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East Germans Flood Across Border : Crossover: About a million take advantage of second weekend of freedom to travel.

November 17, 1989|From Reuters

BONN — Close to a million East German visitors flooded into the West today for shopping and family reunions on the second weekend since the borders were thrown open.

The Interior Ministry said half a million East Germans had crossed into West Germany during the day. West German television's said an additional 400,000 had entered West Berlin.

The ministry said earlier that up to 3 million people had entered West German territory but later corrected its figures, saying its calculations had been wrong.

Traffic jams up to 45 miles long built up at border crossings in bright sunshine as the latest influx of East Germans began.

"Total chaos has broken out," one West German border police spokesman said.

Last weekend 3 million Germans visited West Berlin and West Germany.

In East Berlin, officials said 9.5 million visas for foreign travel had been issued since the borders were opened last week. East Germany has a population of 16.6 million.

The official East German news agency ADN quoted the East Berlin Transport Ministry as saying that the weekend exodus had reached "critical levels."

ADN reported there were not enough places on trains to the West even though all available carriages were in use.

Would-be travelers blocked the tracks in the East German town of Reichenbach after they were unable to get seats on westbound trains and railway workers eventually laid on extra cars for them.

West German officials said trains had arrived every hour since midnight at the Bavarian border town of Hof, which lies on the Berlin-Munich main line.

A steady stream of East Germans crossed the Berlin Wall during the day, many for short shopping trips. West Berlin police and city officials braced themselves for waves of visitors that could exceed the 2 million who poured into the western half of the former German capital last weekend.

Thousands crossed by the city's antiquated overhead railway after West Berlin officials asked the visitors to leave their Trabant cars behind to prevent a repetition of the snarls that paralyzed major routes last weekend.

Among those streaming over the border were soccer fans coming to see their first West German first division league match between Nuremberg and Kaiserslautern.

West German television showed pictures of fans, many waving tickets made available to them in advance, leaving Nuremberg's central station.

Post offices and savings banks in many areas will stay open to hand out the 100 marks ($54) "welcome money" Bonn gives to visitors from East Germany.

Some regional governments suspended West Germany's normally strict trading laws, which insist most shops close on Saturday afternoons, to cope with the expected influx.

But visiting shoppers in many country areas may be disappointed.

Police said many shops had been stripped over the last few days, especially of citrus and tropical fruits rarely available in East Germany.

Officials said the proportion of East Germans wanting to settle in the West had fallen to less than 1% of all arrivals. Many reception camps opened last week have closed, they added.

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