Berliners are subdued as first day of reunion is received with calm

October 04, 1990|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Sun Staff Correspondent

BERLIN -- Hundreds of thousands of Germans spent their first day in this restored capital strolling from Alexanderplatz to the Reichstag yesterday, savoring the absence of border guards and the knowledge that Berlin was whole once again.

This famous stretch, which includes the wide Unter den Linden boulevard and the Brandenburg Gate in the East and the Reichstag in the West, became one long street fair of memorabilia hawkers, food stands and all kinds of music. African, Gypsy, disco and classical music, along with German beer hall tunes, filled the streets.

"It's just a wonderful, great feeling. Now I can see how beautiful the city is," said Walter Enterich, 40, a dealer in gems and minerals from the Western part of Berlin.

If in the days and moments leading up to German unification at midnight Tuesday most Germans expressed mixed feelings about unity, yesterday they traded their reservations for the quiet pleasures of normalcy.

There was none of the wild euphoria of the opening of the Berlin Wall last November.

"It's natural that there's no euphoria," said Mr. Enterich as he walked along Unter den Linden. "Nov. 9 was the beginning of something. But today, we're living it."

The sudden absence of a border reminded some of the difficult years of enduring the border: the mandatory $15 exchange to cross from West to East Germany, the required hotel reservation to get a tourist visa, the fear that relatives would be disturbed by East German authorities after each visit from a Western cousin.

Karen Mueller, 48, a West Berlin clerk, recalled her difficulties visiting family in East Germany over the years. "There was always this harassment at the border," she said. "You could never just relax."

"It's so nice to go for a walk without having to change money, to just feel at ease," she said.

Peddlers did a brisk business selling mementos of the historic day.

Robert Schrout was offering T-shirts emblazoned with a giant number 3, for the date, on the front. Inside the number were inscribed all the important names and places connected with German unity.

He had only extra-large left.

While most Berliners and tourists appeared satisfied to bask in the new union, signs of strife were not far off.

At the Alexanderplatz, an estimated 10,000 demonstrators -- most from western Germany -- clashed with police, who used water cannons and tear gas to break up the protest. About 130 people were arrested.

One demonstrator said the group was protesting what he called the West German takeover of East Germany.

"I see West Germany as a very strong economic party. It intervenes everywhere, like the Americans who have their fingers in everything. And this annexation of East Germany will only benefit the big capitalists," said the protester, who wore an Arab kafiyyeh on his head.

Onlookers shouted encouragement to the demonstrators, many of whom wore ski masks, and called the West German police swine.

But official ceremonies were shielded from the street melee.

At a formal ceremony, President Richard von Weizsaecker delivered a lengthy speech reminding the new German nation of its responsibility to the past.

"None among us should forget that if there had not been the war started by Hitler, there would have been no division of Germany," he said. "We want to serve world peace in a united Europe."

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