East-West Tale of a Sundered City

After 25 years of the Wall, Berliners still long for unity

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East Berlin (1.2 million) has far less gaiety and far more of an Old World feel. Along Unter den Linden, the treelined central boulevard, the more relaxed pace encourages strollers to pause and admire the marble sculptures and to browse in modern art galleries. Quaint stores offer Meissen porcelain table settings, and dusty antiques shops display prints of men in ruffled collars and ladies in bustles. Come twilight, the streets clear and the city sinks into slumber.

The complementary charms of the two halves of what was one of Europe's largest industrial, cultural and scientific centers would make a beguiling whole. Yet each Berlin has managed to thrive remarkably well on its own. West Berlin, plucky and brash as ever, has survived the economic crises and political scandals of the 1970s and recovered a large measure of prosperity and self-confidence. The city boasted economic growth of 3% in 1985, the highest rate in West Germany. As it has flourished, West Berlin has become a major producer of electronics, engineering equipment, and cars and trucks.

The economic revival has attracted increasing numbers of young professionals to the city. Nearly a third of West Berliners are between the ages of 25 and 45. "I'm surprised by the climate of confidence in Berlin," says Joachim Putzmann, a senior executive for Siemens, the computer and electronics giant. "The feeling is that a new generation is here to stay." Many members of an older generation, however, are sorely missed. Dietrich Stobbe, a former mayor of West Berlin, concedes that as many as 20,000 of the top political and corporate leaders have relocated to other major West German cities.

West Berliners have managed to make an uneasy peace with the monstrous Wall. Almost every Berliner's emotional survival kit includes a wisecracking sense of humor. Standard encounter: an American, returning to Berlin after 60 years, asks his taxi driver to run down the events during his absence. Responds the driver: "The Nazis came, the war came, the Russians came. You didn't miss much." No less mordant are the graffiti spray-painted on the western side of the Wall. ALL IN ALL, YOU'RE JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL, reads one bit of wisdom. DONALD DUCK FOR PRESIDENT, declares another. One of the newest decorations is a purple cake, divided in two by a brown wall. The inscription: HAPPY 25TH BIRTHDAY.

There are no clever messages on the eastern side of the Wall. East German officials regard the barricade with pride. To celebrate its anniversary, they plan to stage a parade and have already issued a commemorative postage stamp. "Since its construction," says Karl-Heinz Gummich, a representative in the East German Tourist Office, "the economy has grown strong, relations with West Germany have been stabilized, and the threat of war has been removed."

East Berlin has indeed prospered since it stanched the flow of refugees a quarter-century ago. East Berliners boast that they enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Communist bloc, and almost gleefully contrast their official full employment with West Berlin's 10.2% jobless rate. The largest city in East Germany and the capital of the country, East Berlin is also the chief manufacturing center. City planners expect industrial production to expand nearly 10% a year through the end of the decade.

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