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BERG, West Germany — Erica Hofmann, carrying her belongings in a white tablecloth, took a taxi from Karl-MarxStadt to the West German border Friday afternoon.

"I came for freedom and medical care," said the 52-year-old woman, who suffers from a liver ailment. Having watched on television the exodus of East Germans through Czechoslovakia and Hungary for weeks, Hofmann packed a battered leather suitcase in an hour Friday morning and wrapped other belongings in the tablecloth. Then she left alone for the West.

She was one of 2,627 East Germans who crossed the suddenly opened border in the dozen hours after 2 a.m. Friday, which was when the West German border patrol started counting refugees.

"A dead Communist is a good Communist," the woman repeated three times. Upon arriving at the Frankenwald rest stop on Autobahn 9, less than a mile from the border, Hofmann placed herself in the hands of the Red Cross.

Mike Bentz, 22, and his fiancee, Sylvia Kohl, 16, also took a taxi from their home in Zwickau, about 60 miles from the border. He emptied all the money in his wallet into the taxi driver's hand. Although it was only about 100 East German marks, it was enough.

Bentz and Kohl, who planned to stay in the West, brought very little with them. One memento was a ceramic monkey — a recent present from Bentz's grandmother.

As East-Germans passed underneath a highway overpass only a half-mile from the border, they were greeted by about 50 West Germans waving from above on the crisp, clear day. They responded by flashing their lights, beeping their horns and waving their handkerchiefs out the car windows.

But not all planned to stay.

Of the 2,627 who used only their personal identity papers to cross the border, 2,146 said they were just visiting. Indeed, many of the East Germans' cars appeared packed just for a day trip to the West. But 481 said they planned to stay.

Kurt Rauch, 47, said he was driving his daughter and her family to Frankfurt, but he planned to return to his wife and other children in the East.

"People must stay to make reforms for a better life — a good life," he said.

A middle-aged man who crossed the border to drop off a friend was wearing an "I like Mike" button with a photo of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Asked why he didn't plan to stay, the man said, "It will get better."

One of the 400 who returned to the East on Friday evening said, "We just came to have a look around."


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