About a thousand people were murdered trying to flee communism there

The remains of the long fortified border that divided Germany during the Cold War

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones that divided the country into two halves.

Steinstücken: the curious 'island' of Liberty that was surrounded by communist Germany
The Bernauer Strasse tunnels in Berlin: underground routes to escape communism

In the western part, occupied by the US, France and the United Kingdom, a democratic State was formed: the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), usually known as West or Federal Germany. In the eastern part, under Soviet occupation, the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR), a cynical and misleading name for a communist dictatorship, was formed, which was, in fact, a large prison for its inhabitants. which many tried to flee. In addition, the eastern strip of Germany passed into the hands of Poland, as compensation for the loss of the Kresy strip, invaded and annexed by the USSR in 1939.

A 1946 map showing how Germany was divided after the end of World War II (Source: picryl.com).

Without a doubt, the most famous dividing line between the two countries was the Berlin Wall, built in 1961 by the communist dictatorship of East Germany in order to divide that city in two, which After the war it had remained as an island within the GDR, with the Soviet occupation zone in the east and the allied occupation zone (in the hands of the US, France and the United Kingdom) in the west.

A watchtower in communist Germany in a photo taken on August 15, 1984 (Photo: NARA).

In addition to the Berlin Wall, Germany was divided by an internal border of 1,381 kilometers. This border simply cut off dozens of roads and railways. The only passageways between the two Germanys were two railways, three highways, three river courses and three air corridors. The long border between free Germany and communist Germany was covered with watchtowers, barbed wire, mines and 50,000 sentries in the part under Soviet occupation.

A watchtower on the communist side of the border, in a photo taken on May 1, 1985 (Photo: Hardo Müller).

In the 45 years that the country's division lasted (from 1945 to 1990), about a thousand people were murdered trying to flee from communist Germany to free Germany. In addition, an estimated 75,000 people were sent to prison in the GDR for unsuccessful escape attempts, since fleeing the country was a crime in communist Germany punishable by up to three years in prison, or up to five years if the person trying to escape was one of the sentinels guarding the border.

A former watchtower from communist Germany and the wall that blocked the way to those trying to flee, photographed on August 3, 2013 in Teistungen, Thuringia (Photo: Archiv Grenzlandmuseum Eichsfeld).

The difficulty of crossing such a fortified border meant that most of the escapes from the GDR were carried out from other communist dictatorships and other countries. After the fall of communism, Germany's internal border was abandoned on July 1, 1990. However, that was not the end of this rift that had separated German society for almost half a century, since the clearance of mines on the border was not completed until 1995.

A sign located between Mattierzoll (Lower Saxony) and Hessen (Saxony-Anhalt), indicating the location of the former internal border (Photo: Markscheider).

The elimination of that internal border did not repair all the damage it caused. For example, in 1977 the GDR razed the village of Bardowiek, which had reached up to 40 inhabitants, because it was within the large surveillance zone of up to 5 kilometers that existed in the communist side of the border. To this day, attempts to rebuild that town have yet to bear any fruit.

A former border post of communist Germany, now abandoned (Source: Yeah Probably).

Today, the old border is occupied by many natural spaces. In some places the old watchtowers, bunkers and barriers are preserved, as a reminder of a terrible past. A few days ago, Yeah Probably published an interesting video touring some of those vestiges:


Main image: Yeah Probably.

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