National Geographic : 1970 Jan
Berlin, on Both Sides of the Wall reforms in 1963 that have led to a relative prosperity. Those reforms have more than a little of the capitalist idea in them, even if the terminology differs. Jiirgen expressed what seems to be the view of the new society, the post-Wall society, when he told me: "We have learned to accommodate, to make it as pleasant as possible for ourselves. And there is a certain pride in accomplish ment. When you achieve something after end less difficulty, after starting from scratch, you take pride in it. This makes living not only possible; it can make it even worthwhile." Resilience a Key to Survival Conversations with members of the older generation also proved enlightening. Eric Wittum was born in Berlin in 1904 and has lived there ever since. "I'm a native Berliner, not a rucksack Berliner," he told me when we met. Mr. Wittum is obviously a man of great resilience to have survived to age 65 in a tense, troubled, demolished, and then divided Berlin. His socialist credentials are impeccable. In 1920 he joined the Communist Youth Organi zation of Germany, as did so many young people in a bitter, defeated nation. Two years later he went on to become a member of the Communist Party of Germany; this was only four years after a young man named Ulbricht had helped found it. Mr. Wittum and his young wife live in a comfortable four-room apartment in the Pankow district of East Berlin. We settled ourselves around a table piled with oranges and chocolates, and sipped hot tea while we talked. "For 44 years," he said, "I have been the chief of the print shop at the Deutsche Staats oper, the State Opera. Hitler's friend Her mann Goring saved me from being sent to war-not because he liked me but because he liked the opera. I only saw Hitler there once. Except for a few months, the opera performed practically every night, all during the war, even during the bombings. In 1943 and 1944 we printed all programs with instructions on where to go when an air raid started. "Each year from 1935 until 1943, Goring gave a huge party at Karinhall, his estate about 30 miles north of Berlin. It was named after the first of his two wives. There were usually 1,000 guests-plus 50 or 60 of us from the opera. We provided the atmosphere. The extras were dressed as hunters and waited on tables. "During the last days of the war, Goring wanted to show his wealth and prestige by heaping great mounds of scarce foods on the tables. Our people came back with their pockets stuffed full-they grabbed handfuls of everything when no one was looking." Mr. Wittum has a vivid memory of the Russian entry into the city in April 1945. "I was walking down Dunckerstrasse," he told me, "carrying a Schlackwurst wrapped in a newspaper, when I saw two very grimy Russian soldiers coming toward me, their rifles slung across their bodies. 'Stoi! Stoi!' they shouted. 'Stop! Stop!' Then they grabbed for my watch and my sausage. There was nothing I could do but hand them over. "Being a member of the Communist Party didn't help," Mr. Wittum said. "In fact, there were a number of Communists in Germany at the time, and none of us received any par ticular favors from the Soviets." Memories of Bitter Days Linger On The Russians took a great deal more than watches and sausages. They carried off entire machine factories, automobile works, chemi cal and power plants, everything down to cattle and timber, stripping the eastern part of the shattered Reich of fully 50 percent of its industrial capacity. Some industries, such as those producing plywood, precision ma chinery, and optical instruments, lost more than 70 percent of their plants. The value of dismantled properties, profits, and goods di verted to Russia totaled between 10 and 12 billion dollars. In contrast, the shattered econ omy of West Germany soon began to receive huge infusions of American funds, part of the Marshall Plan's program to restore economic health to Western Europe. Cathedral in the round, St. Hedwig's in East Berlin fills with worshipers for Sunday Mass. Gutted by wartime bombs, the church wears a new marble interior; a central staircase leads to lower chapels. East German churches do not speak out against the state. The government, in turn, now exempts conscientious objectors from military service and no longer jails pastors for sedition. It also sanctions some religious holidays and assists with the reconstruction of historic churches. KODACHROME BYHOWARD SOCHUREK © N.G.S.