Signs From A Visit To a Cousin

CLUES to why the East German government crumbled so suddenly lie in conversation with former residents of that country. In the end, they suggest, it may have been an accumulation of everyday deprivations that undercut support for the nation's communist leaders.

``I was there in July, in a small town surrounded by farm country,'' says Rose-Mary Kemper. ``Yet people had to stand in lines, I mean long lines, for fresh vegetables. And the quality of the vegetables was so poor, half of them were rotten.''

Bruno Schulz returned in 1985 to visit his cousin. What he found was an economy significantly worse than during a visit in 1979.

``My cousin got notice he was able to pick up his two-cycle car he had been waiting 12 years for,'' Mr. Schulz says. ``Now the waiting period is 15 years. The cars are very expensive, very small, and the engines smoke badly.''

Schulz regularly sends coffee, toothpaste, bars of soap, and candy bars to relatives there. ``I remember my sister wanted to buy paper napkins,'' he says. ``They couldn't get them over there. So for Christmas we sent her paper Christmas and birthday napkins.''

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