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Beyond the Wall: Leipzigers Take Stock Of Their Progress Toward Capitalism

WHAT do Leipzigers think about the enormous changes since the fall of Communism?

Ask the unemployed, and they are likely to remark that things were better in the old days. Ask someone with a job, and the response is more positive. The intellectuals give unification mixed reviews. Almost everyone seems to agree, though, that relations between east and west Germans are not good.

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Here's a sampling of interviews with Leipzigers:

Ingrid Dietrich, pastor of the city's Apostle Church:

``Our views are never considered. When we point this out, the other side [west Germans] says we are getting hysterical.

``The human being is not a computer. You can't just delete one program and put in another.

``No one wants to go back to the way things were - we simply want to be listened to.''

Jochen Meyer, small-business owner:

``That old system was kaput. There was no saving it. Better an end with a shock than a shock without an end.

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``Things are much better now. If you've got `hearth, family, and work,' things are good. This year, we rented a mobile home and toured Scandinavia for three weeks.''

Kerstin Ehe, seller of second-hand baby clothes:

``If you try to find work, you can get it. All this complaining isn't justifiable.

``I really like the team spirit where I work.

``How has my life changed? I don't know. It's normal - I can get the cosmetics I want! I'm also playing rugby. I think we're one of the first women rugby teams here!''

A taxi driver of 30 years:

``They build banks, but no apartments.''

Helga Henfling, pensioner:

``I'm doing pretty well. I spend about 50 percent of my income on rent and utilities, and I have about 300 deutsche marks ($180) left over at the end of every month for food. Really, I'm doing pretty well. Life is certainly a lot more colorful.

``Our building is owned by a west German. He wants to sell. Who knows what will happen? But you can't knock yourself out worrying about it.

``The west Germans complain about unification costing so much. But they are making a lot of money off of us. We buy all their products. And now, they are buying up all the buildings. What east German can afford that?''

Uwe Pluntke, head of the youth office in city hall:

``For the most part, our goals have been reached: personal freedom and the cry for the market economy.

``Kids here have problems, especially when their parents are unemployed. But I don't think the whole of east German youth is adrift.

``Everyone today thinks more about themselves. They are retreating into their private lives.

``People are disillusioned about the former Communists. A lot of them have good positions in business - though not in politics. On the other hand, these people [the ex-Communists] have a lot of charisma.

``Not every citizen advocate makes a good leader.''

Holger Herzberg, acting metro editor of the Leipziger Volkszeitung:

``Things might not seem so great, but they are 100 times, even 1,000 times better than they were in GDR [communist] times.''

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