Daily Express

How I won over Checkpoint Charlie reds with oranges


THERE are times when something flashes across your mental screen that yells Memory Lane and takes you back many years.

Such a story broke last week with the arrest in Berlin of a man accused of selling British secrets to the Russians. Almost 60 years ago I was posted into East Berlin as a foreign correspond­ent and both halves of the city were a cauldron of spooks, bugged rooms and sudden arrests.

Quite a baptism of fire for a 24-year-old, even though I was bilingual and spoke German.

The terms of the deal between the Reuter Agency and the nasty regime of Walter Ulbricht stipulated that I had to live in the East Zone but with the right to pass through Checkpoint Charlie into West Berlin whenever I wanted so long as, like Cinderella, I was back home by midnight.

I got to know Checkpoint Charlie pretty well.

Some aspects were gruesome. I recall the body of 18-year old Peter Fechter hanging in the barbed wire above the Wall he had tried to scale to escape before he was spotted by the guards below and riddled with bullets.

He was eventually cut down when the protests became too noisy even for the Stasi secret police.

The guards on Charlie were the hardest of the hard but even these iron-faced goons had their weak point.

Oranges were out of the question but in the West I could buy sacks of them on the company. So I put one in the boot of my car now and again with note saying “Für Ihre Kinder” (For your kids).

The boot was duly opened while I was in the shed and the oranges disappeare­d. Suddenly I was being whisked through the formalitie­s at speed. Even these bastards had families.

Should you have the chance, there is a cracking film called The Lives of Others which describes exactly what life was like under Communism.

Which is why I am always amazed at how many fools in the West support this awful political creed.

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