On my last blog, I promised to talk about how far one can push the Eastern German authorities without getting shot.
The answer is, apparently, not far for some, but pretty far for others. My mother grew up in West Berlin during the occupation. She, her brother, and her mother – my grandmother – made a sport of outsmarting Communists with guns. Ahhh . . . the fond memories of childhood.
This time was no different for my mother. No force-imposed East German authority was going to make her do anything she didn’t want to. I did not know this until after we had been through the Eastern Zone three times. I did wonder, however, when I silently watched her performances from the sidelines. I say ‘sidelines’, but in reality I was in line to get the first bullet. Or trailing behind her one step as she fled.
On one such occasion, she ran past a gun-laden Eastern official at the train station turnstile. We were supposed to wait in line – behind the nice couple getting their luggage searched – for our turn to gain admittance onto the train’s platform. I didn’t know what Mom was going to do until she broke into a sudden run, wrestled with the turnstile, passing through and somehow jamming it, before disappearing around a corner. She did this even though I yelled, “Wait!” and the man with the gun yelled, “Halt!!!” several times.
I looked at the official’s gun strapped over his shoulder, his hands full of someone’s underthings, and the jammed turnstile that I couldn’t pass through, and made a split second decision. I was much more afraid of ticking off my mother than I was of some duty bound East German told to shoot on sight. I took off after my mother and jumped the turnstile like Rudolf Nureyev. I didn’t have much of a choice. I didn’t speak German well enough to dig my way out of getting lost in the Eastern Zone. I didn’t even know the address of where we were staying in the West. I never ran so fast, nor jumped so high.
Mom’s excuse? We were going to be late for our train.
On another occasion, we were just through the passport counters and one step away from stepping out on Eastern Berlin soil when we were accosted by an armed East German soldier demanding if we were carrying East German currency. We were, as a matter of fact, since we had exchanged West Marks into East Marks just that morning before heading out. However, instead of answering the question, Mom suddenly became a half-wit. I was immediately suspicious. Why was this man asking us this, and why was my mother suddenly confused by the sunlight? This went on for a few moments while I prudently stayed silent.
I found out what was going on once we had been dismissed by the irritated, yet resigned, official and shoved out of the train station. I found out once we were both deep into East Germany. Apparently it is illegal to bring any money that we had exchanged in the West into the East. People had been incarcerated for having an unaccounted penny under the floor mats of their cars. It would have been easy to obey their law. There was an East German Bank in the train station.
Mom’s excuse, however? The West gave a better rate of exchange.
So, until next time, when I will talk about our public brawl on the way to the Opera. In the meantime, I will leave you with some pictures . . .
And a picture for ~Ifer – (See the first three comments at the end of this blog)
And last, but not least . . .
So until next time . . .