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GERMANS CELEBRATE AS 2 ECONOMIES AND SOCIAL SYSTEMS MERGE

SHARE GERMANS CELEBRATE AS 2 ECONOMIES AND SOCIAL SYSTEMS MERGE

The German states united their economies and erased their borders Sunday while 10,000 East Germans waited in line for Western currency on the huge square where they toppled communism.

A treaty that went into effect at midnight transformed the nations into a single economic entity and began East Germany on its swift, difficult transition to a free market.Fireworks exploded, toasts were drunk and the currency of the former communist regime was flung into the air as the West German mark became the official money of East Germany.

All remaining border controls between the two nations were officially eliminated. Virtually overnight the Germanys merged their monetary, economic and social systems.

The economic unification marks the effective end of East German sovereignty and the most important step toward a single Germany. The German states now will work on a political treaty that will likely result in common elections and the creation of a single nation in December.

East Germany is expected to face widespread joblessness as its newly independent factories and businesses are forced to compete with the West.

At least 10,000 people lined up at the only bank known open at midnight, appropriately located on the Alexanderplatz, where massive protests helped bring down the former communist government last autumn.

A deafening cheer broke out as the clock struck midnight and the doors to the West German Deutsche Bank opened and allowed people to draw on their newly converted savings accounts.

Andreas Schildberg, 16, strolled down Alexanderplatz throwing away East German coins and bills. "It's worthless anyway in a couple of minutes. It has always been worthless."

First in line was Hans-Joachim Corsalle, 41, who delivers coal for a living. He withdrew the equivalent of $1,200 in West German marks from his account to take his family on vacation.

"I'm used to standing in line," he said. "Yesterday I waited for five hours to get enough gas for the vacation."

Fourth in line was Alexandra Meier, 19, who saw the day as the beginning of prosperity.

All remaining border controls between the two nations were officially eliminated. Virtually overnight the Germanys merged their monetary, economic and social systems.

The economic unification marks the effective end of East German sovereignty and the most important step toward a single Germany. The German states now will work on a political treaty that will likely result in common elections and the creation of a single nation in December.

East Germany is expected to face widespread joblessness as its newly independent factories and businesses are forced to compete with the West.

At least 10,000 people lined up at the only bank known open at midnight, appropriately located on the Alexanderplatz, where massive protests helped bring down the former communist government last autumn.

A deafening cheer broke out as the clock struck midnight and the doors to the West German Deutsche Bank opened and allowed people to draw on their newly converted savings accounts.

Andreas Schildberg, 16, strolled down Alexanderplatz throwing away East German coins and bills. "It's worthless anyway in a couple of minutes. It has always been worthless."

First in line was Hans-Joachim Corsalle, 41, who delivers coal for a living. He withdrew the equivalent of $1,200 in West German marks from his account to take his family on vacation.

"I'm used to standing in line," he said. "Yesterday I waited for five hours to get enough gas for the vacation."

Fourth in line was Alexandra Meier, 19, who saw the day as the beginning of prosperity.

"I hope that we'll never have to stand in line again," she said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to buy whatever we want."

Banks scheduled special Sunday hours to mark the day that, to many, ranked in significance with the fall of the communist government in October last year and the opening of the Berlin Wall a month later.

People began lining up Saturday at the bank on Alexanderplatz.

"Nobody is going to go home without his money," said Deutsche Bank spokesman Helmut Harmann. The line got longer.

Stores nationwide were closed during the weekend as workers remodeled the former state-owned shops and stocked them with truckloads of Western products that stand to dominate the newly opened consumer market.

Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere urged optimism among the populace and criticized those who dwell on predictions that East Germany will face massive unemployment in the coming weeks.

"There will be problems and hardships. But from now on, things will improve for us," he said in remarks prepared for an address to the nation on Sunday.

"Thanks to West Germany, we have opportunities no other East European country has," he said. "Let's take advantage of them."

In an interview with the West German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, de Maiziere said prosperity will come to East Germany within five years.

"It will happen because it must happen," he said. "Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and work hard. And we will do that."

Experts say 500,000 to 4 million of East Germany's workers will face unemployment as factories and businesses close down or lay off workers to compete with more efficient Western enterprises.

But the conversion of East Germany's currency to the coveted West German mark is expected to lure new investment into the country, which is now essentially a territory of West Germany.