Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, often said nothing could match the thrill of his space shuttle ride. But he said his trip to the newly opened Berlin Wall last weekend did.
He said tears were in his eyes as he chiseled at it with a borrowed hammer. "It's really tough concrete." And he joined in a human-chain protest in East Berlin, "where people hugged us and cried."In all, Garn said, "It was an experience like flying in space. . . . It was the most emotional experience of my life. I was in tears almost the whole time in Berlin, hearing the stories from people who essentially have been in prison for 40 years and are now free. You can't describe it."
Garn was part of a Senate delegation appointed to observe arms control talks. It made a side trip to Berlin from Friday to Sunday, becoming the first official U.S. delegation there since the wall opened. He described the visit during a press conference Wednesday.
"I wish I could take every American - especially teenagers - there to see the difference between the East and West sides of Berlin," Garn said. The West is vibrant and bustling, while the East is gray and stagnant.
"Communism has utterly failed compared to capitalism. You have to see it to believe it."
A sign, he said, was that an East German border guard offered to sell him his hat and badge as souvenirs. And guards often confiscate hammers and chisels, only to sell them back to souvenir hunters. "Even the guards are into capitalism."
Garn said an American chiseling at the wall and selling chips as souvenirs recognized him, and let him borrow his tools and take a few swings at the wall himself for free.
Later in East Berlin, Garn's bus was blocked by a human chain trying to stretch across the country in protest. "We got out and joined them," Garn said. "When they found out who we were, people just came up and hugged us. . .. The chain stretch as far as we could see, and it was eight to 10 people deep all the way."
Garn also met with major East German dissidents and protesters in a gathering he said would have been unthinkable only weeks ago.
"I sat next to a microbiologist, who is part of the New Forum, who told me how ashamed he was to find out he had been working on research in his field that was 15 years old."
He said his government had not allowed
him to read technical papers from the West.
He said the microbiologist also saw his oldest daughter for the first time in seven years when the Wall opened. "He and his wife had decided it was more important for her to be free than to be with them," Garn said. "They had planned to smuggle out their other children too, one by one."
Garn said all the people with whom he talked said now that the people have tasted freedom there, Communists could likely never successfully try to take it away again.
He was also surprised that many of the pro-democracy leaders were young and had grown up under Communism. "One of them told me, `Freedom is inborn. We don't have to teach our children about freedom - they know.' "
Garn said he expects and supports eventual reunification of Germany.