Guest Contributor – War Pig – East Berlin and Breaking Bread with Ivan
(photog) – War Pig, what would an American serviceman have to do to enter East Berlin? Just a frontier checkpoint to inspect identification papers?
(War Pig) – Back then, you had to have a pass, and you had to be in uniform. Military from America, Brits, French, etc. were nothing unusual in visiting East Berlin. They were rather inclined to allow you in as you brought western currency with you. Your papers were inspected at the checkpoint but I don’t remember anyone being denied entry with the paperwork correct. You could even bring in a camera as long as you obeyed the “do not photograph” signs. You were overcharged but even at that it was cheaper than West Berlin prices. As I recall, we had black beer, & roast or corned beef sandwiches on dark bread. Hearty and satisfying. Must have been corned beef as I now remember I mentioned to the Russian that the corning spices in German corned beef were different than the Irish style used in America. That led to a side discussion about our favorite foods. He was surprised that I actually like borscht. I said I liked it some ways as I had had it about a dozen different ways and I only liked two or three.
I wish I could meet him again if he still lives. I’d like to see how he got along. It really would have been a pity if we’d had to fight each other.
When I worked in counter-intel I often went to West Berlin. There about every other person you met was a spy for one side or the other. Great parties, though.
I got into uniform and went into East Berlin all according to Hoyle. I had a camera and took some neat pictures of the architecture. Of course, the polizei had to come and harass me. I told them to piss off and get a Russian officer, which was according to the treaty. The polizei weren’t squat in East Berlin if you were an American in uniform. I kept walking about and a Russian officer approached me and was polite. GRU, naturally. We chatted and sat in a bistro and had beer and sandwiches, which I paid for. We talked and both agreed it would be sad if we ever had to go to war against each other as we had more in common than with most of our allies. Rather charming fellow. We played it according to the rules and he asked what I was photographing, I told him the buildings and that I wasn’t stupid enough to photograph military things out in the open with the polizei watching me like a hawk. We both laughed. I left him with a spare Zippo lighter with a naked woman on it and two packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes. I had already gotten the message I went in to get. He walked me to the checkpoint and had them wave me through without issues. All gentlemen and friends.
Guest Contributor – War Pig – East Berlin and Breaking Bread with Ivan – Part 2