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BERLIN — For years, Bernauer Strasse stopped at the Berlin Wall. That changed Saturday.

In a demolition project begun late Friday, East German workers lifted a 6-foot-wide, 9-foot-high section from the concrete barrier. On Saturday, they began building a 75-yard connection across what had been a no man's land to streets in East Berlin.

With the roadblock removed, thousands of East Berliners streamed through on foot to sample life in the West. West Berlin police expected cars to pass through the new break in a corner of the wall by day's end.

The new passageway at Bernauer Strasse was the first in which a portion of the wall was removed. It won't be the last.

East German officials plan to make 17 other openings in the 28-year-old symbol of the Cold War during the next few days. The Glienicker Bridge, the site of major spy exchanges between East and West, was opened to pedestrians and cars Saturday.

And, before the East German workers are done, Potsdamer Square and the Brandenburg Gate will be new crossings.

For every 100 visitors coming through Bernauer Strasse, there were 100 reasons for the 'trip. Some East Berliners cried, stricken both with grief and joy.

"I can't talk about it," said a trembling Käte Hellmich, 55, of Prenzlauer Berg, as she passed through the wall.

Her friend Beate Herrmann, 46, also wept as she explained Hellmich's reaction. "She wasn't able to visit her mother. She died in 1980."

Rita Schulz, 61, came with her daughter, Gabriela, a 33-year-old city administrative worker. "We only want to look

around," Gabriela said of her first trip to the West. Her mother said she would like to find "a few fresh oranges."

While excited over the vastly broadened travel rights, the East Berliners said more changes must occur.

"We have to have free elections," said Detlef Hübner, who was carrying a fruitcovered cake and flowers to his wife's grandmother in the Charlottenburg district. "We have to be able to vote for whom we want."

East Berlin traffic policeman Heiko Kühlberg, 29, had trouble believing that he was in the West. "I can't imagine it," Kühlberg said.

He said that he and his wife will continue to live in East Berlin's Pankow district but that the new freedom to travel "has changed our vacation plans, at least."

Andreas and Edelgard Jahn of West Berlin stood on Bernauer Strasse's cobblestones watching the westward flow of the curious, the astounded and the exhilarated. She clutched a chunk of the wall chipped away moments before.

"I'm going to keep this as a souvenir and put it somewhere," she said, "because we assume that the wall will fall entirely ... The wall now has no function."

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