World: Wall of Shame

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BERLIN (See Cover)

In flat, open country within the city's northern boundary, the land to the west is checkered with brown wheatfields and lush, green, potato gardens. Eastward stretches a no-man's land where once fertile fields lie desolate and deathly still. They could be in two different worlds—and, in a sense, they are. Even the countryside outside Berlin is divided into East and West by a vicious, impenetrable hedge of rusty barbed wire and concrete. As itsnakes southward toward the partitioned city, it becomes the Wall.

Seldom in history have blocks and mortar been so malevolently employed or sorichly hated in return. One year old this month, the Wall of Shame, as it is often called, cleaves Berlin's war-scarred face like an unhealed wound; its hideousness offends the eye as its inhumanity hurts the heart. For 27 miles it coils through the city, amputating proud squares and busy thoroughfares, marching insolently across graveyards and gardens, dividing families and friends, transforming whole street-fronts into bricked-up blankness. "The Wall," muses a Berlin policeman, "is not just sad. It is not just ridiculous. It is schizophrenic."

Curses for Friends. Last week a touch of mass schizophrenia rubbed off on West Berliners. Normally they are a cynical, cocksure breed who thumb their noses at trouble. "Mir kann keener," they brag in the local dialect. "No one can push me around." In 17 years as a cockpit of the cold war, West Berlin has usually reacted more coolly to its recurring alarums than Washington or Whitehall. Even the Wall seemed barely to have dented the city's composure.

Then, in an abrupt fit of rage at friend and foe alike, thousands of West Berliners went on a violent, four-day emotional bender that complicated the tense situation along the East-West barrier. What brought them to the boil was the death of 18-year-old Peter Fechter, shot while trying to cross the Wall. Many an East Berliner had died in similar efforts, but Fechter bled slowly to death in full view of a helpless, outraged crowd. Suddenly, all the pent-up frustrations exploded in an orgy of riots. After venting their anger on the detested East German border guards, rock-hurling, catcalling West Berliners battled their own police, stoned Russian soldiers, and shouted insults at harassed U.S.troops.

The mob's voice echoed in every major capital of the world, forcing Russia and the West into another of those nightmarish Berlin confrontations. It emphasized once again that so long as the Wall is allowed to stand, a perpetual threat to world peace exists in the heart of Europe.

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