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W. BERLINERS REVEL IN CAPITALISM, IGNORE COMMUNISTS’ FETE

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As East Germany marked 40 years of Communism, West Berliners spent the day as they do most other Saturdays, reveling in a giddy display of capitalism largely oblivious to events on the other side of the wall.

Smartly dressed shoppers strolled the not-quite elegant Kufurstendam, the heart of the city's Western quarter that, with its bright lights and high gloss shops, is Broadway and Fifth Avenue wrapped into one.The cafes whose glassed-in terraces line the street were filled, while on the sidewalks, mime artists and other "buskers" performed for amused passersby. In short, for most residents of the Western enclave, life went on.

After all, they've been surrounded by communism for 40 years now - a significant enough passage of time that has made life in this most abnormal of cities seem more or less normal.

Heading from Tegel Airport to Wittenbergplatz, right off the Kurfurstendam, the Berlin subway's No. 6 line slices briefly beneath the eastern sector. The train slows as it travels through dimly lit stations boarded up to all but security police who patrol the platforms to prevent would-be escapees.

Giuliana Strazzeri travels this way every workday. To a visitor, creeping through the lifeless stations is unsettling. She doesn't notice them.

"You get so used to it," she said. "People ask me, `How can you live there when you can't go anywhere because of the Wall?' But really, I don't think about it."

Strazzeri has spent most of her 35 years in Berlin. In all that time, she has been to the eastern half once or twice. "I don't feel comfortable over there, that's all," she said.

On Saturday, she couldn't have gone to the East if she wanted to. For the third day in a row, the East German authorities shut down crossings into the communist sector, refusing entry to thousands of foreign tourists and West Germans, including those with relatives in the East.

Border guards told those who were turned away they could not process their applications for day visas, which normally are granted on the spot.

At Checkpoint Charlie, the city's most famous crossing point, security was tightened in an apparent attempt by the East German government to discourage possible demonstrations.

With the crossing point closed, a larger-than-normal crowd of tourists lingered around the checkpoint, taking pictures of the East German guards who in turn took pictures of them.

With the mass exodus of more than 40,000 East Germans to the West in the past month, the brave - and often ultimately tragic - tales of the efforts of thousands of their countrymen to escape through the wall over the past 28 years seem from a bygone era.

Since 1961, when the wall went up, 191 people have been shot and killed by East German soldiers as they tried to flee across it. The last killing was just eight months ago, on the night of Feb. 5-6, a fact recorded by the Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie. The last reported shooting was last month, according to the museum staff.

Viewed from the Western side in daylight, however, the Wall seems almost playful.

It's a billboard for a joyful expression of freedom - in day-glow spray paint. The effect combines what could be found on the interior wall of a lavatory and the trains of the New York subway before graffiti-resistant paint.

It's a tourist attraction. The bold splashes of paint from untamed urban artists that cover the Wall from top to bottom provide a colorful backdrop for hundreds of tourist photos snapped along it each day.

Nearby, scrawled on the wall in fresh white paint were two slogans: "This Wall is an Illusion," said one. "Love is Thicker than Concrete," said the other.