National Geographic : 1961 Dec
Inviting flat typifies those in the Corbusierhaus, named for the Paris architect who de signed it, Le Corbusier. Berlin's largest apartment building, the 17-floor structure con tains a shopping center and its own power station. Balconied apartment building faces busy Rathenau Platz. More than 200,000 houses and apartments have risen since 1949; every fourth West Berliner lives in a new flat. Though listening is forbidden in Commu nist territory under penalty of fine and prison, RIAS news and other programs from West Berlin are heard throughout East Germany and deep in Poland and Czechoslovakia. "Since the war ended," Herr Ritter said, "almost 10,000,000 people have come from the East. They make up nearly a fifth of the West German population. "East Germany is one of the few countries on earth, as a result, where the population declines despite more births than deaths. "They flow through Berlin, the only safe way. They simply take the elevated or the subway-the father one day, the mother and baby the next. They leave everything except what little they can carry without arousing suspicion. The state then confiscates their homes, their furniture, their clothes. "We receive them all here. We attend to their immediate needs. Your people screen them for planted spies and saboteurs." We had seen this-a taciturn group of Americans, British, and French patiently questioning, checking papers, always patient and kind, but grimly efficient. 754 Something else we had seen-the look on the tired face of a young mother as she opened the CARE kit, something like an air-travel bag, that each refugee got upon arrival. There was nothing inside that a few dollars would not buy, but the few little things were just what she needed to feel like a woman again: such all-important nonessentials as lipstick, perfume, bobby pins for her hair. We saw the children, clean and scrubbed, in the nurseries where they waited while the parents were cleared for forwarding by air to new lives in West Germany (pages 758-9). The sight of these beautiful children, the loss of whom must be the most dreadful blow the East could suffer, almost did us in. We thought not of them, who now were free, but of the others who stayed behind. A Visit to East Berlin Soon after we arrived, we made a little tour of East Berlin. There was no problem at the time. You drove to the Brandenburg Gate and stopped while a green-clad Vopo looked you over and glanced at your license plates. Then he waved you through.