Leipzig Under the Iron Curtain
|Leipzig in 1949 (Photo by Renate Rössing - source)|
Fear—Not Fair—Dominates Leipzig
What are things like at the Leipzig Fair—traditionally Europe's biggest and brightest showcase of international free trade? American broadcaster Bill Downs knows.
Speaking from the relative security of blockaded Berlin after the first peep American newsmen had got behind the Iron Curtain in many months, Downs reported:
"The fair today is an exhibit of shabby designs and unfilled orders. It is also an exhibition of the police State. All roads are blocked and people without proper credentials are not allowed to enter the city.
"The people of Leipzig hardly speak even to each other. Only after they had solidly established my identity as an American, and only when we were out of earshot of any potential secret police, would they talk of their poor creations, of their fear and hatred of the Communists—not only of the Soviet troops, who are well behaved there, but of the German Communists who have clamped a regime of fear on the zone.
"In the western zones of Germany people walk upright; there is an atmosphere of confidence and hope in everything they do. They fight, argue, and work hard.
"In Leipzig faces are yellow with malnutrition, the people's stride is a shuffle, and everywhere there is that fear of saying anything wrong, of offending the wrong person.
"There also is hate.
"A waiter in a restaurant, who said he was born in America, whispered to me as he served vodka: 'We don't need guns, we have a thousand butcher knives and the steel to sharpen them.'
"Another man was a prisoner of war in Texas. Since his return to Leipzig he has lost 40 lb.—and prefers the American prison camp.
"This oppressive atmosphere of fear I found in Leipzig, I found matched only in one other place—for a year I lived in Moscow. Returning to blockaded Berlin, I took a deep breath of fresh air.
"The real blockade is in Leipzig and the zone that surrounds it. There is a blockade of individual freedom."