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Thread: Germany During the Cold War

  1. #1
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    Default Germany During the Cold War

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    Berlin - Checkpoint Charlie October 1961
    http://warandgame.wordpress.com/2007...-october-1961/


    The stand-off between U.S. Army M48 tanks and Soviet T55 tanks during the border dispute of late October 1961.

    Quote:
    "The four powers governing Berlin (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union) had agreed at the 1945 Potsdam Conference that Allied personnel would not be stopped by German police in any sector of Berlin. But on 22 October 1961, just two months after the construction of the Wall, the US Chief of Mission in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, was stopped in his car (which had occupation forces license plates) while going to a theatre in East Berlin.

    Kennedy sent General Lucius Clay, the bullish commander of the American sector during the 1948 airlift, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to visit Berlin. They were rapturously received by the West Berliners. In front of a giant crowd outside the town hall, Johnson affirmed America’s pledge “to the freedom of West Berlin and to the rights of Western access.” At the same time, an American combat unit of 1,500 well-armed soldiers was sent up the East German autobahn from West Germany to reinforce the Allied garrison in West Berlin. The Soviets stopped and counted them but then let them pass. On arriving, they paraded down the main street of West Berlin, the Kurfuersten Damm, amidst cheering, weeping crowds. The unit’s commander said it was the most fabulous reception he had experienced since the liberation of Paris in 1944. West Berliners now felt assured they would not be abandoned.

    Most of the old crossing points were closed. The East Germans allowed the use of only seven. Although West Berliners were not denied continued access to East Berlin, they needed special permits. And only one crossing point would permit other Westerners to cross into the East. This gateway would enter Cold War mythology as the place where East met West: Checkpoint Charlie, the exchange point for spies.

    Rusk and Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko continued to talk, into the fall, about finding a political solution to the Berlin stalemate. Khrushchev even invited Kennedy to Moscow. The president declined the invitation but agreed to set up a confidential back channel through which per*sonal views could be exchanged. Kennedy decided to ask General Clay to return to West Berlin as his special representative, but McGeorge Bundy warned him that “Clay will be a burden to you if he takes a line more belligerent than yours.” Kennedy insisted that his appointment would reassure Berliners. Clay, on the other hand, believed he was being sent to Berlin to take on the Soviets. As soon as he arrived he ordered the building of a concrete wall at a military training school, so his soldiers could practice knocking it down.

    Towards the end of October a senior American diplomat and his wife were denied access to East Berlin to attend the theatre, because they refused to show the East German border guards their passports. The four-party agree*ments that governed the city guaranteed free movement of Allied and Soviet personnel without passport formalities, so Clay sent a squad of armed US sol*diers to force the issue and accompany the diplomat in his car into East Berlin. Over the next few days, American jeeps started to convoy US civilians on pointless excursions into East Berlin, each jeep full of battle-ready soldiers ostentatiously flaunting rifles. Ten American M-48 tanks were pulled up near Checkpoint Charlie.

    On the morning of 27 October, thirty-three Soviet tanks rolled into East Berlin and halted at the Brandenburg Gate, the first Soviet armour in the city since the uprising of 1953. Ten tanks drove on to Checkpoint Charlie and lined up facing the American armour barely a hundred yards away. For the first time in the Cold War, American and Russian tanks directly faced each other across a tense border. The American gunners loaded their cannons and awaited orders. An alarmed Kennedy spoke with Clay from the White House but assured him of his full support. As the hours passed the situation grew even more tense. The US garrison in West Berlin was on full alert, then NATO was put on alert, then Strategic Air Command. The Soviet military commander had a direct line to the Kremlin. Khrushchev told him that should the Americans use force, he must respond with force. Commanders on both sides were worried that, in all the tension, some nervous soldier would fire his weapon and trigger a shoot-out. A petty dispute over showing passports at a border crossing threatened to escalate into a global conflict.

    Both sides realized that the situation had got out of hand. Through the back channel just set up, Kennedy sent a message directly to Khrushchev ask*ing that the Russians withdraw and assuring him that the Americans would do the same.

    At Checkpoint Charlie, after a sixteen-hour standoff, the first Soviet tank started up its engine and withdrew five yards. The tension was broken. A few minutes later, an American tank pulled back the same distance. One by one the tanks withdrew. There was another sigh of relief. Clay, however, was done for. General Bruce Clarke, commander of US forces in West Germany, demanded, “What in the hell did Clay think he was doing? You don’t spit in the face of a bulldog.” NATO’s commander was furious that an unplanned dispute had threatened to engulf his forces in a conflict that could not be won. Clay remained in Berlin a few months longer and then was called home. And, with*out publicity, Washington ordered civilian officials not to visit East Berlin for the time being."

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    T H E B E R L I N C R I S I S
    1 9 5 8 - 1 9 6 2
    http://www.wildfleckenveterans.com/berlin-crises.php

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    M48 Tanks in Berlin
    by SP5 Conrad (Connie) Schornhorst
    Tank Co. 6th Inf. Reg. & Co F (PATTON) 40th Armor
    1958 - 1960

    http://www.berlin-brigade.de/honor/honor18.html#connie

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Interesting, George. Good find. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Quote Originally Posted by Nickdfresh View Post
    Interesting, George. Good find. Thanks!
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    Thanks Nick,

    I just happened to stumble across the article while searching for pictures of the U.S. Army in West Germany during the 1960's. The picture looked pretty intriguing, so I read on. I had not been aware of this incident before.

    -

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    I guess it was never that easy for a single man to cause a world war. Just imagining one of the tank commanders got a little nervous or trigger happy...
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Quote Originally Posted by flamethrowerguy View Post
    I guess it was never that easy for a single man to cause a world war. Just imagining one of the tank commanders got a little nervous or trigger happy...
    It's happened before. In 1731, a chap named Robert Jenkins had his ear cut off by the Spanish coastguards. This caused Britain and Spain to go to war in 1739, which later merged into the war of the Austrian Succession. This was arguably a world war, with fighting taking place in Europe, the Americas and India...
    I have neither the time nor the inclination to differentiate between the incompetent and the merely unfortunate - Curtis E LeMay

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Quote Originally Posted by pdf27 View Post
    It's happened before. In 1731, a chap named Robert Jenkins had his ear cut off by the Spanish coastguards. This caused Britain and Spain to go to war in 1739, which later merged into the war of the Austrian Succession. This was arguably a world war, with fighting taking place in Europe, the Americas and India...
    Gose to show theres evil blood in every centrey.
    Anyways back to cold war Germany-Why was it called the Cold war? Why cold?
    Who caused the Berlin wall?

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Quote Originally Posted by aly j View Post
    Anyways back to cold war Germany-Why was it called the Cold war? Why cold?
    "Cold" because the opposing main forces' (USA and Soviet Union) measures remained below to those of an "open" war, simply no firing on each other (on a major scale at least).

    Quote Originally Posted by aly j View Post
    Who caused the Berlin wall?
    Tough one.
    The "Entente" because of Versailles treaty?
    Hitler for starting WW2?
    The Soviet Union for having the need for an "anti-fascist protective barrier"?

    You're pick.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    George,
    I visited East Germany twice before the wall came down, and I tell you, it is an errie feeling being over there. People would stare at me just because I was drinking a coca cola. They knew you were a foreigner if you drank Coke. You could buy this stuff as tourists at places called the S store, where your showed your passport to buy American stuff like Coke or American cigee’s. When you entered a store there was paid guards on duty and shopping made you feel like a criminal.When you entered the store you had to carry a basked or push a bugee. If there were no basket, you waited. You couldn’t just browse like the way you do here, when entering a food store etc…All I can say, is that after seeing the way my relatives were brought up by East German government, I am grateful my parents escaped to the West. Thank god the Wall came down and thank god the cold war didn’t develop worse than it could have by the article you quoted.

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Quote Originally Posted by herman2 View Post
    George,
    I visited East Germany twice before the wall came down, and I tell you, it is an errie feeling being over there. People would stare at me just because I was drinking a coca cola. They knew you were a foreigner if you drank Coke. You could buy this stuff as tourists at places called the S store, where your showed your passport to buy American stuff like Coke or American cigee’s. When you entered a store there was paid guards on duty and shopping made you feel like a criminal.When you entered the store you had to carry a basked or push a bugee. If there were no basket, you waited. You couldn’t just browse like the way you do here, when entering a food store etc…All I can say, is that after seeing the way my relatives were brought up by East German government, I am grateful my parents escaped to the West. Thank god the Wall came down and thank god the cold war didn’t develop worse than it could have by the article you quoted.
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    Hi Herman,

    Wow, that's interesting. Like stepping into a different world wasn't it. That would make anyone extra cautious about committing some kind of infraction. I take it that your parents escaped before the wall went up? A lot of people died attempting escapes to the west afterward. Do you still have relatives in eastern Germany? I imagine that it is totally different now - have you been there since the wall came down?

    It must have been difficult at first, following the unification of East and West Germany. The adjustment away from communism for easterners, and the cost burden of absorbing East Germany for West Germans. It has probably long since stabilized by now though...

    Thanks for sharing that experience Herman.

    -

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    I have been on a one-day trip to East Berlin in 1988. First "funny" thing which occured to us was the forced conversion of money right at the border post. They took 25 Mark (west) from everybody of us "capitalists" and handed out 25 Mark (east). The common exchange rate in that time was 1 west-mark = 4 ost-mark. Leaving the border post we were encountering a huge crowd of eastern germans begging to us: "Do you have 2 west-marks for me or some chewing gum?" (no joke!)
    Well, what to do with 25 ost-marks? First thing, it was strictly forbidden to take any GDR money back to Western Germany, neither you weren't allowed to take any useful goods. So we tried to hoggish the money which is a tough thing when a Big Mac-like burger (called "Grilletta") costs you about 0.50 east-mark. When we had finished our lunch we asked for the bill and got bad-mouthed by the waiter for being decadent westerners and we one of us should pay the entire bill and not pay seperately. (BTW, we were a bunch of 15-16 year old kids!). After all we gave the money to some old people before luckily went over to the decadent west again.
    "I just ran out of ammo. I will ram this one. Good bye, we'll meet in Valhalla." - Major Heinrich Ehrler, April 4, 1945

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    I visited East Germany twice before the wall came down, and I tell you, it is an errie feeling being over there. People would stare at me just because I was drinking a coca cola.
    Well, probably those personalities were some vividly flourishing representatives of the successfully implemented consumerism philosophy, already reoccupied with add-highlighted goods, which –as beautifully expressed by late Henry David Thoreau - more than anything else, are preventing us from living freely and nobly.

    If nothing else, they were surely very poorly informed. Scientifically very well educated chemists and nutritionist at the GDR’s Miltitz chemical and ingredient facility developed an truly innovative, caffeinated and carbonated beverage that also included vitamin C and a hint of lemon called Vita Cola - Brauselimonade mit Frucht- und Kräutergeschmack.



    As I remember, back there in 1986, when I was back there in the GDR with my old Sorb relatives in Lübbenau, on the beautiful edge of the Spreewald, it was tasty, especially if served chilled. Of course, vitamin C was already added – as recommended by our great and noble teacher Linus Pauling - thus throat irritation was a nonexistent phenomenon.

    And that truly refreshing stuff is still produced!

    http://www.foodbev.com/articleDetail.aspx?contentId=932

    Therefore try it, my dear Mr. Hermann and you shall not regret. Cheers!
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

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    I always wanted to share my personnel experiences visiting DDR. Hope this synopsis is relevant to the Thread as it relates to EAST vs West.
    When I visited East Germany in my teens I stayed a month on 2 occasions. My parents worried as I travelled alone and their was fear that a Canadian born from Germans that escaped the East would be forced to stay for mandatory military service as East Germany didn’t recognize my status given my parents disposition. I don’t know if that’s a fact or a fear. I didn’t care as I thought it was adventurous. My Visa came through from Ottawa as there was no embassy in Toronto for DDR. Upon arriving in DDR, the reporting to the local police station in cousin Dietmar’s trabant was a joke. Gestapo was still alive from my perspective with the police 21 questions. Dietmar was the richest in the family because he owned a Trabant (which he waited several yrs to buy as he was on a waiting list). I stayed near the polish border in a small town. I brought a suitcase of coffee and chocolate which was reassured. I ate eal (for special occasion-yuk) and fatty salami that would pass as third rate from our standards. The butcher had the most fattiest salami you would ever see. Nothing lean or tasy like we get here. Eggs were grown on my Aunt’s farm but could not be eaten as they were valuable and sold off instead. A communal tabcoo field was the main part of extra cash for my Aunt. I visited East Berlin 4 times. On the West side of the wall you could see the East tower guards watching you as you stared over near the wall. I wondered how these East German guards could betray the fatherland by becoming commie’s aiming their guns at fellow Germans.
    The beer at the kiosk in East Germany was sold in mugs that you paid a deposit and got a refund when you returned the mug. The East German Zoo was frequented by unusually dark skinned Russians with their red caps that could be spotted a mile away. Gypsies ironically sold sunglasses throughout the park where Russians bought from. I could see the West from the East side of the wall and felt pitty for those that could only look into the East, as I was merely a tourist, and could leave at any time back to the West. Their were so many huge magnificent buildings half bombed or falling apart that remained from the war but were awaiting repairs still to the day. I would say that West Berlin had nothing in comparison to East Berlin when it came to original WW-2 buildings.Huge Great masters of architecture that made me look in awe, wondering if Hitler walked upon these buildings and wondering how great Germany use to be, and what a shame it has become divided and ripped aprt by the Russians. Either that or West Berlin tore them down for condo’s. East Germany sold crap. All I got from my mandatory currency exchange was some East German flags and useless embalms. The DDR tower was a big thing (mini-CN-Tower). The shops sold a lot of bolts,tools and blue collar trades stuff but hardly nothing for a tourists. I don’t think they imported anything from the West. The television from DDR was solely non-western. No cable or satellite back then. None of my relatives even heard of bugs Bunny or Fantasy Island or whatever was popular back then. They didn’t seem to miss it either and didn’t dream much about the West because they knew they could never get to the West. They all heard of the Reppa-Baum in Hamburg (Red light district of St.Pauli), but that’s another story. My parent s escaped from the East before the wall went up. My mother had to run over barbed wire that was laid out at the time, while my dad cut through it (so he say’s). A few mths later the wall began and my Aunt could not leave. She dies penniless on a farm that was once owned by a Jewish baroness who reclaimed the land after DDR gave it back. I have not gone back to Germany but I am a happier person today knowing the luxury of my civil rights and convenience of amenities, which the DDR did not have or offer. Not knowing the West did not make my relatives unhappy. They were happy for not knowing any better. Thank God for the Great Democracy we live within.

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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Communication is civilization itself, my dear Mr. Hermann, and words, even the most contradictory words, are always preserving the most important thing on this planet – the human contact. It is silence that isolates and destroys, and we, as participants of the human adventure, do have an obligation to bring into interplay those thousands of the thoughts that are capable to positively change the hearts and minds of humankind, advancing human progress, even the course of the civilization. Therefore please – don’t worry! Your personal narrative contribution always will be a useful input in a process in which human beings are creating a relationship by interacting with each other.

    I do hope, however, that you will excuse me for my inherent, old-fashioned scientism that entails me to argue against your thesis that this thread relates to the fashionable intellectual misconception commonly known as East-Versus-West archetype. Actually, my dear Mr. Herman, we are facing here only the old remnants of the 250 years old philosophical quandary in the international order dialectics, known as the Imponderance of the Kantian sublime and the Rousseauvian loop.

    Yes, I know – you are asking yourself what to hell I am talking about. Don’t worry – great philosophical concepts, fortunately, are mostly very simple.

    The Kantian principle asserts that final good will come out of adversity, because adversity forces man to overcome it. The greater the adversity – the more pressing the need to resolve problem – the greater the expectation that man will behave rationally and take the appropriate steps toward meeting the emergency. Although man is prone to fight, to seek power and to pursue his own egotistical ends, human nature can be understood in terms of potentialities, which could be actualized in the course of history. Man, acting rationally, would also be acting within the dictates of justice, and standards of justice will be knowable by right reasoning. A rational and moral political order thus can be imposed on the international systems.

    This is essentially a non-deterministic system of the world, because it relies in the efficacy of change through human agency. Unlike the so-called Rousseauvian predicament, who considers the driving force of history to be located in antecedent causes that push the process along, the Kantian predicament makes allowance for the power of the idea of the future that – to some extent – is able to pull the process along. For the Rousseauvians the transition from position X to position Y is determined by the total condition of the X itself. For the Kantian the transition to Y can be effected to some degree by having a conception of the future goal Z.

    You will see I am sure, that another characteristic of the Kantian thesis is its pervasive rationalism. It asserts that a rational and moral political order can be imposed on the system of international affairs, and that states, as well as individuals are capable of behaving in a completely moral and rational manner towards one another. When Kant speaks about progress he means it by the actualization of man’s potential for rationality.

    Simply, my dear Mr. Herman, our immortal, absolutely magnificent transcendental idealist was convinced that the calamities of international politics were no more than instances in the failure of rational comprehension. Progress of mankind is, accordingly to Kant, guaranteed by the teleology which seeks mankind advancing towards some ultimate goals, and these goals are to be attained through what is basically a dialectical process between man and nature in which nature imposes afflictions and hardships upon man and – in overcoming these, man is gradually guided towards his ethical destiny.

    However, this utterly optimistic description of human affairs was mortally destabilized by the Rousseauvian tradition of despair, which envisioned power politics as the law of all international life. Although man, in the state of his nature, is not for Rousseau a warlike creature, but a peaceful and timid being, more prone to run away than to fight, the violence of international politics is inevitable. And why? War, he repeatedly asserted, is a social phenomenon, social in the sense that what gives rise to it is the inception of civil society – the move from the state of nature to the civil society that makes the man a fighter. As he puts it, it is only when man has entered into society with other man that he decides to attack another, and he only becomes a soldier after he has become a citizen.

    And why does civil society bring about this change and produces continuously a state of war? For the simple reason that while it solves one problem of order at the domestic level, it immediately creates another at the international level - the institution of the state creates domestic order but initiates international anarchy! If international anarchy is to be overcome, it must be through a confederation "with teeth" – a very strong form of supra-national organization.

    Unlike the Kantian proposal, Rousseau’s confederation was to have the power of enforcement and there was to be no right of secession from it! Thus whereas Kant argued that the state should not be subject to law, Rousseau insistently argued the opposite case: "If there is any way of reconciling these dangerous contradictions, it is to be found only in such a form of federal government as shall unite nations by bonds similar to those which already unite their individual members and place the one no less than the other under the authority of the law".

    Rousseau was arguing that if there was a solution, then such a federation was it. But he rejected this as a solution on the grounds that there is absolutely no hope of its realization! As he putted it ironically, all that is needed to establish the federation is the consent of the princes, who, unfortunately, would resist with all their might any proposal for its creation. And so, having claimed that there is only one possible solution to the ills of international disorder, Rousseau went on to dismiss it as being utterly unattainable.

    Rousseau provided, in most poignant fashion, an example of the conviction that the Universe is irredeemably irrational. Logically, his federation is irrefutable. In terms of a rational pursuit of self-interest, and in the long run everyone would benefit from such a scheme. Why, then, will the princes never consent to it? Because the man will not act rationally – even if they are shown where their own best interest lie, they will not behave accordingly.

    If any more proof is needed, we do need only to recall his most famous line: "If, in spite of all this, the project remains unrealized, that is not because it is utopian; it is because man are crazy, and because to be sane in a world of madmen is in itself a kind of madness."

    In addition, you know what is even more provocative in all this, my dear Mr. Herman2? The sorrowful fact that the present age still lacks any widely-shared vision of the direction that future should take.

    But enough with the philosophy - let me now start with my private memories about the DDR…

    To be continued!
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

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    Well, before I start with my tiny personal account about the DDR, allow me to warn you, my dear Mr. Herman2, with words of a thousand years wisdom: Only half of this is truth. Half of this is probably not truth…Don’t hold it against me if I add something or miss something. I am telling you the way I hard it.

    On my first solo-trip to the DDR, back there in 1986 I used the advantages of the rail travel. I was convinced that if your intention is to feel the country you have to travel on the land, not over it! Railroads provided complete advantage through the operation with comfort, speed, safety, scenic routings with great diversity, stopovers at any point en route within the time limit of the ticket. The railroad tracks went through towns and cities, agricultural territories, along the shores of rivers and lakes, over and through mountains. Therefore this basically truly international line of the DR (Deutsche Reichsbahn!), ČSD, MÁV and JŽ - the Inter Express line Subotica – Budapest – Bratislava – Brno – Prague – Dresden – Berlin-Lichtenberg was the very first starting point of my personal Sven Hedin-type of traveling adventure.

    Sleeping car services with roomettes were in those times capable to accommodate one person in complete privacy, and additionally there were even those nowadays sadly forgotten individual toilet facilities. Dining was provided in separate dining car, with tables for four and for two. The service provided was equivalent to that obtainable in any decent restaurant. Yes, I had traveled in a high-level car, but who cared – I was on my first international trip, being officially sent to the DDR on basically scientific grounds, with a duty to intensify my knowledge about enzymatic reactions and their large-scale industrial applications in sugar beat generated molasses alteration into monocellular proteins at the Institut für Gärungsgewerbe und Biotechnologie in Berlin. And I think that previously mentioned knowledge was indeed very useful. After all, those same old German solutions are in use even today, when my dearly beloved ex-socialist industrial unit called "Fermin" (FERmentaciona INdustrija) produces internationally recognized chemical products, of course, this time as a European Production Centre of the renowned US Alltech Corporation, under the name Alletch-Fermin. Well, that is a final outcome… at least for the time being.

    In those times, a well-known "red" Yugoslav passport was highly appreciated, and the DDR was amongst those 168 different states with a mutually assured visa-free regime for the citizens of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and, of course, there was additional stamp: Raison de Visite - Officiellement. Of course, DDR required that visitors were in a good health, that they have sufficient funds and that their passports are in good order. I was equipped with all certificates (smallpox inoculation, etc.) I was advised to get before departure, so upon arrival I had no trouble with the health inspection.

    Customs at Bad Schandau were strict and stringent, but as a non-resident I was allowed to bring into the DDR duty-free everything which was for my own use and necessary for the purpose of my visit. Clothing and other personal effects could be brought in if I was to take them out when leaving. There were restrictions on items intended for consummation in the DDR, but I never smoked, and that one bottle of special apricot brandy for my old relatives there was completely unproblematic for the custom officers. Small gifts for relatives were also duty – free, since there was no duty on gifts valued at 100 DDM, and I traveled with approved and double-signed travelers cheques, therefore I was not obliged to exchange a pre-setted amount of Dinars for Marks.

    The customs inspection was not difficult – simplified declaration was used for arrivals. I have nott attempted to bring into country plants, flowers, vegetables, fruits, meat, birds or - God forbid! - animals, passport and all other papers were OK, I was checked by Public Health, Customs, and Agriculture inspections, I found all those officials normal and anxious to pass me quickly. I was not obliged to take off my shoes and socks, I was not asked personal questions, i was not interrogated by police officers, or commanded to face the wall, to put my hands up and to stand with my legs spread, and a specially trained officer never checked my...tiny place where sun never shines, not even to mention that I was not ordered to drop into the basket and to leave there my toothpaste, deodorant and my after-shave lotion. In those times, these procedures were not applied.

    The topography of the country is well known: it includes lowlands, broad plains, interrupted by low, rolling hills and marshes, as well as with forested regions. However, within the period of just a few hours one was able to ride through well-farmed green plains, densely-forested ranges of hills, and bold bare-rock attractions of Saxon Switzerland, especially at the Zittau mountains, with their diversity of rock formations an wooded ridges. The tourist traveling across East Germany was, however, often impressed by step-like forests. He was able to see trees’ ranging from small seedlings to trees thirty or forty years old, ready to be cut. They were cropped annually, but only those which have been growing for many years. By planting each year as many trees as the cut, the Germans have assured themselves a constant amount of timber. Their forestry laws were rigid and exacting. No one was allowed to cut down a tree without arranging for planting another one to offset the loss!

    My lodge - Interhotel Stadt Berlin - was a modern, well-equipped and more comfortable construction than my own home! Guests around the world were able to enjoy a truly wide variety of services, completely comparable to those offered by Sheraton in Boston. With its own high culinary standards, superb service and comfortable accommodation, this hotel offered a truly splendid place for relaxation and study. It was situated right there in the middle of the Alexanderplatz, known familiarly as "Alex", a true attraction for Berliners and visitors alike, and the World Time Clock was the place for many rendezvous. There were crowds in the Rathaus Strasse, between the Alex and the Town Hall, with many shops and the Centrum department store, as well as with numerous residential blocks, while in between there were fountains and courtyards with flowers. As far as I remember restaurants, cafés, wine-taverns and the Bowling Center were pleasant places to linger for a while… and that was not a strict characteristic of the "Berlin Spirit".

    On Marx-Engels Square, where Unter den Linden, Berlin’s most famous boulevard started, was the impressive building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Humboldt University was also there, and also the State Opera, Opera Café, and St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, rebuilt by the government. Opposite the State Opera there was the former building of the "Neue Wache", built by Schinkel. The amusement park at Berlin-Köpenick was crowded at the weekends, and many visitors paid a visit to the Zoo, in the building of which voluntary reconstruction work (NAW) played an important role. Structures included the Tropical House, and the atmosphere within recalled that at the jungle.

    Berlin – the reconstructed capital of the DDR – was often the venue for numerous big social events. One of these was the May Day, or Day of the Working Class (Tag der Arbeit). People really enjoyed the celebration, and I was unable to see any trace of enforced personal presence, or compulsory conducted activity – citizens were not pushed with bayonets into the large, cheerful multitude.



    Berlin – Tag der Arbeit

    Excuse me, honorable ladies and gentlemen - again that boring memo: "The text that you have entered is too long (15928 characters). Please shorten it to 10000 characters long." OK... here we go...
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Germany During the Cold War

    Astonishingly, church and state were tenuously allied in East Germany! Even after years of officially godless Communism, Christianity was a living, palpable force in the DDR. It is true that it were the old – especially old women! – who attended the services, but increasing number of young people was amazing. The government has helped to restore the churches and traditional landmarks, thus promoting traditional values. The very same spirit of collectivism was completely observable in the streets of Erfurt during the Ecumenical Church Day, a vivid demonstration that Christians had won greater freedom than usually projected.



    Erfurt – Ecumenical Church Day rally, officially sanctioned by East German government

    I was amazed to see the tremendous effort that a Socialist state devoted to a man of God, by rebuilding religious sites, and emphasizing the positive social message of Martin Luther. The Visitors Center in Eisenach displayed a proclamation from Communist party head Erich Honecker, praising the historical accomplishments of Luther! In return, church officially supported the government.



    Eisenach - Karl Marx and Martin Luther, side by side!

    Germans in the DDR lived their lives relieved by ordinary human joys. After the war a significant industrial base was developed roughly out of nothing, and it started to raise the living standard of the population. As everywhere under socialism, the state provided people with the basic essentials of life either free of charge or very cheaply. East Germans paid nothing for their education or medical treatment. Each family was provided with somewhere to live at a nominal rent. That was possibly a standardized flat in a boring town-block, but it was cheap and fully supplied with heating and electricity. Every citizen was entitled to a job and a meticulously calculated salary. For instance, a doctor could receive less than a shipyard worker or miner! Bread was cheap, vegetables were cheap, pork sausages and rib roasts were abundant and low-priced as well, rent was almost ludicrous, public transport within cities was also inexpensive, but housewives had to do their shopping either before or after work, because people were forced to wait in long queues for public transport after about 3 pm, when they returned home for the main meal of the day. The young middle-class housewives were no longer prepared to spend hours on the servitude of their kitchen as their grandmothers did. Furthermore, their husbands no longer expected that. They did not mind if she just popped a steak, and served it with a canned vegetable stew.

    Housewives were rarity in the DDR, because almost all married women had regular jobs. In some ways that societal preference helped women to lead a fuller life than they would in a country where they were expected merely to run a house and to bring up children. A married woman was capable to plan her own career, to organize her working life, and she was not expected to subordinate her wishes to those of her husband. Women were capable to gain positions of authority in almost any profession: engineering, agriculture or factory management, as well as such traditionally feminine areas as medicine and teaching. For this reason DDR women were perhaps a little bit more self-confident than western women.

    Girls formed a higher proportion of university students than it was usual in the West, or in Yugoslavia. The socialist government has achieved its greatest successes in education. Before the war it was most unusual for a child of peasant origin to enter university. But after the war education was made a high priority and many university places were reserved for young people of working class or peasant origin.

    The social relations tended to be directed towards the family and inner social circles. Although people saw less of their cousins and aunts than before, they were still closely tied to the more immediate family. Germans in those times had made only a few very close friends, and depended less upon them. They were able to chat easily to strangers in a train or café, but they tended to be more reserved when it comes to forming real ties. What they have firmly in mind, however, was a stable future: stady jobs, marriage, their own house or apartement, two children – one of each sex – and no trouble in life. They knew when they will marry and what their house will be like, and nothing was likely to deflect them from their objectives! The people were always very polite, and when their work was doen for the day, or at weekends, they lead tranquil lives in snug little circles of family and friends.

    Although television was there in the DDR Germans in those times took a greater interest in theater, cinema, museums and books! Museums, galleries and libraries were always full, because they tended either to be cultured or else wanted to be cultured. Even people with little education were not frightened of poetry or good literature. Publishing was of good quality and achieved high sales. Books by almost all of the world’s leading writers – alive or dead! – were available in German translation, and they were bought in large numbers.



    Dresden, Semper’s Art Gallery – visitors were always there in large groups

    The most popular leisure activity, however, was - without any doubt - sport! Sporting activities were greatly encouraged, and most East Germans were able through their jobs to join a different club that provided numerous sport facilities. The collective was all important, since Osies would not usually, as individuals, have the resources to sail, go motorcycle or automobile racing, or riding. Anyway, they were encouraged to operate as part of a group. Healing spas, attractive social facilities, and beautiful grounds located amidst charming scenery were available for members of different sporting clubs. Personally, I was mostly impressed with numerous sailing regattas, usually held during the Baltic Week, but at other times as well. The Yacht Harbor of Warnemünde, with those beautiful wooden examples of true craftsmanship, numerous carefree sailing enthusiasts – members of the Trade Union Sporting Club – and with the fishermen landing their catch nearby, were a visible evidence of growing personal standards in the DDR, as well as a possible link in the system of peaceful uniting the peoples with different social orders.



    Boat Harbor, Warnemünde

    Although material tastes and popular artifacts of our modern civilization were subjected in those days to the same widespread uniformities as the standardized goods available within repetitive shopping complexes, DDR was a pretty strange example of socio-cultural repudiation of the unvarying originality. In today’s world rare is a citizen who views a car, for example, as a simple tool of transportation. Apparently when people are ready to move from a bicycle or oxcart to four wheels, they do want a vehicle that makes a statement about their social success. But that characteristic of modern society was somehow strangely non-existent in those times in the GDR, and science was not yoked to help potential buyers to make that statement. Therefore some pretty strange situations occurred. For example, nobody stared at the good old Ford Capri back there in the streets of Leipzig, especially not those Wartburg drivers!



    Leipzig – epitomized dream of a standardized individuality was overlooked

    To be Continued…
    Ire Fortiter Quo Nemo Ante Iit!

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