From the Stars and Stripes archives

The Wall after six months

By JIM GUNTER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 26, 1962

CITY OFFICIALS report that West Berlin industry— drastically crippled by the wall which cleaves the city— has snapped back to normal production during the six months since the Communists threw up the barrier.

The transportation system, which was cut in two and thrown into confusion six months ago, also has been readjusted satisfactorily, officials said.

There can be no readjustment, however, for the heartache caused by the family-splitting barricade. But to the resilient West Berliners, who have rebounded from war and terrorism in the past, life must go on.

And so it does.

The wall, which was a festering wound when raised last Aug. 13, has in six months become a scar. In a multitude of corner bars, West Berliners hide their anxieties with gay chatter and songs. But occasionally the deep hurt comes to the surface.

The other day, the wife of a West Berlin architect, apparently enjoying a performance at the new opera house, suddenly began to cry during intermission.

"My mother lives in East Berlin," she said. "She came to my house almost every day to sit with my children. But she did not come on Aug. 13, and then it was too late.

"We cannot telephone her because there are no connections. At first it took about three weeks for a letter to reach her. Now it takes about six days. We write frequently and send her parcels."

Dr. Gustav B. von Hartmann of the West Berlin information bureau, estimates that of the 2.2 million persons now living in West Berlin, 66 per cent, or two-thirds, are separated from relatives by the wall.

The only contact for these divided families is through the mails and through friends from West Germany who are permitted to cross the wall for brief periods. Through these friends from outside, it is possible for a West Berliner to visit his kinfolk in the East by proxy.

Six months of the Red wall has left West Berlin a city of contrasts — tension juxtaposed with abandon, frivolity with sadness.

Uniformed men with guns still stand and stare over the barbed wire concertinas, the tank traps and the masonry wall at, men in different uniforms with different guns.

But a few blocks away, in the Eden Saloon, men sip their drinks and gaze at girlie pictures which are flashed on a screen behind the bar.

The wall itself has become a tourist attraction and bus services emphasize morning and afternoon trips along the no man's land which cuts through the center of this former capital.

For as. little as eight marks, the visitor may listen to a guide spout a prepared spiel as he points out the Vopos on the other side and the places where men and women died as they tried to escape from the Communists.

Sixty thousand persons living in East Berlin and working in the West were suddenly cut off from their jobs when the wall went up. About half of them were employed in industry.

"The sudden loss of 30,000 workers was a great shock to the industry of West Berlin," said Herbert Bohm of the city's industry and credit department. "At first it was necessary for the remaining work force to put in much overtime. But a readjustment has now been made by automation. New machinery was installed, and also about 1,500 workers were imported from West Germany. The Federal Republic offered them free transportation, extra vacation, and loans to help them get established here."

Bohm said West Berlin industry not only has returned to "normal", but production was actually higher in 1961 than in 1960. West Berlin's exports were valued at 1.2 billion marks in 1960, and the figure rose to 1.4 billion marks last year.

The street railway system for the entire city of Berlin has continued to be operated by the Communist regime since Aug. 13. West Berliners were asked not to patronize the S-Bahn (elevated) trains, and they have been abandoned, although fares are cheaper.

Today the S-Bahn coaches rattle empty, or almost empty, through West Berlin.

The shift from use of the S-Bahn system put a terrific strain on the bus system, Von Hartmann said.

"We did not have enough buses and there was a big action in West Germany where various cities loaned us their extra buses. The Berlin system is now buying new buses and returning those on loan. The system is thriving.

"There was no big propaganda campaign to keep the population off the S-Bahn, but it is interesting that the people just stayed away, even though the SBahns cost only 20 pfennigs and the buses from 30 to 40."

Present-day Berlin is a city of old people. City authorities said 380,000 residents are more than 65 years old. Therefore, the city offers inducements for young couples to establish homes and rear children here. Interest-free loans are available to them.

"The most terrible thing in the whole situation is the losing of contact with Germans on the other side," Von Hartmann said. "Before the wall, we tried to keep as many contacts as possible. For instance, we have a new academy of arts in the West, and the old art academy is in the East. These two institutions, in this non-political field, held joint expositions and their staff members exchanged frequent visits.

"But since Aug. 13, this is out."

Tourists and an East Berliner exchange waves across the Wall.

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