This Berlin exclave was once surrounded by the Berlin Wall, except for a corridor

Steinstücken: the curious 'island' of Liberty that was surrounded by communist Germany

The borders between countries usually give rise to curious cases in the form of enclaves, but what happens when that happens between two territories separated by a wall?

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West Berlin had 12 exclaves in communist Germany

That is exactly what happened to various areas of West Berlin during the Cold War, as a result of the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The western part of the city had a total of 12 exclaves located in communist Germany, and this one had one, Tiefwerder, in West Berlin. Most of these were uninhabited parcels of land that were transferred to the GDR over time, but there were three exceptions. On the one hand, Erlengrund and Fichtewiese were exclaves inhabited seasonally and to which the sentinels of communist Germany only allowed access to their residents and emergency vehicles. Steinstücken was the only one of those exclaves permanently inhabited by about 200 people.

Map of West Berlin in 1972, showing the Steinstücken exclave and the corridor that connected it to the free part of the city (Source:

Steinstücken: an exclave that Communist Germany tried to appropriate

Steinstücken was located in the southwestern corner of Berlin, next to the Steglitz-Zehlendorf neighborhood. It had an area of 12.67 hectares and was separated from the rest of West Berlin by a one kilometer long street. Its curious situation was established by dividing the city of Berlin into the different occupation zones (French, British, American and Soviet) at the end of World War II. In 1951, communist Germany tried to seize the exclave by force, sending its police and military,but the neighbors opposed it and the United States -whose occupation zone belonged to that exclave- reacted by sending its military to the area. From then on, life for the residents of Steinstücken became very complicated.

One of the Steinstücken houses, with the Berlin Wall next to it (Source: Ullstein Bild/Jansson).

The construction of the Berlin Wall and the corridor

Communist Germany established two checkpoints in the access corridor to the exclave. For any of their activities, from going to school to going to work or doing the shopping, the residents of Steinstücken necessarily had to go through for those two controls. In 1961 things got even more complicated with the construction of the Berlin Wall, especially after 20 sentinels from the GDR deserted and fled to West Berlin through that exclave, taking advantage of the fact that it was only surrounding by barbed wire. The GDR reacted by erecting a wall around the perimeter of the exclave.

The post of the American Military Police in the exclave of Steinstücken (Source: Henri Funck / Wikimedia).

In September 1961 the Military Police of the US Army came to support the residents of the exclave with a helicopter and established a permanent detachment in Steinstücken, with a small helipad, in order to defend Freedom in that small territory (today a monument with two helicopter blades recalls that detachment in that neighborhood). Finally, in 1971 the four occupying powers agreed to build a corridor connecting Steinstücken with the rest of West Berlin one kilometer long and 20 meters wide, so that the residents of the exclave did not have to be subjected to constant controls. In return, free Germany gave Communist Germany six of its uninhabited exclaves, in addition to 4 million German marks.

An aerial view of the Steinstücken exclave in 1989 (Source: Defense Imagery).

The exclave ended up becoming a curiosity that attracted tourists

Steinstücken became quite a curiosity in West Berlin. The Wall completely surrounded this small neighborhood, even on both sides of the corridor, turning the exclave into a curious "island" of Liberty. This attracted many tourists and onlookers, eager to see what life was like in a neighborhood that had been totally surrounded by communist Germany. All this situation came to an end with the fall of communism in the GDR in 1989 and the Reunification of Germany in 1990. Today, Steinstücken is still an exclave of Berlin in the city of Potsdam. It belongs to the Wannsee district of Berlin and is home to about 300 people.

Here you can see a video of JanPBtest recorded in 1989 from the bus that connected Steinstücken with the rest of West Berlin, showing the aforementioned corridor surrounded by the Berlin Wall:

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