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200,000 Rock in Berlin's 'death strip' Print-ready version

Toronto Star
September 22, 1990

EAST BERLIN (AP) - About 200,000 rock music fans cheered as a mock Berlin Wall came tumbling down at midnight, climaxing a benefit concert where the real Wall once stood.

"I used to watch concerts like this on West German television," said 30-year-old East German Angelika Arnold.

Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O'Connor, Joni Mitchell and other stars performed songs from Pink Floyd's 1979 rock epic The Wall on a stage flanked by the massive plastic-foam wall meant to mimic the dismantled Berlin Wall.

Organizers sold 180,000 tickets but finally ordered security fences removed to let in the crush of people. They streamed onto the "death strip" of land where trespassers during the hardline era would have been shot.

The wall around the concert site was torn down three months ago in anticipation of German reunification.

The 6 1/2-hour concert was billed around the world as the biggest rock benefit ever. The concert cost $8 million to stage and profits, as well as those from a planned album and video, are to go to the Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief.

But thousands of fans began streaming out before the concert reached its climax. Many complained about the poor sound system, the difficulty most had seeing the stage, and the cloud of dust and dirt, whipped up by steady wind, that hovered over the 14-hectare (35-acre) concert site.

"It wasn't good enough," said Corinna Treitel, 24, an American studying in Berlin. "I can go home and turn on the TV."

But for many, the sense of history was worth it. "It's pretty amazing that not too long ago they would have shot someone who was sitting where I'm sitting," said Dave McCarthy, who rode 24 hours on a bus from Manchester, England, to attend.

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Added to Library on October 5, 2003. (1733)

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