East-West Germany: arms talks, visits, and Wuppertal's new statute

The desultory East-West German arms control talks have resumed afer two years. Nobody expects anything to come out of them, but they are a signal that the two Germanys want to prevent their relations from getting worse.

The signal is especially pronounced on Bonn's side. For the first time Bonn's disarmament czar, Friedrich Ruth, was the one to travel to East Berlin to meet the head of the planning section of the East German Foreign Ministry.

East and West German arms control is of course totally dependent on superpowers arms course totally dependent on superpower arms control, and now is not the most auspicious time for the latter. Still, the German are trying -- and they are keeping their respective superpower patrons informed about every last, and raised eyebrow.

East Germany's sudden doubling (and in some cases quadrupling) last fall of the hard currency it extracts from West Germany visitors has taken its toll. Not since the borders were opened nine years ago has the number of West Berliners visiting relatives or friends in the East been so small. From June 1, 1980 to May 31, 1981 there were only 2.13 million trips the East Berlin and East Germany by West Berliners. The previous year there were three million.

Especially affected are families with pensioners or children; both categories were previously exempt from or got reductions on, the non-refundable 'required minimum exchange.' According to official figures, one- day visits (which constitute four-fifths of the traffic) by West Berliners to the east dropped 53 percent this year. Several-day visits dropped 42 percent.

It's more than a century late, but Wuppertal's most famous son fnally has his due -- a 12-ton statue of two arms breaking a chain. The native son was Karl Marx's sidekick, Friendrich Engels. The controversy was enormous over whether a forerunner of communism should be accorded such deference in capitalist Wuppertal.

In the end, the deciding factor was not Marxist persuasiveness, but a budget surplus that the city fathers either had to spend at the end of the fiscal year, or else return to the state government. The latter choice was never under serious consideration, of course. The money was therefore channeled to a sculptor, and as of July, Engels's proletariat is graphically losing its chains in Carrara marble in Wuppertal.

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