From the author: An American soldier stationed West Berlin when the wall divides Berlin and all Germans meets a woman from East Berlin who wants to become very American.
In those first few weeks in West Berlin, the men tried to familiarize themselves with the country and the language. Many of them had brought German/English books with them from Fort Dix and tried to learn the language good enough to buy groceries and talk with the beautiful young women that paraded in front of them while they were on duty. Donovan had heard enough German from his stepfather and stepmother that he could understand what the Germans were saying, though not enough to speak it with ease.
On the first Sunday, Donovan put on jeans and a T-shirt and walked around the city.
It was summer and the trees were in various stages of green, blending in with the many colored roof tops. Flowers filled every garden in brilliant hues of yellow, blue, orange and the different shades of red and pink of roses. Berlin is located in the northern European lowlands that surround the Spree River. The city’s highest hill, which rises 394 feet above sea level, consisted of rubble collected after World War II. Berlin lies so far north that it gets dark by mid-afternoon in December and stays light until almost 10 PM in June and it was a beautiful summer day.
When he saw that he was close to the Wall, he began to walk closer to get a better look at it. A young woman who was behind him said,
“I don’t think you should get any closer to the wall.”
“Why not,” Donovan said,”
“The border guards will arrest you,” she said.
“Even if I am an American soldier?”
“Ja. They will say an American spy,” she said.
“Do I look like a spy?” Donovan said.
“They arrest us both if we don’t step back,” she said.
Donovan backed away from the Wall and looked at the women. She looked to be about 30 years old. She was tall, about 5' 10" with platinum blond hair falling straight down to her shoulders. She had clear gray eyes and a dimpled chin which reminded him of Dana. She was wearing a hound’s tooth mini skirt, with a green tailored blouse and black boots with a buckle. When she noticed he was looking at her clothes, she said,
“PX clothes. Very American. No?”
He laughed and said, “My name is Donovan.”
“My name is Destinie,” she said.
“Destiny?” he said.
“Yes,” she said, “but with an I-E instead of a Y.”
“Are there any good restaurants here in Berlin?” he said.
“You must be making joke. There are many,” she said. “I can show you them?”
“Yes. When do you want to start the tour?” Donovan said.
“Tonight, if you like” she said. “I’ll pick you up at the base.”
“Seven o’clock?” he said.
“Ja,” she said, then added, “Yes, seven o’clock.”
It was the end of May and the Berliners were trying to get accustomed to the Wall which had surrounded the city on all sides. Everyone had friends or relatives in East Berlin. It was like putting a wall down the main street of any city in America from one city edge to the other and your parents or your brother lived on the other side of the street, behind the wall.
The rumors were growing daily that the Wall would be reinforced as more and more East Germans found ingenious ways to escape to West Berlin. The estimate of all the refugees escaping to the West since Germany was divided was 3,600,000 refugees, one in five East Germans, most of them through what was now called the Freedom Gate.
Destinie picked Donovan up at the gate in her car. When they pulled away from the gate, Donovan said, “They warned me not to say anything about the base to you because you may be an agent of the East German Secret Police, the Stasi.”
“Oh, ja,” Destinie said. “I am going to lure you with great sex and make you fall in love with me.”
“I have no problem with that,” Donovan said.
“How old are you?” she said.
“Twenty four” he said.
“You must like older women,” she said. “I am thirty three years old.”
“I have found that a woman in her thirties is more sexual than young women,” he said.
“I will show you soon,” she said.
Destinie drove to the outskirts of Berlin where there were large areas of undeveloped land. Forests and farmlands covered nearly one third of the city, which gave the city a rural look in conflict with the old buildings in the city center, some that dated back to medieval times. When they rode back to the heart of the city, they saw rows of new residential homes being built and the Berlin international airport that had just been completed the past winter. After a while she turned to metropolitan Berlin, down the streets and avenues which were flanked with double rows of Linden trees.
When they went to the Bavarian House restaurant, Donovan surprised Destinie by ordering maultaschen.
“I lived with a German family,” he said, “and enjoyed many German dishes.”
After dinner, they drove downtown on the Kurfurstendamm. It was a very warm evening and department stores stayed open late because of the daylight. Sidewalk cafes were packed with customers enjoying German delicacies. Throngs of people filed the sidewalks, and office towers were brilliantly lit with neon lights as dusk began to cover the city and made Berlin look like any modern city in the world. People were casually walking the streets as if it was a normal summer day without talk of the Wall or the Russian soldiers behind it. Destinie pointed out the many restaurants and stores. They stopped in one of the stores and Donovan looked for something to send to send home.
Donovan asked Destinie if she always lived in Berlin.
“Nine, I was born in a little village on the other side,” she said pointing to the Wall. “I had job here in West Berlin. One day I say, Destinie, you don’t go back there anymore, and I stay.”
“Are you glad you stayed?”
“Ja, but I miss my family.”
“When was the last time you saw them?” Donovan said.
“Christmas,” she said. “Five months.”
“Maybe they’ll let them come here for Christmas,” Donovan said.
“I hope so,” Destinie said.
They saw each other every day for the next eight weeks. One afternoon in August a rumor was beginning to circulate that the East Germans were going to close the border. That was on Thursday. That Friday night and Saturday afternoon, over two thousand refugees came across the border. They were jam packed into make shift refugee centers and the overflow was so great that cots were placed edge to edge in school gymnasiums, in churches and everyplace else that had space to house the homeless, and on Sunday at midnight, the National People’s Army of East Germany, the People’s police and the “Kampfgruppen” altogether about forty thousand troops, began to bolt the city by means of barbed wire and anti tank obstacles. Streets were torn up, and barricades of paving stones were erected. Tanks gathered at crucial places. The subway and local railways between East and West Berlin were interrupted. Inhabitants of East Berlin and the GDR were no longer allowed to enter West Berlin, among them 60,000 commuters who had been working in West Berlin. In a matter of days, construction began on a solid wall replacing the temporary wall and barriers. The GDR propaganda called the wall an “Anti Fascist protection wall.”
On the Eastern side of the Wall, there was an illuminated control area (also called death area.) Refugees who had reached that area trying to escape to the West were shot without warning. A trench followed which would prevent vehicles from breaking through, and then there was a patrol track, a corridor with watch dogs, watchtowers, bunkers, and a second wall.
Citizens of West Berlin were also not allowed to pass through the gate to visit their families and friends. By the second week, the people that lived in the houses situated on the border began an evacuation to other parts of West Berlin and these houses were abandoned and left derelict. .
Other elements were added to the Wall. It was now made up of 7.5 miles of concrete slabs and 86 miles of barbed wire, with 116 watch towers. There were 32 alone on the East-West Berlin border. The Wall cut through 97 streets between East Berlin and West Berlin and 95 streets between East Germany and West Berlin on the other side; including railway lines, S-Bahn and underground lines, 3 autobahns and several rivers and lakes. Under no condition were East Berliners allowed to travel to the West.
On the waterways, the Wall consisted of submerged railings under constant surveillance from patrol boats. However, there were places in the wall that were inside East Berlin and anyone approaching the Wall from the West was actually in East Berlin and could be arrested by East German guards coming through the iron gates in the Wall. There were enclaves in the East German section that was a part of the West sections, Steinstucken in the American sector and Eiskeller in the British sector. Access from the West to buildings, parks, churches and cemeteries in the East were bricked up.
The whole world was now watching the Berlin crisis. Americans believed in the inevitability of a third world war that would involve nuclear weapons and that it could happen at any moment.
The West waited three days before sending a strong letter of protest to the East Germans and the United States sent an even stronger letter to the Soviet minister of Foreign affairs, but there was no action taken.
The base was put on alert and all leaves were cancelled. Donovan had not seen Destinie for five days and was wondering if she was okay, when he was told he had a visitor at the gate. Destinie was in tears. “I cannot get any word to my parents and I do not know if they are well or not. How can I learn of their situation?”
“There is nothing I can do, Destinie. It looks like the United States has made a decision not to interfere with the Wall unless our forces are directly attacked, and they are pretty sure the East Germans won’t do that.” He took the handkerchief from her hand and wiped her eyes.
“If they are still in that village, they should be okay,” he said. “It’s only the people who are trying to escape that are being targeted.”
Donovan put his arm around her and pulled her inside the base. They sat on the bench just inside the gates and he held her in his arms and soothed her with his soft, calm voice, and after a while she stopped crying and kissed him on the cheek. When she was steady again, she rose from the bench and he walked her outside the gate.
“Wait for me here Friday night,” he said. “I have an overnight pass.”
“We will go to my apartment,” she said. “I don’t feel like going to restaurant.”
Friday night Destinie picked up Donovan at the base gate and they went to her apartment, a modest one room apartment with a small kitchen. They ate beef roasted in beer and drank wine and played western music that Donovan had brought with him, and when they went to bed, Destinie cried in Donovan’s arms until she fell asleep and they did not make love until they awoke Saturday morning, and then they were like animals, getting everything they could get from each other’s bodies blending their life juices in an ecstasy that was unknown to him before. Later, they had breakfast in bed, naked, unashamed of their bodies and their desires, and made love again with the dishes still on the bed, knocking everything to the floor in a clatter of dishes, knives and forks, and they laughed when they saw the clutter on the floor.
When they went out, people were running to the Wall and shouting to everyone to join in. At the Wall, there were thirty thousand West Berliners gathered there and shouting, “Berlin will remain free!” “Berlin will remain free!” The East German soldiers brought up heavy tanks and aimed their guns across the low concrete barriers. This only incited the crowd more. The guards then shot tear gas bombs at the West Berlin crowd and the West Berlin police forced their people back from the Wall and the protest was over.
When Donovan went back to the base, The Captain severely reprimanded him for joining the protest group. Donovan said he was merely observing what was happening so he could report it back to his superior as he had been told to do. The captain reluctantly accepted Donovan’s explanation.
The next day, Khrushchev made a speech threatening to destroy Italy, Greece, England, France and other NATO nations committed with the United States in the defense of West Berlin. In light of the fact that Russia had just orbited a man in a spacecraft, there was no doubt they could do this. In East Germany, this speech led to fear for the East Germans and a desperate desire to leave the communist state and they braved death rather than stay in East Germany as they fled across the border, though many died just outside the Wall. .
The army base distributed food to the many shelters, Donovan drove one of the trucks and they were met with cheers and shouts from the refugees as they distributed food, clothing, soap and other necessities.
Destinie found a German family who had a two way radio and communicated with their relatives in East Berlin. She asked them to find out if her family was okay and they said they would try.
Rumors began to circulate that seven hundred and fifty thousand Soviet troops were massing behind the Wall equipped with the latest nuclear weapons. General Harold “Wild Bill” Lavell commander of the twelve thousand American troops in West Berlin said that the American troops were at the ready and moral was high. However the mood of the base was grim and Destinie was not sure that when she woke up the next day that West Berlin would still be free.
The next day, the family with the radio told Destinie that someone had contacted her parents and her brother and they were all okay and not causing any problems for anyone. When she saw Donovan that night, she told him about her parents and felt that they would be okay.
The base was now on high alert and Donovan could only get a few hours a day away from the base, and sometimes only an hour or 45 minutes, so they took their passion wherever they could, in her car, in the office where she worked after hours, in the park next to the base. When they were together, there was no Wall, no Soviet tanks on the border and no machine guns to kill the people who wanted to be free. It was as if they were the only two people in the world, Donovan and Destinie in love.
The Berliners were enchanted with then. They were a symbol of everything they wanted for Germany. Love, laughter, freedom and the happiness these things can bring. It was the one thing they could see and hold on to in a world gone mad with killing.
One day, Destinie told Donovan the students from West Berlin Free University and Institute of Technology were building a tunnel to go under the Wall so that they could rescue East Berlin students who had commuted to classes in pre-wall days. Donovan took some tools from the base and they joined in the digging in the few spare hours they had. The first tunnel was a small narrow tunnel that led to an abandoned house on the East Berlin side. When they broke through, one of the West Berlin students went through the tunnel up from the basement of the abandoned house and casually walked to his fellow student’s house in East Berlin. When they came back through the tunnel, there were cheers and shouts from the other students and everyone hugged each other. Every night two or three East Berlin students crawled through the tunnel that first week. Later it was decided to build a bigger tunnel to support two or more people at a time, and after a while, a tunnel was built to support five or more people at a time, and whole families came through from East Berlin.
The tunnels were the worst kept secret in West Berlin. After a while, other soldiers helped with the building of the tunnels and suddenly there was a steady flow of refugees coming out of East Berlin.
When Donovan showed up one morning with dirt all over his clothes, Lt. Dorman said, “Soldier, what the hell have you been doing?” Donovan started to speak, but Lt. Dorman waved him off, saying, “Never mind. I don’t want to know.”
One day, the family with the ham radio sent word to Destinie that they had a message from her parents. Her father had been taken to the hospital overnight because of a stroke and he was on the critical list.
“Please, Donovan. I have to go to him,” she said. “Isn’t there something you can do?”
Donovan talked to the base commander and the commander said he would find out what he could do if anything. The next day, he told Donovan that he had arranged through diplomatic sources for Destinie to pass through the gate to see her parents, but he said he could not guarantee her return.
Donovan took her to the gate in his army uniform. They stopped 100 yards from the gate and embraced.
“I will come back to you, my darling,” she said.
“I will wait for you here,” Donovan said. “Day and night, I will wait here.”
When she passed through the wall at Checkpoint Charlie. A large sign stated, You are now leaving the United States Sector, first in English, then in German and finally in French. Destinie looked back at Donovan as she was being led away by the East German guards to a patrol car and then she was gone. Donovan stood there until the guards raised their automatic weapons and pointed them at him, and then he turned and walked away. That was the last time he saw her. She became one of the thousands of people who disappeared behind the wall and was never seen again.