East and West Germans Race To Finish Unity Preparations
`SUCH a hectic!'' as the Germans say. This characterizes the pace in Berlin as the city counts down to reunification, which occurs at 12 midnight tonight.
The ``hectic,'' however, is not what an outsider might expect - a kind of joyous frenzy preceding a grand event, such as a wedding.
Rather, it's been more like the experience of someone under deadline, racing against the clock to finish a project.
For instance, instead of joining forces on Oct. 3, the first day of German unity, the East and West Berlin police merged yesterday. Officials here expect unrest and possibly riots from leftists during the celebrations tonight. The merger was speeded up to ensure better coordination.
A near hysteria, meanwhile, swept the East German People's Chamber (parliament) last week as it tried to finish its business. The committee responsible for investigating allegations that some of their colleagues were connected with the former Stasi (secret police), finally announced its findings.
In all, 56 members, including three Cabinet ministers, had been informally employed by the Stasi, according to the committee. But the lawmakers couldn't agree on whether or not to make the names public.
When it looked like the names would not be made public, those in favor were appalled. Some wept. Some yelled. Some staged a sit-in.
The president of the People's Chamber, meanwhile, refused to read the names aloud, saying it would bring hardship on the families and children of those concerned.
Finally, the names were read, but in a meeting closed to the public. One of the accused Cabinet ministers resigned on the spot, other lawmakers got up and defended themselves.
On a different front, downtown West Berlin was swamped over the weekend with Poles taking their last opportunity to buy Western goods before visa controls take effect on Oct. 3. They waited in lines for up to six hours to buy discount groceries. Electronics stores were also jammed. Those products sell quickly on the black market in Poland.
With no visa requirement for travel to East Germany and no wall to keep them out, the Poles have become quite a presence in West Berlin. They have also become the object of complaints from West Berliners, who complain about their litter, behavior, and sidewalk crowding.
Among Berliners, both East and West, there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm about tonight's celebrations, which include a round of fireworks in three locations and a 12 midnight party at the Brandenburg Gate. People seem more concerned with the challenge ahead than happy about the end of a painful division of a people.
Nevertheless, Berlin is expected to be packed tonight. The hotels in both halves, even in the suburbs, have been booked solid for weeks. Rooms in private homes are being rented through a city hotline. And the airlines have added extra flights - three of them just to carry the members of the West German Parliament.