Inner German border

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Inner German border in the late 1970s in the northern Harz region.
Inner German border at Priwall
Animation of the expansion of the Berlin Wall

The 1400 km long inner-German border prevented the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic from visiting the Federal Republic of Germany or permanently leaving for the west until 1989 through massive fortifications . It did not include that part of the GDR's border with Berlin , whose western sectors within Berlin were cordoned off with the Berlin Wall from 1961 . The border between the western occupation zones and the Soviet occupation zone (SBZ) was determined by the victorious powers of the Second World War in several conferences and continued in this geographical form after the establishment of the two German states in 1949. The border began in the south at the triangle of Bavaria, Saxony / GDR and Czechoslovakia and ended on the Baltic Sea in the Bay of Lübeck on the Priwall peninsula . In the Cold War , it was part of the Iron Curtain, both militarily and geopolitically .

Since November 1989, after the reunification and peaceful revolution in the GDR , it has been dismantled and converted into a special eco-zone as a green belt between parts of Europe.

Separation of two worlds

Both German states officially designated the German-German border as the “ demarcation line ” until 1956 , then the GDR as the “border” and from 1964 as the “state border”. In West Germany it remained the “demarcation line”, colloquially often the “zone boundary”, because the GDR was considered to be “ SBZ ” (Soviet Occupation Zone), “Soviet Zone”, “Eastern Zone” or simply “Zone” until the conclusion of the Basic Treaty For reunification, newspapers occasionally put the abbreviation "GDR" in quotation marks to express euphemism , irony or sarcasm .

When the Federal Republic of Germany recognized the GDR as a separate state in the Basic Treaty in 1972 , this border also formally became a state border . However, the GDR was up to their end by the Federal Republic of Germany never under international law as abroad considered, this would have been the reunification precept of the Basic Law contradicted: This 1967 introduced by the GDR's was citizenship interpreted by the Federal Republic so that citizens of the GDR as a German in the meaning of Article 16 and 116 of the basic law were considered.

The “protective strip” along the border, up to 500 m wide, laid out on the east side in 1952, which was largely untouched for many decades, has developed into a retreat for many endangered animal and plant species. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) and the Free State of Thuringia founded the nature conservation project Green Belt Germany , which encompasses a large part of the former border area.


Border patrol of the GDR border troops in Thuringia (1965)
Inner German border near Herrnburg (July 1989)

After the Second World War , the German Reich was divided into zones of occupation by the victorious powers . By merging as a Bizone and later Trizone to form a United Economic Area , the borders of the occupation zones in West Germany ceased to exist . The term “zone boundary” only referred to the border between the Soviet zone of occupation and the territory of the Western Allies in Germany . With the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic in 1949, the zone border became the German-German border. In general and in official language in the Federal Republic of Germany, the zone border and the inner-German border were retained. This was due to the fact that the economically disadvantaged area along the border in the Federal Republic of Germany was referred to as a zone border area and was supported both legally and financially ( zone border funding).

The GDR blocked the demarcation line to the Federal Republic due to the regulation on measures on the demarcation line between the German Democratic Republic and the western occupation zones of May 26, 1952. The privileged railway through traffic on the railway lines, which ran a short distance through the other part of Germany, was discontinued with a few exceptions. The increased cordoning off was formally regulated on June 18, 1954 with the order about the new regulation of the measures on the demarcation line between the GDR and West Germany ; on May 3, 1956, it was replaced by the ordinance to facilitate and regulate measures on the border between the German Democratic Republic and the German Federal Republic . Since March 19, 1964, the regulation for the protection of the state border of the German Democratic Republic has been in effect, which was finally replaced after several changes on March 25, 1982 by the law on the state border of the German Democratic Republic . This was in effect until the Unification Treaty came into force .

Effects of the Basic Treaty

In 1972, an additional protocol to the basic treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR agreed to review and clearly mark the course of the border. The German-German border commission started its work with border markings near Lübeck on September 4, 1973. From May 2, 1974, there were permanent missions of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic in East Berlin (here: in the GDR, not in the GDR) and Bonn, no embassies or consulates. An independent GDR citizenship was not recognized by the Federal Republic, that is: A GDR citizen was German within the meaning of the Basic Law and was entitled to a West German passport. The GDR was customs inland for the Federal Republic of Germany .

In return for a loan brokered by Franz Josef Strauss in the amount of one billion German marks (around 930 million euros based on today's purchasing power), the self-firing systems were dismantled in November 1984 under pressure from the Federal Government and earth mines were blown up (neither of which existed on the Berlin Wall ) and dog runs dismantled.

The opening of the Iron Curtain , the departure of 17,000 embassy refugees from Prague and the fall of the Berlin Wall led to German reunification in 1989/90 . The division of Germany and the inner-German border had been overcome. There are only federal state borders .

Between 1949 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, around four million people fled from the GDR to the Federal Republic; During the same period, around 200,000 people moved from the Federal Republic to the GDR.

Border security methods

Border signal fence in the German-German open air museum near Behrungen
Leaflet on the blocking system (1980s)
Information sheet from the GSK Coast

An ordinance had been in effect since 1952 along the border with Schleswig-Holstein , Lower Saxony , Hesse and Bavaria , which provided for a 5-kilometer-wide restricted area in the GDR . From then on, every border crossing was subject to approval. In the restricted area there was a 500 meter wide protective strip at the border and a 10 meter wide control strip immediately in front of it. A pass was required to enter the restricted area , for which the residents had to register. Shortly after the ordinance came into force, the sudden action against vermin resulted in the forced evacuation of thousands of politically unreliable families from the exclusion zone to the interior of the GDR. It was forbidden to enter the control strip. Border police officers could not only use their firearms, as before, against armed border breakers or for self-defense, but also in the event of any "non-compliance" with their orders in the border area. Since then, the GDR has expanded the German-German border more and more in order to prevent the mass exodus of its residents to the West. The last open way there was closed in August 1961 by the Berlin Wall , which in the GDR was officially called the anti-fascist protective wall . Around 30,000 border guards from the GDR border troops were stationed at the border ; Until April 1989, they had been ordered to stop the escape by shooting the refugee to death (→  shooting order ).

Control strip and exclusion zone

The ten meter wide (plowed) control strip was also called the "death strip". The original wooden watchtowers for the GDR border troops were replaced in the 1960s by cylindrical and later by square concrete towers for three to five soldiers. The towers often had loopholes on the second mezzanine floor. In addition to arming the soldiers, the equipment consisted of signaling devices, map material, a dedicated telecommunications line and a searchlight with a 360-degree swivel range, and later some video cameras. The protective strip secured with barbed wire was systematically cleared of all possible visual obstacles, for this purpose leveling was carried out. The protection strip was of to run equipment mounted chain dogs, so-called route dogs , guarded. River passages and crossings were secured by deep barriers. Concrete elements like those in the Berlin Wall were used in settlements near the border, for example in Mödlareuth and Dassow . Otherwise, the inner-German border consisted of several metal mesh fences with signal systems and trenches. The protective strip was illuminated at night. A total of 870 km of border fence existed. 602 km of border fences were provided with vehicle barricades and 434 observation towers. The actual border fence was initially a simple waist-high barbed wire fence, after 1961 a double barbed wire fence that was difficult to overcome (as a boundary for minefields) or an expanded metal mesh fence with self-firing systems. Sometimes it consisted of a wall with a round finish on top (as in Berlin). Behind the border fence, on the other hand, there followed an area depending on the topography of the respective terrain up to the actual border line, which was wrongly interpreted as no man's land by western visitors to the border or was often misinterpreted as a western German area by eastern “republican refugees”. German citizens also triggered border incidents here if they carelessly penetrated this area. Entering the 5 km exclusion zone and the protective strip was only permitted under special conditions, for example by a note in the identity card for residents and by a pass that had to be issued separately for visitors. Fitters and technicians who had to repair power lines or bridges, for example, were only allowed to stay in the respective border section when accompanied by a guard. Border guards posted in watchtowers and bunkers had to report every suspicious event. Motorized border patrols patrolled the hinterland. From 1972, some places such as Sonneberg , Creuzburg , Gefell or Kaltennordheim were removed from the restricted zone.

Land mines and self-firing systems

Self-firing systems were also installed to secure borders and around 1.3 million land mines were laid. In the event of a thunderstorm, the self-firing systems and the electric fence were turned off, otherwise too many misfires would have been triggered. However, this gap in border security was generally not known and was therefore never consciously exploited by fugitives. Starting in 1971, 71,000 SM-70 fragmentation mines were placed on the front metal mesh border fence over a length of 450 kilometers. Because of their high effectiveness, valued by the border troops, an increase in the number of fragment mines was planned for 1982/83. 230 km of border fence consisted of PPM-2 minefields . Only at the urging of the Federal Republic of Germany were the landmines blown up in 1984 and the self-firing systems dismantled.

Preventive border security

Movements of people were also monitored well in front of the exclusion zone. Preventing people from fleeing the republic made up a major part of the activities of the Stasi ; If a normal passenger train drove to places near the border as planned, suspicious travelers were checked during the journey by the transport police , the people's police or " volunteer helpers from the border troops " (of which there were around 3,000) and asked about their travel destination . If people were found without a permit in the 5-kilometer exclusion zone, they were reported to the responsible border command. (The illegal border crossing - the "republic flight" - was a criminal offense from 1968 onwards. The maximum sentence was five years in prison. The preparation and the attempt were punishable.) In addition, there were around 500 border security agents across the country in border districts, border towns and companies in the border area ( GSA), whose voluntary civilian members also performed monitoring tasks. This comprehensive surveillance enabled 90% of all those who wanted to flee to be caught well in front of the actual border fence.

Berlin wall

Four sector city of Berlin

The last hole in the inner-German border was West Berlin . Outwardly secured in a similar way to the inner German (“green”) border, it was open to East Berlin . The construction of the wall on August 13, 1961 closed this passage. After the introduction of a visa requirement for foreigners and stateless persons from January 1, 1977 for the eastern part of Berlin, the GDR government lifted the checkpoints on the border between East Berlin and the surrounding area.

Person locks

Concrete pipe for smuggling GDR agents on the Gobert ridge , view from the west

A large number of strictly secret locks, called operational border locks, were built into the barriers at the border . They were used by the employees of the “Department of Transport” at the Central Committee of the SED and the “Western groups” they set up to illegally “smuggle” people, especially functionaries of the KPD and the SED , in both directions, sending money for the KPD and later the DKP to bring information material for party functionaries and propaganda material to the Federal Republic. The Ministry for State Security (MfS) also maintained such locks for intelligence purposes. The agent lock at Berlin-Friedrichstrasse station became famous here . The Glienicke Bridge between West Berlin and Potsdam was only allowed to be used by members of the Allied forces. The military missions of the three Western powers for the GDR were located in Potsdam .

From the late 1950s onwards, the use of the secret crossings was subordinated to Main Department I of the MfS, which was responsible for monitoring the army and border troops.

Restricted areas and looped villages

Homesteads, businesses and smaller villages in the immediate vicinity of the border were viewed as difficult to monitor and therefore problematic. Most of them were forced to give up; the residents were gradually relocated and the buildings razed . Larger towns, for example Großburschla or Großensee , were spared, on the other hand, although their topographical location was extremely unfavorable for monitoring the border installations. Examples of settled villages are Billmuthausen (demolished in stages from 1965 to 1978), Erlebach (in stages from 1975 to 1986) and Leitenhausen (1971) in the Hildburghausen district. In this way, dozens of villages on the inner-German border have become political devastation. Other affected villages and hamlets : Bardowiek , Broda ( Rüterberg ), Christian Green ( Spechtsbrunn ), Thornwood, Greifenstein, Grabenstedt, rabbits Reuth , Heiligenroda , Jahrsau , Karneberg ( Wendehausen ) Kaulsroth , small pottery , Korberoth , Krendelstein, Lankow , Lenschow ( Lüdersdorf ) Liebau , Lieps, Markusgrün , Neuhof, Neu Gallin, Niederndorf , Ruppers ( Stedtlingen ), Scharfloh (Wendehausen), Schmerbach, Schwarzenreuth , Schwenge , Stöckigt , Stresow , Taubenthal, Troschenreuth , Vockfey , Wahlsdorf, Wehningen , Zarrentin-Strangen. In addition, there are devastation on the border between the ČSSR and the GDR, which was militarily secured about 50 km from the Bavarian-Czech border triangle , as was the inner-German border. There were u. a. destroyed and leveled: Ebersberg , Gottmannsgrün, Gräben im Thale, Hammerleithen , Kugelreuth, Pabstleithen, Wieden (almost all located in the district of Oelsnitz ). The postcodes of the razed farms and villages were continued in the directories.

There was also a move from houses from the GDR to the Federal Republic, for example in Kleinlichtenhain when it came to Kleintettau in the Bavarian district of Kronach . Life in the restricted area was felt by many people living there as an enormous psychological burden. Petitions and complaints were also passed on to the government by the church and community organizations. The government was therefore compelled to pay the residents financial compensation known as the “restricted area surcharge”.

Border security at the GDR border stations

After the Wall was built in 1961, the border stations were seen as neuralgic escape points from the GDR. Between 1975 and 1980, the border stations on the GDR side were redesigned to prevent escapes from the GDR: the platform systems were screened off by bars and privacy screens. Larger projects included the installation of show bridges over all tracks, spacious floodlights and, if possible, so-called sand switches (referred to as “peace switches ” in Stasi jargon). These were supposed to steer a train that would have passed through the border station without stopping onto dead tracks or derail it. The platform was closed to people during the inspection. After checking - in the simple case - the officer on watch then released the sand switch so that the train could leave for the Federal Republic. This is how the Stasi imagined it; this could only be realized if the specifics of the station allowed it. Much more complicated steps were required in most train stations.

Freight trains were also checked meticulously, even the contents of tank wagons. For the train drivers of the Reichsbahn and the German Federal Railroad, the Reichsbahn strictly prohibited contact. If the locomotives were at eye level in the station, the train driver was always instructed to push forward or backward at the length of the vehicle. Due to the border mechanisms, the inner-German border stations were in fact beyond the awareness of the GDR citizens, who were only allowed to enter the 5 km control strips in the border area with passes. The S-Bahn station Friedrichstrasse in Berlin occupied a special position: The winding underground transition network for pedestrians was almost perfectly redesigned, which in turn allowed the GDR Stasi to allow agents to be brought in and out of West Berlin without any problems (Kuhlmann, has to be delivered later, is available )

At train stations on the German side, volunteer carers have been looking after travelers from the GDR since the mid-1950s. They served tea in the railway compartments, distributed food and also looked after those who had fled.

Use of radioactive sources

Because, according to the transit agreement, checks of vehicles were only allowed if there was justified suspicion, the Stasi installed and operated 17 dangerous radioactive gamma cannons under the code name "Technik V" at the border crossing points in and around Berlin and at the motorway checkpoints between East and West Germany to secretly detain vehicles bombarding hard ionizing gamma rays that penetrated the bodywork and floor panels for 10 to 30 seconds and made refugees in the radiation field visible. The radiation facilities were operated continuously by the Stasi in shifts. They consisted of the radiator unit, consisting of a spherical lead container weighing around 50 kg, which contained the radioactive cesium-137 radiation source, the control electronics and a detector system with a screen. The ordinary GDR customs officers learned nothing of the secret radioactive control technology with which all transit travelers were usually screened because the uniformed personnel were kept away from the dangerous points by strict "entry regulations". The last radiation facility was dismantled on November 9, 1989 shortly before the border opened. The effects of suitable, relatively harsh doses of radiation were previously tested on dogs, many of which had to be killed afterwards. In radiation protection , when assessing the consequential damage, it is assumed that even the smallest dose can have a negative effect. However, damage to health such as leukemia only occurs after about 7 to 10 years and other cancer damage only after 15 to 20 years.

Border dead

Death toll
August 13, 1961
August 13, 1961
Total until 1989
Berlin border / wall 37 136 173
Inner German land border 100 238 371
Baltic Sea 15th 174 189
Other escape routes
(aircraft hijacking, export of goods,
transit routes)
0 7th 7th
Members of the GDR border service
on duty
11 16 27
Soviet deserters 1 5 6th
Aircraft killings in the border area 14th 3 17th
Total: 178 612 790

There are different figures for the number of victims on the inner-German border, research on this has not yet been completed. The central registration office of the state justice administrations in Salzgitter, which ceased its work in 1992, counted a total of 872 fatalities, almost exclusively refugees, but also some members of the GDR border troops or deserters of the Soviet army. The total would be slightly less than the number of deaths on the border between Czechoslovakia and Austria . However, 80% of them were members of armed units.

While the Berlin public prosecutor's office spoke of 270 documented deaths on the inner-German border, including Berlin, as a result of an act of violence by the border security forces, including mines and self-firing systems, the Central Investigation Group for Government and Association Crime (ZERV) , which existed between 1991 and 2000, reported 421 suspected killings by armed forces registered in the GDR. The working group “13. August ”published on August 12, 2003 a number of 1008 victims of the GDR border regime from 1949 to 1989, but based on a relatively broad definition of victims; It includes, for example, refugees drowned in the Baltic Sea , victims of accidents while fleeing, suicides after being discovered to have escaped and border soldiers shot dead by refugees as well as deaths of German refugees at other borders (ČSSR, Yugoslavia ). In 2010, the Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, operated by the consortium, reported 1,393 dead. In 2010, the head of the SED State Research Association of the Free University of Berlin , Klaus Schroeder , criticized the Wall Museum's “very broad concept of victims of the Wall”. However, due to areas that have not yet been researched, he also assumes that there are more victims than “officially known” and reckons with a total of around 1000 victims of the GDR border regime.

East Germans killed


Surname date of death Place of death circumstances
Frieda Klein August 10, 1963 Gudersleben Pregnant, fatally injured by gunfire in the forest on the border.
Manfred Glotz May 7, 1965 Ilfeld
Emanuel Holzhauer 2nd July 1977 Choked to death in the trunk as an infant on the run.
Harry Weltzin 4th September 1983 Kneese Killed by triggering the self-firing system.

West Germans killed

Surname date of death Place of death circumstances
Kurt Lichtenstein October 12, 1961 Blocks
Former memorial for Kurt Lichtenstein near Zicherie

The Dortmund journalist and ex-communist Kurt Lichtenstein was shot on the district road 85 (running parallel to the inner-German border) between Kaiserwinkel and Zicherie ( Lower Saxony ) on October 12, 1961 by the GDR border troops when he was talking to LPG farmers in GDR territory wanted to. A memorial commemorates him at the site.

Ernst Wolter June 11, 1967 Riebau The 80-year-old farmer Ernst Wolter probably passed the border in search of cows and was seriously injured by a mine. Since the border guards did not know the exact location of the mines, he was left unsupervised and died after about two and a half hours.
Erich Tesch October 10, 1967 Haldensleben The 65-year-old Erich Tesch, who lives in Cologne, crossed the border in a west-east direction, where he set off a mine and died as a result of the detonation.
Michael Gartenschläger April 30, 1976 Leisterförde The escape helper Michael Gartenschläger was shot by a special troop of the state security in uniforms of the GDR border troops while trying to dismantle self- firing systems at the border.

Dead of other nationalities

Surname date of death Place of death circumstances
Benito Corghi 5th August 1976 Hirschberg (Saale) Italian truck driver

GDR border police officers and soldiers killed

Border crossings

Transit routes and crossings (1982)
Transitions in February 1990
Visa from the Marienborn and Drewitz border crossings from August 1980

The number of crossings between the two of the three western zones or the Federal Republic of Germany and the Soviet occupation zone or the GDR varied over the decades. In 1952, various road and railroad crossing points were closed by the GDR. In the run-up to the basic contract, the transport contract was concluded on May 26, 1972. Afterwards, several crossings were opened for small border traffic and additional trains were introduced on the existing railroad crossings.


Up until 1952 there were many road crossings between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR, with the tightening of the border regime most of them were closed. Among other things, the following transitions could be used until then:

Transit traffic

The following crossings could be used by transit traffic to Berlin as well as by travel and goods traffic to the GDR between 1952 and 1989 :

  1. Lauenburg / Elbe ( Schleswig-Holstein ) - Horst ( Schwerin district ), the only crossing that could also be used by cyclists in transit traffic to Berlin between sunrise and sunset , B5 / F5 , for transit traffic to and from Berlin (west) only until November 19, 1982 (for travel to the GDR and transit traffic to third countries, the Lauenburg / Horst crossing remained open), for transit to and from Berlin (West) on November 20, 1982 replaced by
  2. Gudow / Zarrentin border crossing , after completion of the Hamburg - Berlin motorway , from 1982
  3. Helmstedt / Marienborn border crossing , Hanover - Berlin motorway
  4. Wartha / Herleshausen border crossing, near the Kirchheimer Dreieck - Eisenach - Hermsdorfer Kreuz motorway, which crosses the border several times and is therefore closed for several kilometers
  5. Töpen ( Bavaria ) - Juchhöh ( Gera district ), along trunk road 2 . The nearby motorway was not passable because of the destroyed Saale bridge. After its repair in 1966, the crossing was closed and replaced by
  6. Rudolphstein / Hirschberg border crossing , along the Munich - Berlin motorway

The Lübeck - Selmsdorf crossing along the federal highway 104 and the federal highway 105 served the travel traffic to the GDR and the transit traffic to Sweden and Poland - see border documentation center Lübeck-Schlutup .

Small border traffic

The following crossings were opened as a result of the transport contract of 1972 for so-called "small border traffic" and were only permitted for travel to the GDR border area, but not for transit travel to Berlin:

  1. Bergen (Dumme) ( Lower Saxony ) - Salzwedel ( Magdeburg district ), B or F 71 , also known as the Uelzen-Salzwedel transition
  2. Duderstadt ( Lower Saxony ) - Worbis ( Erfurt district ), B or F 247 as border crossing point in the GDR Teistungen known
  3. Border crossing Eußenhausen / Meiningen , along the B or F 19 between Mellrichstadt and Meiningen
  4. Rottenbach ( Bavaria ) - Eisfeld ( Suhl district ), along the B and F 4

After November 9, 1989, the inner-German border was reopened in numerous places, for example at the border crossing points Schmarsau-Schrampe, Mackenrode-Nüxei, Wolfsburg-Oebisfelde and Ellrich-Zorge. These new border crossings served only GDR citizens to leave and re-enter the country until December 24, 1989, after which they were also open to German citizens . When non-EU citizens - at the time, for example Austrians - entered the country, problems often arose at these border crossings.

West Berlin


Immediately after the Allies occupied the respective zones, the Soviet Union interrupted rail traffic between its zone and the western zones. Only the route via Helmstedt and Marienborn was kept open for the military trains to West Berlin, only on this route there was also passenger traffic. In addition, individual border crossings continued to be used for freight traffic, but most routes remained closed. In the course of the Berlin blockade , passenger traffic and goods traffic was largely suspended. Inspection bridges were used at various points .

After the end of the blockade, the West German railway administration, or the Deutsche Bundesbahn, founded on September 7, 1949, and the Deutsche Reichsbahn concluded various agreements (Agreement of Helmstedt, May 11, 1949, Offenbach September 3, 1949 and Kleinmachnow , September 10) operational issues of border traffic are regulated and the opening of various crossings for passenger traffic is agreed.

Until 1952

Until 1952, in addition to the routes listed below, various routes were used again, each of which ran on short sections over West German or GDR territory, but only partially "real" border traffic with changes of people or goods took place:

From 1952

As of 1952, only the following crossings and routes were used in rail traffic as a result of stricter border surveillance:

  1. Herrnburg - Lübeck , passenger and goods traffic, closed in 1952, reopened in 1960
  2. Schwanheide - Büchen , passenger and goods traffic, also for transit to West Berlin
  3. Oebisfelde - Wolfsburg , goods traffic, passenger traffic only from 1954, also for empty trains in goods traffic from West Berlin
  4. Marienborn - Helmstedt ( Lower Saxony ), passenger and goods traffic, also for transit to West Berlin
  5. Ellrich - Walkenried , only freight traffic
  6. Wartha - Bebra , from September 28, 1963 Gerstungen - Bebra, passenger and goods traffic, also for transit to West Berlin, partly via the Förtha – Gerstungen railway line
  7. Dankmarshausen - Heringen (Werra) , passenger traffic for rush hour traffic in the potash pits in the Werra Valley, from 1954 only for potash trains of the Federal Railroad in transit, closed between 1967 and 1969
  8. Probstzella - Ludwigsstadt ( Hochstadt-Marktzeuln – Probstzella railway and Leipzig – Probstzella railway ): Passenger and goods traffic, also for transit to West Berlin
  9. Gutenfürst - Hof , passenger and goods traffic, also for transit to West Berlin, passenger traffic only from 1954

The Federal Railroad did not explicitly designate these crossings as border crossings, while the Reichsbahn always spoke of border crossing points (GÜSt).

On December 5, 1961, the district of Berlin-Staaken hit the headlines when a GDR engine driver failed to stop his regional train at the Albrechtshof terminus, but broke through the border barriers in the direction of West Berlin. Thereafter, this route was closed for interzonal traffic between Berlin and Hamburg and the trains were diverted via Wannsee.

Only express trains ran in passenger traffic . After the Wall was built in 1961, the transit trains to West Berlin lost their stops in stations on GDR territory, with the exception of the border stations. Colloquially known as interzonal trains, trains were used to travel between the two German states and, in some cases, also for internal GDR traffic. From 1972 at the crossings Marienborn / Helmstedt, Probstzella / Ludwigsstadt and Gutenfürst / Hof there was a pair of express trains serving "small border traffic" in addition to the D-trains , which only ran on weekends and only to the next larger station in GDR territory . From the summer of 1989 there was also such a pair of trains at the Herrnburg - Lübeck crossing.

Three days after the Wall fell in 1989, passenger traffic began on the Ellrich – Walkenried crossing, which was previously only used for goods transport. When the timetable changed in 1990, the rebuilt line between Eichenberg (DB) and Arenshausen (DR) was also put into operation as a border crossing. Like all other transitions, however, they lost their function as a border point with monetary union .

West Berlin

Between 1961 and 1976 all passenger trains running between Germany and West Berlin reached the city as transit trains via the Griebnitzsee station , and from 1976 also via the Berlin-Staaken station . The travelers were checked in transit without any formal entry and exit taking place. The trains to and from Berlin departed or went to the East Berlin Friedrichstrasse station . A large border crossing point was set up there for travelers to East Berlin and the GDR. In the S-Bahn traffic, West and East Berlin lines stopped there at strictly separate platforms. In traffic between both parts of the city, passengers had to pass the control facilities in the station. Some international trains ran from West Berlin via the Berlin Ostbahnhof (1987 to 1998 Berlin Hauptbahnhof) further abroad. Between Friedrichstrasse and Ostbahnhof, they were only permitted for transit travelers from West Berlin to third countries. At Friedrichstrasse station, long-distance trains coming from the east boarded passport control units of the GDR border troops (employees of the MfS who worked in uniforms of the border soldiers or disguised as such ) and checked the inmates. Only then were passengers allowed to board who had passed the border crossing point in the train station or who had come from West Berlin by underground or S-Bahn. International trains coming from the west were checked after the passenger change before continuing.

Baltic Sea and Elbe

The Baltic Sea and Elbe borders played a special role in the border system of the GDR:

On the Baltic coast, the entire beach area on the Bay of Lübeck, from the border on the Priwall peninsula to just before Boltenhagen, was a strictly guarded restricted area. The remaining section of the GDR Baltic Sea coast was guarded by the People's Navy 6th Coastal Border Brigade because of its proximity to the Federal Republic, Denmark and Sweden . Only a selected group of people with special permission (PM 18, PM 19) were allowed to sail the sea, with the exception of the inner Bodden waters , with pleasure boats.

The 93.7 km long inner-German border on the Elbe was also closed from the Cumlosen water border crossing near Wittenberge down the Elbe. There were no border crossings across the river in this area.

The exact course of the border between the GDR and the Federal Republic was disputed in this area. According to the GDR view, the border ran in the middle of the river, according to the Federal Republic, however, on the northeast bank.

Inland shipping

Two crossings for inland shipping could be used for both Berlin traffic and alternating traffic between the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany. They were only approved for the transport of goods, not for pure passenger ships.

At the borders of West Berlin there were border crossing points for cargo shipping on most of the navigable waterways.

Entry (formalities from 1972)

Certificate of eligibility to receive a visa
GDR visa for goods traffic only, transit stamp

Entry by invitation

Entry by invitation was possible once or several times a year, up to a maximum of 30 days. A “certificate of entitlement” was required to enter the GDR. This had to be applied for at least four weeks before the travel date by the host resident in the GDR from his competent authorities and then sent to the Federal Republic. For this he needed: surname, first name, date of birth, place of birth, home address, occupation, name and address of the employer, passport number and issuing authority and, if applicable, the license plate number. In a form “Declaration of items and means of payment carried along”, all items had to be listed, including any gifts that were supposed to remain in the GDR and western means of payment. The form had to be presented at the inner-German border. The information was generally checked, usually randomly, but in some cases also very thoroughly. Upon presentation of the passport and the authorization certificate, the visa was issued at the border. In the first few years, the permits were only valid for the inviting person's place of residence, later for the entire GDR.

Other entries

In the event of death or acute danger to the life of a GDR citizen, a telegram with the official approval of the Volkspolizei district office was required to receive the visa.

Tourist trips had to be booked at least six weeks before the start of the trip through a travel agency that applied for the certificate of eligibility. Advance booking of the hotel or hotels in one of the 41 cities offered was compulsory. The residence permit was only valid for those of the 14 districts in which the hotel was located. There was no obligation to exchange a minimum of DM.

From May 1st to September 30th, 24 spaces were available for camping travelers. The reservation should be made through a travel agency 40 days before the start of the journey. This provided the authorization certificate, the seat reservation and the mandatory travel voucher. For this, 25 DM were demanded daily, which were exchanged 1: 1 for GDR marks . The border crossings to be used were precisely prescribed.

The passport and the exhibition ID were sufficient for the Leipziger Messe . This made it possible to enter and leave the country once.

For day visits to the precisely demarcated area of East Berlin , West German citizens were granted visas directly by the GDR authorities at the sector crossings in Berlin. It was important to return by midnight here. A certificate of entitlement was not necessary. The residents of West Berlin were not allowed these day visits. There were special regulations for people who had their permanent residence in West Berlin (→  Certificate of Eligibility for West Berliners ). For the so-called small border traffic introduced in October 1972, special regulations were in turn decisive for traffic close to the border .

Day trips to Rostock or its port district were possible from 1976 on with a seaside resort ship ( Travemünde –Warnemünde). A minimum exchange or a certificate of eligibility was not required.


A fee of 15 Deutsche Mark was charged for the visa . It was free of charge for children under 16.

In addition, 25.00 DM had to be exchanged for 25.00 marks (GDR) per person and day of stay , which could not be exchanged. Children up to the age of 6 were exempt; Children up to the age of 15 had to exchange 7.50 DM per person per day. If a longer stay than the approved one in the GDR was necessary due to illness, no additional exchange was made. The minimum exchange rates have been in effect since October 13, 1980.

Reporting requirements

The entrant had to register with the responsible People's Police District Office or the responsible reporting office of the People's Police within 24 hours of his arrival. Here the residence permit was stamped into the passport. The minimum exchange receipt was requested when registering. Before returning home, the GDR visitor had to de-register at the relevant office and the visa to leave the country was issued in the passport.

The offices in the smaller towns were closed on weekends and on public holidays, so entry had to be planned in such a way that the 24-hour deadline was met in any case. In all larger towns and cities, the people's police stations were open every day. When returning at the weekend, the cancellation could already be made on Friday. In principle, it was possible to register and de-register at the same time, which, however, usually met with displeasure from the offices during longer visits, as this procedure was only intended for shorter stays.

In addition, for a private overnight stay, you had to enter yourself in the house book kept for each residential building . In practice this was not always possible (for example if the family keeping the house book was away in an apartment building). Sometimes compliance also depended on the host's situation; Depending on the social control in the neighborhood and the professional obligations of the hosts, the entry was sometimes urgently requested, sometimes undermined by hosts who were not formally inviting.

Using the transitions

The choice of transition was free. The same transition did not have to be chosen for entering and leaving the country for stays of several days. A special permit was required for entry by car, which was noted on the certificate of entitlement. The use of motorcycles to enter the GDR was not permitted. Entering the GDR by bike was just as inadmissible. However, it was possible to cross the border in transit traffic between West Berlin and Hamburg on trunk road 5 until 1982, the year the first motorway sections in the direction of Hamburg were completed.

For Dieter Thomas Heck , too, was 1983 after a Wetten, dass ..? -Ship no bike tour to IFA Berlin possible . To enter the GDR by bicycle, he had to be content with an exercise bike that was set up in a coach.

Departure and legal relocation to the Federal Republic

For GDR citizens, the legal possibilities to cross the inner-German border were very limited, if not impossible. As a rule, freedom of travel was only made possible for professional purposes with clearly loyal political attitudes towards the GDR. Pensioners were largely free to travel unless they were the bearers of important state or company secrets. Travel to other western countries was also permitted for important family visits (e.g. birthday or death of a western relative). Legal relocation to the Federal Republic was also possible in principle, but in some cases associated with harassment and could also be refused. Nevertheless, between 1961 and 1988 around 383,000 people left the GDR legally. In the 1980s in particular, this form of departure became an existential problem in the GDR due to more and more applicants and also actual departures.


The construction, constant expansion and maintenance of the heavily guarded border in Germany was a great economic burden for the GDR: building materials and around 40,000 border troops were tied up for it. From 1961 to 1964 the construction and operation of the border cost the GDR a total of 1.822 billion marks , of which 400 million marks went to the Berlin Wall . The running costs were estimated at around 500 million marks annually. In addition there were the passport control units (PKE) subordinate to the MfS with around 38 million marks annually.

An important factor in the budget of the GDR from 1981 to 1988 was expenditure on state security and border security. In 1981 they amounted to 3.7 billion GDR marks and increased to 6.0 billion GDR marks in 1988, whereby it must be taken into account that part of the expenditure that the MfS benefited from was also indirectly used to maintain border security were used ( see also: Border Troops and the Ministry of State Security ).

Media reception


Golden Bridge ( Jimmy Fell )

Written sources

The Hessian State Archives in Marburg preserve the written records of the Federal Border Police Directorate Mitte (inventory 610). It contains numerous documents on the border, crossings, border traffic and refugees. Most of the holdings have been developed and researched online.

See also


  • Klaus Schroeder / Jochen Staadt (eds.): The victims of the GDR border regime on the inner-German border 1949-1989. A biographical manual. Berlin u. a. 2018, 2nd, edited edition (studies by the SED State Research Association at the Free University of Berlin; Vol. 24), ISBN 978-3-631-74981-4 .
  • Klaus Schroeder / Jochen Staadt (ed.): The limit of socialism in Germany. Everyday life in no man's land. Accompanying volume I to the biographical manual on the victims of the GDR border regime 1949-1989, Berlin a. a. 2018 (Studies by the SED State Research Association at the Free University of Berlin; Vol. 25), ISBN 978-3-631-74236-5 .
  • Ingolf Hermann / Hartmut Rosunger / Karsten Sroka: Lexicon of the inner-German border. The border security system, the consequences and the historical framework of the inner-German border and the Berlin Wall in brief , o. O. 2017, 2nd, heavily changed edition, (series of publications / Citizens Committee of the State of Thuringia; Vol. 20), ISBN 978-3- 932-67719-9 .
  • Jochen Maurer: Stop - state border! Everyday life, service and inside views of the border troops of the GDR . Ch. Links, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-86153-863-9 .
  • Melanie Piepenschneider, Klaus Jochen Arnold (ed.): What was the wall? The establishment of the inner-German border fortifications by the SED regime and its consequences (= handout on political education, volume 7). 2nd revised edition. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung , Sankt Augustin 2013, ISBN 978-3-944015-28-6 ; (PDF).
  • Thomas Schwark, Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann and Carl-Hans Hauptmeyer (eds.): Drawing boundaries - border experiences - border crossing. The inner-German border 1945-1990. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-534-24414-0 .
  • Peter Joachim Lapp : Border regime of the GDR. Helios, Aachen 2013, ISBN 978-3-86933-087-7 .
  • Jürgen Ritter, Peter Joachim Lapp: The limit. A German building. 8th, updated edition, Ch. Links, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86153-560-7 .
  • Hans-Hermann Hertle , Gerhard Sälters: The deaths on the wall and border. Problems of a balance sheet of the GDR border regime. In: Germany Archive 39, Issue 4 (2006), ISSN  0012-1428 , pp. 667-676 ( PDF ).
  • Maren Ullrich, foreword by Ralph Giordano : Divided views: landscape of memories of the German-German border, construction publishing house, Berlin 2006, ISBN 978-3-351-02639-4 (also Diss. Univ. Oldenburg 2006, illustration).
  • Dietmar Schultke (Ed.): The border that divided us. Contemporary witness reports on the inner-German border (=  contributions to peace research and security policy. Volume 23). Köster, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89574-565-0 .
  • Roman Grafe : The border through Germany. A chronicle from 1945 to 1990. Siedler, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-88680-744-4 .
  • Peter Joachim Lapp: Combat service in peace. The border regime of the GDR. Bernard and Graefe, Bonn 1999, ISBN 978-3-7637-5992-7 .
  • Dietmar Schultke: "Nobody gets through". The history of the inner-German border 1945–1990 (=  construction pocket books , volume 8041). Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-7466-8041-7 .
  • Volker Koop: "Destroy the enemy". The border security of the GDR. Bouvier, Bonn 1996, ISBN 978-3-416-02633-8 .
  • Bernd Weisbrod (Ed.): Grenzland. Contributions to the history of the German-German border , Hanover 1993, ISBN 3-7752-5880-9 .
  • Hans-Joachim Fricke , Hans-Joachim Ritzau: The inner-German border and rail traffic. 5th edition supplemented in Part V with corrections and addendum . Time and Railway, Pürgen 2004, ISBN 978-3-921304-45-7 .

Web links

Commons : Inner German border  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Statutory regulations of the GDR

Individual evidence

  1. Even the term border was politically controversial. The length data vary from 1,378 kilometers (see Statistical Yearbook of the German Democratic Republic , 1990 edition, p. 469) to 1,393 kilometers (see  Documents on Germany Policy VI / 4 (1975/76)), Doc. No. 269, chap. II.12, Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-57919-2 , p. 979, limited preview in the Google book search.
  2. So the historical formulation of Hans-Ulrich Wehler : Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte, Vol. 4. From the beginning of the First World War to the founding of the two German states 1914–1949 . CH Beck, Munich 2003.
  3. ^ Wilfried von Bredow: The foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany. An introduction. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-13618-6 , p. 161.
  4. ^ Federal foundation for the coming to terms with the SED dictatorship
  5. a b Hans Michael Kloth: Billion injection for the wall builder in one day . GDR loan. The third man . In: Der Spiegel . No. 39 , 1983, pp. 23 f . ( online - September 26, 1983 ). GDR billion-dollar loan: That's a thing . In: Der Spiegel . No.  47 , 1983, p. 24-27 ( Online - Nov. 21, 1983 ).
  6. ↑ On this and the following: Torsten Diedrich : Die Grenzpolizei der SBZ / DDR . In: ders. (Ed.): In the service of the party. Handbook of the armed organs of the GDR . Links, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-86153-160-7 , pp. 201-223, here 208 ff.
  7. ^ Marie-Luise Scherer : The dog limit . (PDF)
  8. ^ Marie-Luise Scherer: The dog limit . In: Der Spiegel . No. 6 , 1994, pp. 94-115 ( Online - Feb. 7, 1994 ).
  9. Uwe Schmitt: Increased residual risk: 33,000 mines still suspected at the inner-German border . In: Welt Digital , January 11, 2016
  10. “Our museum lottery winner: Point Alpha in Geisa” , ZDF aspekte , The Topics on August 15, 2014.
  11. ^ A b Jürgen Ritter, Peter Joachim Lapp: The border: a German building. Ch. Links Verlag. P. 103.
  12. PPM-2 Anti-personnel blast mine., accessed January 19, 2020 .
  13. Klaus-Dieter Baumgarten Securing the borders from December 1946 to October 1990 - a contribution to the preservation of peace ( Memento of November 20, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  14. Norbert Jachertz: The Charité in the GDR: “It always worked somehow” . Monitoring microphone in the bust. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt (=  A ). Volume 107, No. 40 , October 8, 2010, p. 1910–1911 ( [PDF; accessed on February 17, 2012]).
  15. ^ Matthias Peter: Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany 1977 . Oldenbourg, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-486-58338-0 , p. 11 .
  16. border locks. Retrieved December 20, 2019 .
  17. ^ Norbert Klaus Fuchs: Billmuthausen: the condemned village. Greifenverlag, Rudolstadt / Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86939-004-8 .
  18. ^ MDR: GDR secret: The Probstzella border station. In: . MDR Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, accessed on November 11, 2019 .
  19. 2005-03 Gamma emitters on the inner-German border. Green leaf
  20. Hans Halter: Radiation exposure. There is no escape . In: Der Spiegel . No. 51 , 1994, p. 176-180 ( Online - Dec. 19, 1994 ).
  21. Gerhard Sälter, Johanna Dietrich, Fabian Kuhn: The forgotten dead. Fatalities of the GDR border regime in Berlin from division to the building of the Wall (1948–1961) . Christoph Links, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-86153-933-9
  22. ^ Hans-Hermann Hertle , Maria Nooke (project leader): The victims of the Berlin Wall 1961–1989. A biographical manual . Christoph Links, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-86153-517-1
  23. ^ Rolf Brütting, Michael Epkenhans, Martin Krön, Petra Offergeld, Michael Sauer, Helge Schröder, Martin Thunich, Hartmann Wunderer: History and Events . In: Michael Sauer (ed.): School book history . 1st edition. tape 3 . Ernst Klett Verlag GmbH, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-12-443030-4 , p. 150-251 .
  24. Hans Sauer, Hans-Otto Plumeyer: The Salzgitter Report. The central registration office reports on crimes in the SED state. Munich 1991, ISBN 3-7628-0497-4 .
  25. Marco Zimmermann: Austria - Czechoslovakia: Europe's deadliest border in the Cold War. In: , November 16, 2013.
  26. Stephanie Kirchner: The cross with the wall dead. In: , August 12, 2010.
  27. GDR past SED researchers at the Free University of Berlin expect even more victims from barbed wire and the wall. In: Mitteldeutsche Zeitung , August 12, 2010.
  28. a b
  29. Closest approximation . In: Der Spiegel . No. 20 , 1986, pp. 65-68 ( Online - May 12, 1986 ).
  31. At 19 knots to Warnemünde . In: Die Zeit , No. 41/1976
  32. Strampeln all German , Der Spiegel October 19, 1998
  33. a b Costs of border security in the 1980s (PDF) p. 5
  34. Federal Agency for Civic Education
  35. HStAM: Overview of the inventory "610 Federal Border Police Directorate Middle"  In: Archive Information System Hessen (Arcinsys Hessen).