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BERLIN — Shivering East Germans awaiting West Germany's "welcome money" lined the sidewalk when the Dresdner Bank's central office in Charlottenburg decided to call it a day at six o'clock Sunday.

Six in the morning, that is.

Two hours later, the bank's tellers were back in business, doling out 100-mark hills to the visitors at the rate of 120,000 marks ($65,600) an hour.

"The situation was rather extreme." said Dresdner employee Matthias Keuter. who had worked more than 24 hours straight by Sunday afternoon. "The people outside nearly froze."

The West German government's long-standing policy to give 100 marks to any East German who requests it caused similar problems all over West Berlin during the weekend. Most of the hundreds of thousands of visitors sought to claim their money immediately, creating midtown waiting lines so long they sometimes merged.

City spokesman Klaus Herzog said Berlin banks and post offices distributed 43.5 million marks ($23.7 million) of the Begrüssungsgeld — or greeting money — between Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Torsten and Ines Muller, a toolmaker and a seamstress from Horst, near Potsdam. stood two hours with their toddler son in the damp, numbing cold before picking up their family total of 300 marks at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Torstcn Muller said they had no special plans for it other than a few small purchases.

"What's important to us is just to stroll here on the Ku'damm," he said, referring to the Kurfürstendamm, the city's best-known shopping and entertainment district.

Andreas Strunk, a first-year teacher from nearby Neuruppin. waited 1½ hours in the Tegel district for his share. Like many visitors, he decided to window shop and save the money for a vacation in the West.

"France would be a dream for me. You can't do much with 100 marks ... but you can build upon it to realize the dream."

Sven Nehls, a 24-year-old bricklayer from Teltow, said he received only 50 marks, and got no explanation for the half ration of cash. Undaunted, he put it to use immediately.

"These are the first pair of jeans I've owned," he said. pointing proudly to the pants he wore. Coffee and chocolate were his only other planned indulgences.

Other Easterners said they were buying books, fruit and children's vitamins. When the Ku'damm area was wide open for business Saturday, East Germans stormed low-price clothing stores, shoe stores, book stores and other outlets. many of which stayed open hours later than usual.

Some visitors also used East German marks to shop. Keuter said his bank swaps East marks for West marks at a rate of 10-to-one, and most department stores do so as well, although there are wide fluctuations.

Each cash recipient gets a stamp in his identity papers recording the gift. Keuter said he knew of no case in which an East German tried to deceive the bank by claiming money more than once.


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