|Images from and Experiences at the former Iron Curtain|
God & History
The former border between East and West Germany is today nearly a forgotten fact when it weight heavy on the mind of many people having connections with Europe for much of their life time. While the border between East and West Germany became quickly the `iron wall' after World War II, it was at first a mere fence, in particular the one separating East and West Berlin. In June of 1961, after an uprising and a rash of escapes, tanks moved in and workmen constructed a concrete wall separating the two Berlins. Here are some images which we took in our teen years while visiting the border.
One mild Sunday morning someone in our group decided that we would pay a visit to the Iron Curtain that day. We came through the West-German city of Kassel and headed for the border near Allendorf-Bad Sonden. We arrived in a VW bus and a VW beetle (which never crossed the path of an East German Trabant before) on an early summer day in 1961. After talking for a while and getting our cameras ready we walked the short distance where the border was. We walked in a field on the side of a slow climbing hill which became steeper as it grew in height. Coming from where we parked our cars there was a river (Werra River?) to our left in a deep, out of sight ravine. Our path led parallel to the river on the top of the ravine to the border ahead of us, which followed that same river toward us and then took a right turn and went up the mountain slope.
Here is the gate about where the right turn of the border occurs. The communist propaganda sign reads in part: "_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Weimar weist den Weg der Fried(lichen) Wiederaufbauung." Just to the left of the sign is a house which was part of a village, which, because of its proximity to the border, was forcibly evacuated sometime during the Cold War period. The dirt strip in front of the gate is the plowed and raked `Niemandsland' (no man's land) strip regarded to have been mined. To the right of the gate and not in the picture, started a wire fence which led up a distance along the grassy knoll and then stopped abruptly about 200 meters up the hill. At the time we did not realize the significance of the fence.
At this location we had been talking and joking around while glancing toward the village and to the top of the hill where we noticed a rather large lookout tower with guards peering at us through their binoculars as we spied and waved back at them. No doubt busy radio-contacts were taking place un-be-knowns-to-us and we kept talking and walking quite carelessly feeling secure. The boy with the white shirt collar was the joker in our group and he finally dared to walk up to the plowed dirt strip-no-mans-land and, yes, he ran across it and picked some field flowers, held them high up in the air and waved them toward the guard tower as a token of our peaceful intentions. Not to mention we all breathed easier now knowing that there were no land mines. But what a way to check that out! Gerhard must have been out of his mind.
Well, so far so good. Everything seemed still quiet and we could see no cause for alarm.
For our younger readers: What is an `iron curtain' or `Zonen Grenze'? Basically it is simply the militarily protected border between two countries, in this case as it was between East and West Germany before the two German `zones' of mostly Russian and American influence, were reunited. The `iron' part relates to probably firstly a barbed wire fence, perhaps in some places a mine field and the stated purpose to defend the border with military might, tanks, jets and soldiers if you will.
Unfortunately we were not professional photographers, timid, and always worried we would run out of film ahead of the end of the day. Our minds were more on the girls and catching a picture with them in it rather than political border incidents. So the important event(s) did not get on film. Most of us probably thought that lifting the camera to take a picture of the guard, he might interprete as an act of war and we'd get in worse trouble.
After we decided we had dared enough, everybody grew more quiet and we hastily made our way back toward the gate. When we had reached the wire fence about in the middle of its length and reached the place where on the East-German side grew a bush, suddenly there stood a tall East-German border guard like out of nowhere with a side arm, a submachine gun hanging from his shoulder and a German shepherd guard dog. For all we could decide later, the guard must have come out of an underground bunker by that bush.
The dog came running toward us, jumped up on the probably about 6 foot tall fence but did not think to run around it to our side, while the guard, in his Saxon dialect, cussed us out and mentioned especially "der schlimme Junge mit de' weisse' Krage' da" (the bad boy with the white collar there). We hastily retreated some more when about two jeeps filled with decorated East-German officers arrived from the `empty' village, stopped, walked over to the guard, gesticulated and talked a lot, looked at us and where we had been, at the foot prints of Gerhard, the bad boy, as we got out of sight to our vehicles. From the West-German side we met only one local man by our cars who somewhat scolded us for having done what we did, saying that people had gotten shot at here before. We had no doubt it could have happened and counted our blessings, started our engines and roared away in a somewhat rueful mood by now.
View of Check-Point-Charlie|
The little white hut in the left center was the American border guard's station, the low white building behind the flag pole was on the East German side. Today this place is built shut.
The sign on the Western side reads:
"Let us urge our government now to:
END THE GENOCIDAL WAR AGAINST THE VIETNAMESE AND NOT WAGE WAR ON MILLIONS OF MAINLAND CHINESE.
These were the days of the War in Vietnam, which Rome wanted and which brought Cardinal Spellman to America to incite it and fan its flames for ostensibly no other reason then to destroy more Protestant boys, as we see increasingly happening today. After all, they just carry out what they threatened in `Making America Catholic, it is no secret.
Another view of Check-Point-Charlie|
The sign says in English, Russian and French:
"You are leaving the American Sector"
View of the infamous Berlin Wall. This is still the old wall, the new one had a rolling pipe on the top so if someone would try to reach up to pull himself to the top, he could not get a firm grip and would roll off.|
On the left side of the 9 foot wall was the no-mans land and a few buildings in East-Berlin. The red line points to an East German guard house with narrow windows. Build right close up to the wall were office buildings on the West-German side.
The picture was taken from an elevated visitor platform. In this area had one foggy night East-German desperados thrown a hammer tied to a string from an upper window of one such building to the western side were helpers pulled a rope over, tied it to a parked truck trailer and with a make-shift rope glider several people escaped across the border. As a consequence of that all the houses were forcibly emptied and eventually demolished. Other escapees used an East German `Trabant', fitted it with steel plates in the doors, wind shield, trunk and front and fashioned underneath the back seat a small space for someone to curl up and hide. The automobile was exhibited in the Berlin Museum showing many bullet holes received when the driver suddenly gunned the engine and broke through the barriers. Others tried to scramble up the concrete wall separating East and West Berlin and more often than not where shot to death while at least in one instance someone used a hot air balloon according to a story once printed in `Readers Digest', but a good number tried to escape by stealthily crossing the often forested border or rivers between East and West Germany.
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