World: Universal Appeal

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Communist East Germany was displaying all the pique of a jilted bourgeois lover. The cause of the hurt feelings was radiant, blonde Marlene Schmidt, 24, who last year fled East Germany for life in the West. Even allowing for the crush—some 3.5 million refugees have streamed out of East Germany since World War II —it is hard to understand how the East German border guards failed to spot lissome, 5-ft. 8-in. Marlene. The West had no such difficulty: she settled in Stuttgart, became a $53-a-week electronics engineer, entered a beauty contest and was elected Miss Germany. Fortnight ago in Miami Beach, Marlene was crowned the 1961 Miss Universe.

Last week the official German Communist youth organ, Young World, gave vent to its chagrin. It ungallantly charged the U.S. with rigging the contest to call attention to East Germany's refugee problem: "It fitted wonderfully—an East Zone girl who 'chose freedom' and is beautiful, too." In East Germany, Marlene had been respected as an engineer, cried Young World indignantly, while in the West only her bust, waist and hips (36½-23-36) won admiration. And anyway, the newspaper warned Marlene, "You will only reign one year until the next contest."

"I had expected to hear this from them," retorted the new Miss Universe, who had first helped her mother and sister escape from East Germany, then fled herself when the Communists began to suspect her of aiding refugees. "I think it is uncomfortable for the East German government to have the world reminded of the situation in East Germany." As Young World had darkly predicted, for a year the West would indeed have a dazzling reminder.