are," he said, “and she says she wants to ask you one question." Her question was, "What do you as a foreigner think of The Wall?"
I said I thought it was an outrage, a horrible thing. She nodded: “And whom should we hlame for it, Khrushchov or our Mr. Ulbricht?"
It was a weird conversation to be having with a beautiful stranger behind Germany's own iron curtain, but I answered her question. I said it seemed more to the advantage of Walter Ulbricht, the head of East Germany’s Communist regime — after all it was the working force of his captive nation that had been draining away, a quarter of a million a year, when the frontier in Berlin was open. She nodded again in a glum sort of way. Then she told us what The Wall meant to her personally:
“The father of my daughter is in West Berlin. Since The Wall we have not even met. We write and he sends us parcels but that is all. My little girl doesn't understand. Every time the doorbell rings she asks if that is Daddy. Every time w'e unwrap a parcel even if it’s just from a shop she says. This comes from Daddy.’ "
“Forgive me,” I said, “but why on earth didn't you go to West Berlin yourself while you had the chance?"
“I made application to go legally,” she answered. “You must understand if I had gone illegally, if I had run away, I could never have come back and all my family are here. I would have had to leave behind my father and mother, my brothers. 1 thought maybe 1 could get permission to leave so I applied. But before I got even an answer they put up The Wall.”
Up to now she sounded like a figment of Western propaganda, but she departed from the orthodoxy of West Berlin when I asked what she thought could be done about the division of Germany.
“Why don't they negotiate?” she said indignantly. “Why don't they talk to each other? They should be sitting down trying to work something out together so that people can go where they want to and w'e can all live in peace.”
To me that one girl met by chance seemed more convincing than all the official spokesmen of either side—more than those of the East who said The Wall was a great victory for socialism and so regarded by the people, hut more also than those of the West who said all the seventeen million Germans held captive by Ulbricht’s Communist government were in favor of the West German policy of non-recognition, the flat refusal to negotiate with a puppet regime about anything. According to this girl they were both wrong, and I for one believed her.
Indeed it was because I held this opinion that I was in East Germany at all. We had been warned to expect another Berlin crisis in November after Khrushchov and Kennedy resumed talks on the subject, and it seemed a good idea to go over and see if The Wall looked any different when viewed from the Communist side. The chance meeting with the girl in the night club came near the end of a week-long tour of East Germany, driving
“DRIVING FROM WEST TO EAST IS MUCH THE SAME AS LEAVING THE U.S. FOR CANADA"
around the country in a rented automobile, mostly with an official interpreter but some of the time alone.
1 expected to find it pretty grim. Refugees and news reports usually describe East Germany as one vast prison, which of course it is in the sense that its people can’t get out, and 1 suppose all this had conditioned me to think it would look like one. Besides, the glimpses 1 had of Communist Germany three years ago in East Berlin and in Leipzig really were rather grim compared to the flourishing West German Republic.
This time the contrast wasn’t so noticeable, especially driving in from Hamburg along narrow winding Highway Number Five that goes through villages and skirts small towns for about a hundred and fifty miles. Normally foreigners are not admitted by Highway Number Five, only by the autobahns, the big throughways that bring a traveler little closer to the life of the country than an airliner overhead does. But a telephone call from Hamburg in West Germany to East Berlin (yes, you can telephone to Communist East Germany—I called Toronto from East Berlin with little more than the normal delay on a call from London) was enough to arrange that a transit visa to Berlin would be waiting for me at the border crossing point.
The border looks innocent and unimpressive to the casual glance— harrier gates across the road, done in red and white stripes that would gleam in the dark, and well-armed but very polite guards. There’s a
“THERE’S A FOOD SHORTAGE IN THE EAST, BUT NO ONE HAS TO GO REALLY HUNGRY"
grove of trees on either side that presumably hides the border fencing which, I was assured by several people w'ho had seen it, really does ring Communist Germany with a literal iron curtain and serves it in the office of a Wall.
But what you actually see as you drive from the last little village in West Germany to the first little village in East Germany is not much change, and the similarity continues all the way. Actu-
ally, though a Canadian may squirm a little to admit this, it’s very like driving from the United States to Canada. The roads are still good but not quite so well maintained and the traffic is lighter. The farmhouses and barns have gone a bit longer without a fresh coat of paint. The village streets are not so spruce or attractive. In short it looks like the same kind of country on a slightly lower standard of living, with no more contrast on the surface than you see between Detroit and Windsor, or Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, N.B.
Of course this superficial comparison is misleading. Canadian standards of comfort are much closer to American than East German are to West German. But the gap between the two Germanies doesn’t look as wide as West Germans and even East Germans say it is.
1 stopped for lunch at a tiny roadside inn on the outskirts of the small town of Ludwigslust. The dining room had several guests already who, because they were well dressed and driving their own cars, I took for West Germans returning from visits to East Germany. Later I learned to recognize their automobiles as being of East German make; their clothes are not necessarily distinguishable. For a bowl of good thick cabbage soup, a small steak braised with onions, a huge mound of hot potatoes and carrots and cold pickled cabbage and beets plus a cup of regrettable coffee 1 paid SI.25 including a tip. There is a food shortage in East Germany this year, as even official sources readily admit, but evidently it’s very far from the stage of actual hunger. Everyone can always get enough to eat, if not exactly what he wants.
The same applies to clothing and other basic necessities. Supplies are now ample and prices roughly comparable to West German, but quality is poor and range of selection erratic. The one area of living costs where the East German does have a real advantage is rent— housing is scarce in both the Germanies, but for those who do get
“EAST GERMANY HAS FOUND OUR SECRET OF SUCCESS—NEON”
adequate quarters the cost on the Eastern side is sensationally lower. For a brand-new modern flat on the Karl Marx Allee (formerly Stalin Allee) a Berlin journalist pays thirty dollars a month which is regarded as fantastically expensive, about double the normal rent of a city apartment.
These low prices even extend to hotel rooms. The best hotels m East Germany aren't equal to
first-class ones in the West but they are better than the second class, and the prices range from a nine-dollar top for what was virtually a suite in East Berlin's Johanneshof down to $1.10 for a small hut spotless cubicle m the hotel that was Hitler's favorite in the small town of Weimar. Hotel dining rooms by the way have become very bourgeois —suavely deferential waiters in tail coats, wing collars and black bow ties, even at breakfast in some places.
l ast German cities are no longer as drab to look at as they used to be either. Partly this is because of real improvement—more new buildings finished, more goods in more shop windows, many more automobiles on the streets, more and better dressed people on the sidewalks. Partly too it is because C ommunists have finally caught on to the reason why their cities look so grim while capitalist cities, even very poor ones like Hong Kong, look bright and gay. The reason is advertising—the color and glitter of neon signs Hashing on and oil all over town. Now the C ommunist cities are installing them too. Right across from my hotel window, blinking off and on all night, a threecolor sign plugged one of East Berlin's newspapers. Red, yellow and blue neon now proclaim the location of state and co-operative stores, and the big shop windows in downtown East Berlin are lighted even when the shops are closed. The Karl Marx Allee is still a long w^ay from the Kurfürstendamm. West Berlin's Fifth Avenue, but it’s closer than it has ever been before.
Where the contrast is still sharp is in manufactured goods. Auto-
mobiles are about four times as expensive as in the West, w;ith the natural result that there are only about a quarter as many of them— East Berlin is one of the few big Western cities that has neither a rushhour traffic jam nor a parking problem. A tankful of gas for a small car costs $12.50. Luxury goods of all kinds are high in price and hard to conic by.
But the standard of living is certainly not intolerably low, even for a people accustomed to modern comforts. It is higher than that of Soviet Russia and far higher than that of gay and dashing Poland. Indeed it is probably the highest in the whole grim C ommunist world with the possible exception of Czechoslovakia.
Why then have three million East Germans run away, tw'o thirds of them young able-bodied adults, a fifth of the whole working force of Ulbricht’s domain? Above all why are they still running away even at the risk of losing their lives in the attempt? Twelve thousand including nearly a thousand of the border guards themselves have escaped since The Wall w'as erected last year, and they are still arriving somehow in dribbles of five, eight, ten or a dozen a day.
Why was it necessary to build The Wall at all. to close the w'hole East German frontier and squander the full time of 4S.()()() able-bodied men patrolling it (in pairs, so that they can also keep w'atch on each other)?
The answers you get to these questions depend on who is doing the answering. From an official spokesman, a bland and voluble bureaucrat with a face like a freshly peeled hardboiled egg. I got the oflicial reply: the wall was necessary to keep out spies, saboteurs and other enemy agents, and also to keep innocent East Germans from venturing into the West where they would be insulted, abused and even imprisoned on trumped-up charges or merely on suspicion of being communists.
I still can t make up my mind whether they really expected me to believe this sort of stuff. (Two so-called newspapermen, actually the secretaries of the official association of journalists, spent nearly an hour assuring me that editorial policy on their newspapers was decided by conferences of the editors just the same as in the West. When I asked them to name one question on which East German newspapers had differed recently, they thought for a while and then said “theatre reviews.”)
In the whole week I met only one man whom I would call a truly devout and even fanatical believer. He was the head of the MarxistLeninist Institute in Dresden, a son of the working class who after twenty-three years as a worker on German railways w'as chosen to take a three-year course in social science in Moscow and then to become a teacher of it. He at least had no qualms of doubt about The Wall:
"The action of August 13 wats the decisive moment in the victory of Socialism. It was like Stalingrad in 1943, not the conclusion of the war but the turning point. Since then all our problems have been decreasing because by its action of August 13 our government gave the people a clear perspective."
But everyone else was lame and defensive about I he Wall, and often they seemed to be trying to convince themselves as well as me. In Weimar I had lunch w'ith a couple of earnest student teachers, both people of mature years who were back in college to improve their qualifications. After some discussion they agreed upon a very earnest conclusion: The Wall was a good thing because it had put a stop to the importation of horror comics.
From more sophisticated men, especially Communist newspapermen who had worked abroad and who knew how The Wall must look to any citizen of a free country, you get more sophisticated and far more credible answers. In essence they say The Wall was a regrettable necessity.
“You must remember this part of Germany was always a kind of colonv of the capitalist West." said one. “It w'as mainly potato acres. The squires raised ollicers lor the Prussian army and the peasants raised food. We had no industrial plants of any kind ever. We had to start from scratch and in ten years we have built this country into the seventh industrial nation of the world. We arc even ahead of you Canadians, though we have two million fewer people and no natural resources for industry whatever.
“EVERYONE IS INDIGNANT ABOUT THE REFUGEES”
"This was a great achievement and we are proud of it. but it was not easy, l ife is harder here than it is in the West where they had a large industrial plant to start with and all that Marshall Plan aid as well. It's not surprising that a lot of our people wanted to go where life is easier.
“Remember too that it was uniquely easy to emigrate from the German Democratic Republic. Most emigrants face great obstacles— they must leave their homeland for an alien way of life, learn a new language, often learn a new profession. None of these obstacles existed here. Our people could emigrate without leaving Germany—same language, same customs, same methods of work. School diplomas and university degrees had the same value. And on top of all that you had West Germany constantly appealing to our people, offering them all kinds of inducements and subsidies and special treatment if they would come to the West.”
This is all true. Booming West Germany had and still has a labor shortage which is the greatest single impediment to economic growth. Already the work force has added as many foreigners as it can easily digest (more than a quarter of all workers in some places). But a fresh supply of skilled or even unskilled German-speaking workers would be just what the West German economy needs. By the same token it's the very thing the hard-pressed Communist regime of East Germany is least able to spare.
Among East Germans who stayed behind it isn't only the dedicated Communists who feel indignant toward those who ran away. My interpreter was a young man of twenty-three who had never been west of the Iron Curtain, not even to West Berlin, but who as a translator had information every day from Western countries. As a regular
“1,500 A MONTH STILL FLEE TO WEST GERMANY”
listener to American radio broadcasts in Berlin he knew' more American popular songs than I did, and he spoke of the West with a kind of wistful curiosity. Nevertheless he was obviously sincere in thinking that his contemporaries who had run off to the West were shirking their duty
and offending against common decency.
"My father was killed in the war,” he said. "My mother supported my brother and me by working as a shop clerk selling shoes. In the west she could never have sent us to university—we would have had to go to work after the eighth grade. Here I was a student until a year ago and I was even sent tor a year’s study in Moscow. They paid me a small salary as well as all the cost of education. I think it would have been very unfair to run away just as soon as I got my diploma—but that is what many people of my age did.”
Another reason for closing the frontier which seems to get some popular sympathy was the massive smuggling of money and goods between the two Berlins. Nominally the tw'o German currencies were and are at par. Actually one Westmark used to buy no fewer than four Eastmarks. A charwoman who worked in West Berlin and lived in East Berlin, even though she might have got the same nominal pay as her neighbor, could quadruple hçr income by trading Westmarks for Eastmarks with a private moneychanger It was illegal, of course, but so long as the frontier was open it was quite uncontrollable even in a police state as severe as Communist Germany. East German officials bitterly refer to the four-for-one exchange as "The phony exchange rate.” implying that it was deliberately set as an act of cold warfare. West Germans deny this and swear the rate was set only by the law of supply and demand. In any case it was a hard situation for any regime to tolerate—Communist officials say it cost their economy a grand total of seven and a half billion dollars in the dozen years they endured it. For practically all Berliners it was an advantage, a small but important spoonful of gravy on their otherwise dreary rations, but the rest of East Germans got no benefit from it and their reaction apparently was one of pure envy. When The Wall went up last year, some at least in rural Germany said “it serves those city-slickers right.”
“My w'ife's uncle was visiting us last month,” a Berlin journalist told me. "He wanted to see The Wall all right—it seems to be quite a tourist attraction—but he didn't seem to mind it the way Berliners do. 1 got the feeling that in his little Saxony village the folk are saying, ‘those Berliners have had it pretty soft all this time and now' they're in the same boat with the rest of us.’ ”
But now the days are gone when escape to the West was the easy way out. the path of the opportunist. Those who go now, and they are still managing to go at a rate of about fifteen hundred a month, do so at a steadily increasing risk of death. The exact number of casualties at the border isn’t known to Western authorities but even the knowm fatalities run into dozens. And those who are stopped, whether wounded or not, are branded as criminals and liable to prison for the very act of trying the crime of “flight from the Republic.”
Wha* terror or what despair drives these people to gamble their
lives and what liberty they have, just to get away?
Of all the questions you ask in East Germany that is the hardest for which to get a plausible answer or indeed any answer at all. Perhaps the East German man in the street doesn't even know that such escapes are still going on— naturally nothing is published about them, and the tunnels that go under The Wall in Berlin are
“HERE IT IS A CRIME EVEN TO BE SOME PLACE WITHOUT PROPER AUTHORIZATION”
always called "espionage tunnels.” Those who do know and feel free to admit it make rather shamefaced references to "hardship cases" — families cut in two by The Wall. But to explain why escapes still go on in such massive volume the foreigner has to draw inferences ol his own.
It seemed to me, as I drove around a smiling countryside at harvest time meeting nothing but comfort and courtesy everywhere, that if 1 were a German the thing that would drive me Westward was the feeling of constant surveillance, the ever-present police. Not that the policemen were brutal or even rude—on the contrary they were unfailing.y correct and often very helpful. But they were always there.
On my very first day in East Germany as I drove from the border to Berlin I stopped for a cup of tea. When I came out fifteen minutes later tw'o stony-faced patrolmen were standing beside my car: Who was I,
why was I here, where was my passport? After I produced my foreigner's passport they waved me on (I learned later I had broken the law' by stopping at all when I had only a transit visa) and 1 don’t suppose they delayed me more than five minutes. Nevertheless it was a chilling reminder that in this country it was a crime merely to he some place without proper authority.
To be fair I should add that this surveillance is much stricter on the routes of transit from the border to Berlin than it is in the rest of the country. When 1 got to East Berlin and got my visitor’s visa, and
then set off southward along small country roads
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continued from page 15
Dullness on one side, gaiety on the other. Everywhere: hate
that eventually took us to Dresden, I had much less contact with authority. But even here there were reminders that we were not in what I would call a free country.
Along the way we stopped on random impulse at a co-operative farm. Half a dozen women were cutting turnip tops with sickles; they straightened up and listened curiously as we introduced ourselves to the foreman who seemed to be in charge and began to ask him questions.
"Ask him what happened to production when the thirty-five private farms were merged to make one cooperative," I said. The interpreter and the farmer buzzed away in German. Suddenly the women burst into screams of laughter.
"What's so funny?” I enquired.
The interpreter blushed as he answered: "1 just translated your question, that's all. I asked him what happened to production and the women overheard me.” What happened of course was that production nosedived. German farmers had no wish to merge the lands they had held for generations. They had to be “persuaded" and the short-term effect at least was calamitous. The current shortage of food was partly caused by very bad weather in 1961, but even officials admit it was partly caused by farmers’ hostile reaction to the co-operative campaign. This year they say the crop is good, and that if they still have a meat shortage in 1963 it will be due to the epidemic of foot-andmouth disease now raging in Saxony and Thuringia. But it was pretty obvious not just from the women’s mirth but from the foreman’s defensive and sullen manner that on this farm at least the co-operative plan was still a long way from willing acceptance.
Industrial workers on the other hand give the impression of being much more contented. At the typewriter factory we visited in Dresden I had a long and rather formal kaffee klatsch with a group of workers, obviously handpicked but just as obviously honest worthy folk who told me what a fine factory and what fine housing co-operatives, schools, cafeterias and whatnot they had. Yet I knew that even now more than a quarter of all refugees are industrial workers and artisans, actually a higher percentage than it used to be when the Berlin frontier was still open.
One thing they may be fleeing fit would certainly drive any Canadian up the wall) is the all-enveloping dullness and dreariness that seems to be endemic in communist countries but especially in East Germany. The newspapers look like tombstones, ami when translated they sound just as they look—like official communiqués of prime ministerial conferences published verbatim. The amusements are dull — drab and dowdy and incredibly old-fashioned. At the East Berlin night club that I mentioned earlier, there was a magician whose act I swear was identical with one I first
saw at the autumn exhibition in Sydney, Nova Scotia, in 1920. Moreover it was the best act in the Berlin show. This may sound absurdly trivial but I really don't think it is—it's a reminder, especially when it's just across The Wall from the most garishly gay city in the world, that people here are not free to see, hear and do what they like.
Worse than the dullness though is the prevailing atmosphere of hatred, a hatred for all the capitalist world but especially for capitalist Germany.
One tourist attraction that visitors are strongly encouraged to see is Buchenwald concentration camp a few miles from the pretty town of Weimar. We were taken through this grisly chamber of horrors and shown the murder chambers, the crematoria, the flogging horse, the whips and the forceps that were used to rob victims —alive or dead—of the gold they might have in their teeth. Our guide was an elderly German communist who had spent the war not in Buchenwald but in another camp that he said was even worse. He delivered his long and perfectly memorized speech with a certain relish, but it was with burning resentment that he ticked off the names of certain camp guards and camp doctors who according to him were still free men in West Germany. The very thought made him quiver with rage. Even those who are now in West German prisons, he said bitterly, arc housed in comfort—one was even in a hospital. 1 got the feeling that if they had been hanged he would have been furious that they hadn’t been tortured to death. Heaven knows he had earned the right to hate, if there is such a thing, but that didn’t make the effect any less repulsive and depressing.
Buchenwald isn't the only example of this cult of hatred. There is hatred in the newspapers, hatred in the school books, and it’s always directed against those other Germans. Before I left for this trip a German-speaking Englishman, himself a socialist who has visited most of the communist countries of Europe, said, “The truth is that Walter Ulbricht’s government is a very unattractive and disagreeable regime. It’s run by a bunch of oldline Saxony communists, the most orthodox, bigoted, puritanical communists in the world, and they really dislike their own country just as American communists dislike the United States.”
I often thought of that conversation while I was in Germany. I felt more and more that he was right— that the men in charge have the same
anger against their own people that Old Testament prophets felt for the Israelites who went whoring after false gods and worshipping Baal. They can’t forgive Germany for going Nazi and then going capitalist, and worst of all for seeming now to thrive by it. If I were German I would sacrifice a lot to keep my children from being brought up under their tutelage.
However a hatred of compatriots is no East German monopoly—you find the same kind of thing on the Western side pointed in the other direction. It’s as if one side were run by the last of the Stalinists (which perhaps it is) and the other by the John Birch Society. The only thing is that neither Americans nor Russians are the major targets—in both cases the enemy is German.
What scared me after about a fortnight in the two Germanies was the thought that this mutually cultivated hostility can’t go on fo-cver without an explosion. Some Western diplomats talk as if the chronic undulant fever in Berlin would never grow worse—as if the crisis were controlled by a thermostat that would always turn it off when the temperature reached a certain level. I don’t see how anyone can think that who has looked at The Wall from the other side.
The martyrs of The Wall
It's a cliché to say The Wall is an open wound in the body of Germany, but what we in the West don't realize is that it's bleeding on both sides, not just on our side. The Communists too have their martyrs of The Wall — in their case martyrs to law and order as ours are martyrs to freedom. Last June a border guard was shot dead where he stood by a man whom he had asked to show an identity card— the man reached in his pocket as if for the card, drew out instead a cocked revolver. Even in West Berlin the killer is known as an unsavory character. In East Berlin he is simply a murderer. The dead guard was nineteen years old, only a year older than Peter Fechter, the most famous of our martyrs of The Wall. A few more years of this sort of thing and the festering sore at Germany's heart will surely be incurable. And for the moment at least the East Germans seem more ready and willing than the West Germans to make some attempt toward healing it.
On my last day in East Berlin I had a long talk with Dr. Paul Wandel, one of the three deputy ministers of foreign affairs in the German Democratic Republic (or as West Germans insist on calling it, the Soviet Zone of Occupation). I wanted to know if he could see any sign of a break in the thirteen-year-old stalemate between the two Germanies. It was hard to get an answer because he kept explaining instead what the East German position was.
Eventually though he answered the question: There was no chance in sight yet but he hoped there soon would be. The renewed talks between Premier Khrushchov and President Kennedy would surely lead to something. His government wasn't rigidly insisting on any one plan. Neither was it setting any rigid deadline—all it needed was some indication of an
honest wish to negotiate and it would he willing once again to postpone the long-promised long-threatened separate peace treaty with the Soviet Union.
“This is often presented as a question of access rights,” he said. “That is incorrect. We already control access for ninety-five percent of all traffic between West Berlin and West Germany—we have controlled it for ten years. We have made confiscations, stopped trucks and trains, even arrested some people from time to time, and there has never been a single protest. Some containers labeled fruit carried propaganda pamphlets against our government; one car labeled farm machinery carried small arms made in West Germany. But the point is there has been no trouble, no dispute. We are willing to give West Berlin guarantees of self-determination for the future as well. We stipulate only that West Berlin must not be a NATO base or a front-line city in the cold war. Some legal basis must be established for West Berlin —it has none now, it has no status in international law, it’s just a grotesque relic of World War II. All those forces interested in peace, those who do not value the military potential of Berlin above peace, with them we believe we can reach agreement.”
Next day I put the same question to official spokesmen on the other side of The Wall. Ernest Lemmer, West Germany’s federal minister of all German affairs, said: “I am absolutely convinced the deadlock can be broken, especially in the wake of the Cuban crisis. There is a chance now to begin new discussions between the two great powers.” But he gave no hint of what the basis for discussion might be nor what change on the Western side might break the deadlock. And a spokesman for the city of West Berlin, a civil servant and therefore anonymous, but one who could speak with authority, assured me that any change whatever in the Western position was absolutely out of the question.
“If necessary,” he said, “the present situation can be prolonged indefinitely.” As for any negotiation with the Communist regime in East Germany: “Impossible. We cannot break our own law. We can have no discussions with them except on purely technical matters.”
We talked about The Wall and agreed it was an enormity, but then I asked, “What should Ulbricht have done instead of building the wall? After all, from his point of view the situation was intolerable—he couldn't go on losing his people at that rate. What in your opinion could he or should he have done?”
“Resign,” he answered, “instantly. The Communist government has no right to exist and it should cease. There is nothing else he could have done that would be just or right. It is the division of Germany itself that is wrong. This is not merely a legal problem; it is a human problem— think of the thousands of families that are divided, not able even to visit each other . . .”
“Speaking of separated families,” I said, “they told me in East Berlin that after The Wall went up they offered to make arrangements with you to issue visas to West Berliners who
wanted to visit relatives over there. In fact they say they even opened visa offices on the platform of the elevated railway, which is their property, hut they say these ollices were closed by the West Berlin police and the people who were waiting were forcibly dispersed. Why wouldn't you permit those visa offices to operate?"
His face turned icy cold. “Impossible,” he said. “We could not allow, we cannot allow, any so-called authority of East Berlin on our territory. We are in a very vulnerable position here and we cannot allow any trilling with the four-power agreement of occupation or any pretense that the so-
called authorities of East Berlin have any true legal existence.”
I said I could see the objection, but wasn't this a rather cold-blooded legalistic reason for preventing sons and daughters from visiting their parents or husbands from visiting wives and children?
"Impossible." he said again, his face stonier than ever. "It would be a first step that might lead to infiltration of our territory and our rights."
This was my last interview with a German official, Eastern or Western. It left me feeling very glad that I as a Canadian didn't have to deal with either of them. ★