The Borderland Museum Eichsfeld (Grenzland Museum Teistungen, Eichsfeld) combines a museum, study centre and outdoor trail along the line of the former border. It occupies the former East German customs building at the crossing point between Duderstadt and Teistungen. The permanent exhibition documents the history of the border in the Eichsfeld region, which was divided between East and West Germany during the Cold War – when it was HOT. Join me along this indescribable piece of history.
A trail follows the old border fortifications up to a West German observation tower which was constructed to allow people to look into East Germany. Starting Point is the Former Customs Building:
The Building at the former Worbis border crossing point was originally used for custom purposes. Travellers from East to West germany had to hand in customs and currency declarations here containing information on items and currency they were taking across the border. Some everyday items were not allowed to be taken in or out, i.e. Newspapers. In some cases, even a plastic bag printed with advertising could fall under the ban.
Further down the road: The Emergency Anti-Vehicle Barrier:
Rolling barriers were set up on the East German side of almost every road border crossing. 11 m long and 6 t in weight, they were designed to prevent „border breakthroughs by vehicles“. From a cabin above a Bunker, 2 border guards on duty could operate the barrier at the touch of a button. Triggered by a hydraulic punch, the Barrier then rolled into its counterpart within 3 seconds. The barrier could only be opened again using a cable winch. It was tested between 3am and 4am every day.
Memorial to the victims, designed by Gudrun Friedrich-Kopp.
These constructions were used by the East German border troops during their patrol along the inner german border and also as surveillance points further into east german territory in the adjacent 500 m protective strip. In some cases, they were buried underground up to the viewing slits.
The outer fences were constructed in a number of phases, starting with the initial fortification of the border from May 1952. This Photo is showing a „third-generation“ fence, much more solidly constructed (1960s to the 1980s). The fence line was moved back to create an outer strip between the fence and the actual border. The barbed-wire fences were replaced with a barrier that was usually 3.2–4.0 metres (10–13 ft) high, like this. The openings in the mesh were generally too small to provide finger-holds and were very sharp. The panels could not easily be pulled down, as they overlapped, and they could not be cut through with a bolt- or wire-cutter. Nor could they be tunnelled under easily, as the bottom segment of the fences was partially buried in the ground.
Border Security Signal Fence:
When the East German government closed the border to West Germany in 1952, it declared the 500 m to the east of the border fence as „protective strip“. Residents there were issued with special identity cards. Visitors had to apply for a pass. From 1973 on, this strip was closed off to the east by the border security signal fence (in the back). Anyone touching one of the 16 low voltage signal wires while clamping the fence triggered an alarm. Ten years laters, however, the troops dismantled the optical and acoustic signals on the fence itself, so that escapees would not know they had beed discovered.
Border Dogs and Dog run:
The Dog run shown is here a reconstruction. Although there was no run like this in this area, it is typical of dog runs on other sections of the east german border. These were built from 1974, mainly at sections of the border security signal fence that were difficult to guard. Inside of the run were a kennel, a food bowl and a water bowl. There were also „running ropes“, fixed between two steel masts across the length of 30 – 50 m. A movable lead was attached to this wire rope, so that the dog could run along the strip. There were gaps between the ends of the ropes to stop the dogs from biting each other. The guards dogs, which usually spent their entire lives on the border, were fed and checked once a day (taken out of the run every week).
The direct course of the border was demarcated by border stones. The border stone preserved here was right on the edge of a field while the border posts, visible from afar, were 1 – 2 m away from the border line, on east german territory. The border installation were always ata certain distance from the actual border line, at this point, this is over 50 m.