Leipzig in March - fair game for all comers

For one East German businessman, the spring industrial fair in Leipzig is a chance to convince new customers in Eastern Europe and Cuba of the merits of his firm's tractors and combines. For the approximately 100 East German citizens who want to emigrate but are denied permission, it's a time for them to publicize their positions by mobbing visiting West German politicans.

For university students, it's an opportunity to browse through West German titles at the book fair.

For the woman on the street, the Leipzig fair means a welcome treat of grapefruit and lemons on sale at open-air stalls.

For Leipzig residents, March 13-19 is a week of abated air pollution, as the city puts on its best face for its 9,000 exhibitors and visitors from about 100 nations.

The local newspaper reflects the mix. Page one shows East German party and state chief Erich Honecker making the traditional round at the fair's opening and meeting with the first two West German politicans to call, West Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen and Deputy Party Chairman Johannes Rau of North Rhine-Westphalia. (The photos do not show the plainclothesmen keeping the 100 would-be emigrants away from Mr. Rau.)

East German electronic exports are praised in the paper as successful. Party organizations have just sent a letter to Mr. Honecker, it is noted, urging that all reserves be applied to fulfilling the 1988 economic plan.

Beyond economic stocktaking, the newspapers report establishment of the committee to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Thomas M"untzer, the leader of the 15th-century peasant revolt, who until a few years ago eclipsed his contemporary Martin Luther in the East German pantheon.

And then come the somewhat more popular back pages.

The fashion column suggests skirts that swish. A good alternative to garbage dumps is composting. Moped riders are reminded of a new law requiring them to wear safety helmets.

The innovation of a Dutch hairdresser is commended: Women in his shop can pedal exercise bicycles as they sit under the hair dryers, keeping trim as they contribute electricity to their own blow dries.

There is even a Dear Abby type column. A divorc'ee asks why newspaper counselors always presume a basic nuclear family, even though so many single parents raise their children alone?

At fair time there is also heartier entertainment for Leipzigers: biting satire at the Pepper Mill Cabaret, superb concerts by the Gewandhaus Orchestra, Mozart's ``The Abduction from the Seraglio'' at the opera, and motets by the St. Thomas Boys' choir at Bach's old church.

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