“When you live there that fence becomes as natural as the apple tree in front of your door, it was just part of our life from then on.” [“Wenn man da wohnt wird dieser Zaun so selbstverständlich wie der Apfelbaum vor der Tür, er gehörte von da an einfach zu unserem Leben.”]-Eichsfeld resident’s comments on the Inner German Border
In this episode of Radio GDR – the East Germany podcast, we are joined by Patrick Hoffmann, assistant director, pedagogue and historian at Borderland Museum Eichsfeld, one of the more than 20 museums along the former Inner German Border (see here for a complete list). Founded in 1995, the museum sits at the border crossing point Duderstadt-Worbis, which is about 190 kilometers west of Leipzig on the border of Thuringia and Lower Saxony. The museum is comprised of the original buildings of the former border crossing point, which include the original rooms, such as the passport checking rooms and the detention cell, as well the Borderland Trail, a circular hiking path with originally preserved border fortifications. The exhibitions are along the former death strip, today’s “Green Belt,” and deal with different aspects of the German division, focusing on the GDR border regime and the everyday life of East and West Germans living in the border area, as well as the Peaceful Revolution and the border opening (“Fall of the wall”) in 1989. While visiting the museum in person is most definitely recommended, check out the museum’s impressive virtual reality tour.
In our interview, Patrick tells us how his being raised by East German parents sparked his interest in GDR history. We explore the history and exhibitions of the museum, life in the Eichsfeld region during divided Germany, border fortifications like land mines and spring guns, and finally escape attempts, the most famous of which is the 1961 escape from East to West in the nearby town of Böseckendorf (see the news clipping below). Patrick recounts how North Korea modeled parts of the DMZ on the Inner German border and what November 9th, 1989 looked like at Eichsfeld as compared to Berlin.
Patrick has generously provided several resources below to prepare you for the visit to the museum, including attachments about the Green Belt as well as slogans the Stasi collected during the various protests against the SED regime in 1989. He also noted Professor Astrid Eckert of Emory University researches the modern history of Germany from an environmental perspective and covers the impact of the Iron Curtain on West Germany in her book West Germany and the Iron Curtain. Economy, Culture & Environment in the Borderlands. She discusses border tourism infrastructure in this article and interview. Vielen Dank, Patrick!