On Dec. 9, as the Red Berliner Zeitung trumpeted pridefully that East zone Christmas "gift tables will be more richly covered than ever before," 75-year-old Karl Meier bleakly shook his head, packed whatever he could into inconspicuous bundles and creaked furtively across the boundary into West Berlin. Herr Meier, a pensioned railwayman, thereby achieved a statistical distinction: he was the 300,000th refugee to escape to West Berlin in 1953, the biggest year of flight since World War II. The refugee rollcall for the preceding four years:
What makes a refugee run? Since July 1, reported West Berlin officials, 23,421 fled...