Hitler’s Mystery Mega-Structures in Central Europe

During the last two years of WWII, the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany was slowly retreating from the eastern front, pushed back by the mighty blows of the Red Army. The bombing runs carried out by the western Allies from airfields in Britain were systematically hitting most urban centers in mainland Germany and over the territory occupied by the Nazis. It is hard to imagine, but it was in the year 1944, when the destiny of Germany was almost sealed, that industrial production in Hitler’s Third Reich reached an all-time record.

At that time the Germans were desperately short of fuel, raw materials and troops, and their production efforts would not spare them from a complete defeat in 1945. Yet it was in the last stages of the war that some of the most ambitious industrial facilities were designed, built and in some cases made operative before the end of the war.

The driver of the design was in most cases the need to move production lines to secluded and well protected areas, difficult to spot and to destroy through air bombing. As a result, these sites were placed far from urban centers. They were also designed to withstand bombing, by putting them underground, or building them with substantial reinforcement, making large use of one of Nazi Germany’s favorite materials – reinforced concrete.

In this chapter two major sites of this kind are described. One is in southwestern Poland, a region which had been part of the German Empire for long before WWII. The second is in eastern Bayern, today one of Federal Germany’s most prosperous states, close to the border with the Czech Republic. Photographs were taken in late summer 2018.

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Sights

Project ‘Riese’, Poland

Construction around this cluster of underground sites started in late 1943, and reportedly lasted until the closing stages of WWII, just days before the Soviets entered the region. The name ‘Riese’ means ‘giant’ in German, and it is surely well suited for this complex, which while far from finished is really striking in size. It was actually composed of at least six major construction sites, which in the intention of their designers should have been developed deeper in the mountains, until a link could be established between them forming a formidable network of tunnels and large halls.

Besides the size and historical meaning of these sites, what makes project ‘Riese’ so fascinating is also the actual purpose of this incredible complex is far from established. Three major theories exist in this respect. The complex might have been intended to be an underground industrial city, a kind of Noah’s Ark for the ‘superior race’ embodied by the top-ranking military and governmental staff of the Reich, or a gigantic secret laboratory for innovative technologies.

What is sure is that the construction was carried out by forced labor, mainly by prisoners of Gross-Rosen concentration camp, just a few miles north of the complex. For the scope, the Nazis created a number of satellite camps next to the entrance of the  construction sites. Rather incredibly, only very scant traces of the project remain in the written records of key figures of Nazi Germany – Albert Speer’s personal diary notably reports some millions marks allocated for project ‘Riese’, and at some point after the war he cited the item resulting from the completion of the construction works, whatever its purpose, as sized to be capable of hosting some tens of thousands people.

Today, six construction sites have been discovered, of which two – Osowka and Rzeczka, the most conspicuous – have been opened to the public, whereas the other are visitable basically for speleologists only.

Osowka

The first visitable site is in the town of Osowka. This site is composed of two parts, one underground with access from the side of a hill, the other close to the top of the same hill.

The underground part can be visited only with a guide. The plant of the completed construction features two accesses, and you will be driven in using the first and out using the other. Between the entrances, the site is mainly composed of an array of parallel tunnels pointing towards the mountain, connected by long halls.

Close to the entrance you can spot a concrete guardhouse with loopholes for machine guns. Some wooden structures like in a mine have been put in place to give an idea of the appearance of the working technique at the time of construction.

Most tunnels have been dug but not reinforced with concrete walls, whereas others are almost complete, showing a peculiar two-level design. The lower level features a smaller section, and the top one a taller, round shaped section.

A feature of the ‘Riese’ complex is a special technique for building the inner concrete coat of the rocky tunnels, producing the distinctive ‘church-ceiling-like’ appearance of some of the halls, with a round shape and frames close to one another.

The Osowka site features also a collection of smaller artifacts, collected from the ground and dating from the construction years, i.e. from late WWII.

Life-size silhouettes of some WWII tanks are on display, to show how the size of these items was totally compatible with the size of the tunnels, in support of a potential use of the site for weapon manufacture.

The outside part, which can be accessed freely, is the most mysterious. At the base of the trail leading uphill you can spot a strange concrete platform, with provision for – possibly – interred pipelines.

Close to the top of the hill you can find a huge concrete platform, with an apparently chaotic ensemble of slots, pipes, handles, stairs and pools. This item has been deemed close in shape to the base of a service building for the valves and pipelines of a power-plant. Theories have flourished in support of the use of this item as a prototype control system for a nuclear power-plant.

The nuclear program of the Nazis, which indeed existed and is even documented to some extent, is shrouded in mystery for what concerns the actual findings obtained during the war. These dark spots are also due to the destruction of most of the hardware connected with the program everywhere in Germany, and with the inherent secret nature of the program itself. No evidence exists of the Osowka site in the public papers about the nuclear studies of the Reich, so the true purpose of this object is likely to remain an unsolved riddle.

Close by this platform, you can find an original concrete building, part of the same construction plan. It is pretty long, with large windows, and likely intended for troops or technical staff.

Rzeczka

Compared to Osowka, this site is more centered on the inside part. Again, there are two entrances, close by a creek on the side of a hill, providing access to a network of tunnels. Similar to Osowka, close by the entrance you can find guard-houses in concrete. These were built soon, possibly for keeping a watch on the forced workers.

The construction works in Rzeczka were less advanced than those in Osowka. Yet thanks to the lack of the concrete coat, you can appreciate the size of the tunnels, some of which are really tall.

There are small collections of artifacts found in the tunnels, and an original concrete room offers a description of all discovered sites of the ‘Riese’ project.

A 1:1 copy of a V-1 German flying bomb has been placed in one of the tunnels, to show the compatibility of the size of this weapon with the tunnel. Such weapons were reportedly assembled in underground facilities elsewhere in Germany.

Visiting is again possible only with a guide. Some multi-media experiences with sounds, lights and voices are included in the tour, but these are not so impressive for those who don’t understand Polish.

On the outside, you can spot some relics from construction years, including trolleys, and concrete slabs watermarked with symbols of the local construction companies tasked with the practical realization of the site. There is also a copy of a V-2 rocket, operative in the last months of WWII but little effective in changing the fate of Nazi Germany.

Getting there and moving around

As pointed out, the sites connected with project ‘Riese’ are many, but most of them are not visitable unless to specialists and with the help of a speleologist. On the other hand, the two sites of Osowka and Rzeczka are professionally operated as primary tourist attractions. The distance from these two sites is about 20 minutes by car, so you can surely arrange the tour of both sites on the same day, with much spare time in your daily schedule.

At Osowka you can find a large parking and a fully equipped visitor center, where you can book a guided tour, or join a departing one – the only way to get inside. Please note that the number of people admitted on each tour is relatively small, so I would suggest booking at least one day in advance through their website (partly also in English) to be sure to get a place at the time you like. They offer several different tours. The most complete include a visit to a part of the underground site which can only be accessed by boat. This is given only on some days by reservation, and only for groups. The standard tour of the inside is offered several times a day.

The guided may turn out really boring, cause you are provided an audio-guide in English with explanations lasting a couple of minutes for each of the circa ten stops, in face of the Polish-speaking guide talking about 5 minutes per site. You may try to spend your spare time taking good pictures, but even though groups are relatively small, they tend to obstruct the view inside, leaving poor chances for acceptable shots. Furthermore, lighting is not very good, so a tripod would be recommended, except you don’t have the time and chance for undisturbed long poses. Therefore, if you are interested in top-level pictures, you would better arrange a dedicated tour out of the normal touristic offer. Otherwise, you’d better go prepared to a difficult visit.

The outside part of the site is less frequented and more rewarding. It can be reached in about ten minutes following a pretty steep, unpaved trail in the trees. This part is unfenced and unguarded.

The Rzeczka site has only an inside part, which can be visited only on a guided tour. You can join one of the frequent tours they provide even without reservation. There is a small visitor center and plenty of parking space. Similar to Osowka, the guide will speak in Polish, and you are provided an audio-guide in English. The visit lasts less than in the case of Osowka, and the audio-guide explanations are more proportionate to the speech of the Polish-speaking guide, making for a more enjoyable visit. The multi-media experiences are of little relevance for non Polish-speaking people. Outside you can find also some panels with explanations on the history of the site in both Polish and English. Website with some info in English here.

The tunnels in Rzeczka are poorly lighted too, so photographing will be difficult unless with a tripod, but the conditions are not very favorable for operating with a tripod – many people around and short times between stops along the tour.

‘Weingut I’ Aviation Industry Complex, Germany

The giant complex known as ‘Weingut I’, the original codename attributed by the Nazi staff at the time of its design and construction, is the direct result of a plan to relocate all major industrial production lines of the Reich to protected areas, far from the line of the front and from any major urban center. In this particular case, the new factory was intended to shelter the production line of the new Junkers Jumo 004 jet engines for the ‘Schwalbe’ – also known as Messerschmitt Me-262, this was the first jet fighter in the world to be pushed into service, back in 1944.

The huge factory was designed based on a basic module made of a reinforced concrete arch, some 250 ft open, 100 ft tall and 10 to 15 ft thick. This item was to be built on site and partly buried under ground level. Twelve such modules were needed for the complete hangar, with a total intended length of the factory of around 1.200 ft. Of the planned twelve sections, seven were actually built between mid-1944 and the end of the war.

Despite the intended scope was that of hiding the factory to protect it from aerial reconnaissance, due to the size of the construction works the object was reportedly spotted by US aircraft, but not attacked. Actually, the special construction was tested against explosives by the US Army after the war, resulting in the collapse of all modules except one, which is still standing today besides the pretty sizable relics of the others.

The site is not actively guarded, but it is located in a regional nature preserve, so access is through a nice walk in the trees. Once next to the hangar you can find multiple access points.

Close to the main arch, the only one still standing, it is possible to find an explanatory panel in German only. It commemorates also the forced laborers from the nearby concentration camps, who had to take part substantially in the construction works.

Walking under the arch is at your own risk, cause despite the bulky appearance of the structure, smaller pieces of concrete are hanging from from the ceiling. However, a walk inside will give you the most striking impression of the size of the hangar.

Just nearby the remaining module to the west you can find a walkable, half interred bunker, likely with a technical function which is today hard to imagine.

The module still standing today is the westernmost of the hangar, so walking east you will have the chance to step on the roof of the demolished modules. A number of thick iron rods can be spot at ground level.

Walking along the former southern side of the hangar, you can spot a deep well, probably part of the construction strategy. It may have been used to take out the gravel from beneath the base of the arches to lower them to a rest position on more compact ground.

Along the same side you can find a way to walk below the fallen structure. You can also get a view of the edge of one of the modules.

The eastern end of the complex is probably the most hazardous, cause you find an unprotected concrete cliff a good 10 ft high, constituted by the edge of a fallen module.

All in all, the place is a nice example of the undeniable structural design abilities of the German military, really interesting to visit both from a technical viewpoint and as a witness of the utopian visions of the Nazis, which unfortunately cost the lives of many.

Getting there and moving around

Reaching the trail-head is very easy by car. Leaving Mühldorf am Inn for Waldkraiburg along the road St2352, about 0.5 miles south of the crossing with St2550 you will find a sizable gravel factory to your right, preceded by an unpaved road taking west in the trees. You can park on the unpaved road on the northern side of the factory – probably a heir of the original factory built to feed the construction works of the hangar.

From there, you should take the unpaved trail into the trees, closed to vehicle traffic. It is another 0.5 miles to the site, on a flat and easy trail. A quick scan of the Google map will allow you to plan the trip. The place is not remote, cell phones work and you may use a virtual map to get oriented on site. Visiting might take about 2 hours for a very interested subject, including the trip from the parking and back, plus all time needed for pictures .

The German Inner Border – GDR vs. FRG

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The Berlin Wall is widely known as one of the most emblematic symbols of the Cold War – a materialization of the ‘Iron Curtain’. The Wall – at least in its preliminary stage – was erected almost overnight in August 1961 by the Government of the GDR (‘German Democratic Republic’, or ‘DDR’ in German), and later developed into a complex and virtually impenetrable dividing barrier with fortifications, multiple fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, watchdogs, mines, truck stopping bars and other devices, isolating the part of Berlin attributed to the US, Britain and France from the Soviet occupation zone.

This monster, which caused many people to lose their lives, or forced them to risk everything – and leave everything behind – in the pursue of freedom, remained in place and was steadily updated until its triumphal demolition in November 1989.

What is less known is that the reason for building the Wall was the urge of the GDR to stop emigration towards West Germany (‘FRG’, Federal Republic of Germany, or ‘BRD’ in German) and the free world. Actually, the Wall was built following a massive emigration wave from the harsh living conditions of the GDR, taking place during the Fifties and mounting until the Wall was built. Literally millions of people fled the regions occupied by the Soviets from the end of WWII in 1945 until 1961.

Consequently, blocking the border only in the city of Berlin would have been nonsense. As a matter of fact, at the same time as the construction of the Wall begun, the government of the GDR started one of the most gigantic ‘border-armoring’ operations in history, by ordering fortification of the whole border line between East and West Germany. The Berlin Wall was actually only the tip of the iceberg, as all the more than 800 miles long border line between East and West Germany, extending from the Baltic Sea to Bavaria and the Czech border, was blocked with the same level of restraining techniques deployed in Berlin, to the explicit aim of preventing people from crossing the fence and going East to West. For the Communist government, East Germany had to be reconfigured basically as a nationwide prison.

This incredible operation, which engaged thousands border troops and tons of equipment, plus required continuous updates of the patrolling technologies, was reportedly so expensive that it contributed effectively to the collapse of the economy of the GDR. It crystallized the so-called ‘Inner Border’ between the two German republics, which had existed since 1945, but had never been so deadly. After the introduction of this strict border patrolling policy the number of people killed or wounded, and of those arrested because trying to cross the border, increased steadily until the re-opening of the border, following rapidly after the demolition of the Wall in Berlin in 1989.

Berlin is today an enjoyable city, full of interesting places to visit and things to do, and its urban configuration, so strikingly bound to the Wall and its history – unlike all other capital cities in Europe, Berlin is lacking a true ‘city center’ – with the passing of time is becoming more uniform. Differences between the two sides, once obvious, now tend to vanish, at least in the most seen parts of the city, with new buildings, fashionable shops and malls, stately hotels and governmental buildings rising where once the Wall had created barren flat areas, not restored for long from the ruins of WWII. Obviously, nothing bad in this process, which also makes Berlin one of the most lively places in Europe in terms of architecture.

The grim atmosphere of the Cold War years can still be breathed in many places in town especially in the former East Berlin, but even close to the few memorials of the Wall scattered over the urban territory it’s hard to imagine how it really felt like being there when the border could not be crossed. If you want more evocative places, you should look somewhere else.

In this sense, the preserved border checkpoints and portions of the fortified Inner Border are much more evocative, and constitute a very vivid, albeit little known, fragment of memory, inviting you to think about the monstrous effects of ideology and dictatorship. All along the former border, especially in the southern regions of the former GDR, you can still spot large areas spoiled of trees, where once the border fences run. Scattered watchtowers are not an unusual sight in these areas, even though many have been demolished immediately after dismantling the border. In some focal places, often corresponding to former checkpoints where important roads crossed the border, the fences have been totally preserved or just slightly altered, for keeping historical memory.

The following photographs were taken during an exploration of some of these sites in summer 2015, winter 2016 and summer 2021. The exposition follows a southern-northern direction along the former Inner Border.

Map

The following map shows the location of the sites described below. For some sites you can zoom in close to the pinpointed positions on the map to see more detailed labels. Directions to reach all the sites listed are provided section by section. The list is not complete, but refers to the sites I have personally visited. Border sites in Berlin are not included.

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Mödlareuth

Getting there

Mödlareuth is actually the name of a small village placed along the former Inner Border between Bavaria and Thuringia. The site is not difficult to reach by car, a 4 miles detour from highway N.9, going from Munich to Berlin. Just proceed to the village of Modlareuth, which is dominated by the ‘Deutsch-Deutsches Museum Mödlareuth’ (website here). This encompasses an open-air exhibition of the former border area, plus an indoor exhibition with patrolling vehicles, artifacts, videos and temporary exhibitions. Large free parking on site.

For photographing purposes, I would suggest approaching from the south, from the village of Parchim via H02. Mödlareuth is located in a natural basin surrounded by low hills, and the H02 proceeds downhill to the site, allowing for a perfect view of the former border area.

Sights

Most of the Inner Border once run in rural areas. In that case, ‘only’ double fences, dogs, watchtowers, truck-stopping grooves and mines were ok. In the less common cases when the border crossed or passed close to villages, something similar to what had happened in Berlin was replicated on a smaller scale, and a further fortification layer in the form of a tall concrete wall, was put in place.

This happened also in Mödlareuth, where the small village was split in two parts by a wall, gaining to this town the nickname of ‘Little Berlin’. The place was rather famous in the West before 1989, and it was visited also by vice-president Bush in the years of the Reagan administration.

As here one of the relatively few local roads not cut by the Inner Border was left, the village was also place for a border checkpoint for cars.

The open air exhibition showcases what remains of the wall – the most of it was demolished restoring the original, pre-war geography of the town -, as well as a full section of the border protection system and checkpoint. Looking from the West, you had first the real geographical border, coinciding with a creek as it was typical. Beyond it, poles with warning signs and distinctive concrete posts painted in black, red and yellow stripes (the colors of the German flag) with a metal placard bearing the emblem of the GDR. These signs had existed since the inception of the inner border to mark it, and date from older times than the other border devices. Then followed the wall. Behind it, a corridor for walking/motorized patrols and a fence. Then you had a groove in the ground, reinforced with concrete, capable of stopping a truck or a car pointing westwards from the GDR. An area of flattened sand followed next, to mark the footsteps of people approaching the border area. In different times, mines were placed in a much alike sand strip. Then followed a final fence.

Except for the wall, the above description applies with slight variants to all the length of the Inner Border.

The net used for the fences was very stiff and conceived to avoid fingers passing through, this way making climbing very difficult.

A peculiar aspect of the wall in Modlareuth is a small door in it. That was a service door for border patrols, used to access the area between the border line in the middle of the creek and the wall itself, for servicing or arresting Westerners. This happened more than once, not only here – as a matter of fact, walking past the border from the West was as easy as walking past the little creek where the border line passed. This was in all respects entering the GDR, even though the fortification line was about 30 feet further into the East. When this happened you could expect to be rapidly arrested and kept for interrogation before eventually being released in most cases. Servicing, like cutting trees and so on, in the strip between the wall and the real border was reportedly a task for very enthusiastic Communist troops, as escaping to the West from there was again as easy as a leaping past a narrow creek…

The road crossing the border in Mödlareuth is not active any more and is part of the open air exhibition. Actually the former customs house hosts the ticket office. Along the former road it is possible to observe an example of car stopping devices and original ‘stop’ and ‘no-trespassing’ signs.

The area was dominated by watchtowers. There are two in Mödlareuth, one original and inaccessible, the other probably cut in height. Both are of a relatively recent model, with a distinctive round section.

Going to the two main buildings of the museum it is possible to find other interesting items, including models of the site, and pieces of hardware like a sample of the standard border wall, and a vehicle stopping device able to cut the road in a matter of a second at a short notice.

A large depot hosts many vehicles – armored vehicles, 4×4, trucks, and even a helicopter – once part of the border patrols of the GDR, and also of the FRG. Forces of the latter did monitor the border, but as the problem was mainly with the GDR in trying to keep its citizens back, the FRG forces were as substantial as it is usual for a border between states.

There are also original road signs and warning signs, including some in English for US troops.

Finally, the museum offers a well-made 15 minutes documentary, played in English on request, with the history of the Inner Border and of the wall in Mödlareuth, with video recordings from the past which really add to the perception of how the place used to work, and show what it meant for the local population – families split overnight and for decades, as it was the case in Berlin.

When I visited in 2015 the temporary exhibition was unfortunately only in German.

There are information panels scattered all around the village providing an opportunity to better compare today’s village with how it was before 1989.

Leaving to the north-west towards Thuringia along K310, it is possible to spot a part of the most external border fence which has been preserved out of the village. You can walk freely along it. Still in Modlareuth, in the parking of the exhibition a Soviet tank still occupies one of the parking lots.

I would recommend this place for a visit, it is convenient to reach and extremely interesting for the general public as well as for the most committed specialist. Visiting may take from half an hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on your pace and level of interest. The countryside nearby is lovely and relaxing. The site is fully accessible and well prepared, with many explanatory information. It may be a bit crowded, as people mostly from Germany are visiting it in flocks… yet visiting is very evocative and rewarding.

Eisfeld-Rottenbach

Getting there

The Eisfeld site can be reached easily from highway N.73, less than .5 miles from exit Eisfeld-Süd. Actually, the highway didn’t exist at the time of the GDR, and the corresponding traffic ran on what is today Coburger Strasse. The very location of the former border checkpoint is today taken by a gas station, serving the highway traffic.

On site, you can still find the ‘Gedenkstätte Innerdeutsche Grenze Eisfeld-Rottenbach’, hosted in the original control tower for the border checkpoint. The tower can be visited as an automated museum, meaning that entrance is possible by putting a few coins in an automatic system to unlock the door. Despite being automated, the museum has hours of operations.

Sights

The Eisfeld site is similar to the one in Eussenhausen (see later), being the location of a former border crossing point. Actually, this checkpoint was built in a relatively later stage in the life of the inner border in 1973, to decrease congestion on major crossing points then in existence.

The highway today running nearby was not there in the Cold War years, hence the relatively smaller road running today into the service area and gas station now taking the place of the former checkpoint, used to be a major road linking the FRG and GDR near Eisfeld.

Of course, having been turned into a service station, the original function of the place is somewhat deceived. However, the control tower greeting you when approaching from the south betrays the original identity of this facility.

The control tower was there to oversee and keep a constant watch on border control and customs operations, taking place on the several vehicle lanes beneath. Today, it is home to a very interesting exhibition on the topic.

Most of the exhibition is centered on pictures from the time of construction, operation and final dismantlement. These are very evocative of the bygone era of the Iron Curtain.

On the top floor, a scale model of the former border crossing facility can be found. This is extremely interesting to understand the general arrangement of the site, and how traffic flows used to be managed on site. The normal access road from the FRG was interrupted by a preliminary checkpoint, giving access to the control area. Vehicles were split in multiple parallel queues for the official check. The lanes then rejoined and access to the GDR was via a normally-sized road. Basically the same happened in the opposite direction.

Stopping gear for emergency – conceived especially to stop fleeing vehicles – was located in several points, as well as fences all around the area, with watchtowers and more usual stopping systems for men and vehicles. Garrisons and booths were abundant too.

Most of this has gone today, except maybe some of the buildings of the service station, recycled from a different function.

The control tower is the most conspicuous remain, together with some pieces of the Berlin wall, clearly not from here, but located here for remembrance. Visiting the small museum – unfortunately with descriptions in German only – may take about 45 minutes. Website here.

Gompertshausen

Getting there

The memorial can be found on the local road connecting Gompertshausen (Thuringia) to Alsleben (Bavaria). Parking opportunities on site.

Sights

The memorial Grenzdenkmal Gompertshausen is centered on an early-generation watchtower. The place was unlikely associated to a crossing point, and it is possible that the local road, now passing right besides the tower, was cut in the days of the GDR.

The memorial cannot be toured unless by appointment. However, its location in the middle of a peaceful agricultural area is rather suggestive of the grim atmosphere of the bygone oppressive communist regime.

Close to the tower, a portion of the fence has been preserved, similarly to the access to an interesting underground facility – with a function which is today hard to guess from outside. A ventilation pipe is clearly visible in the premises, likely connected with this facility.

Not far from the tower, in the village of Gompertshausen, an attentive eye can spot a (likely) former garrison of the border guards, now in a state of disrepair.

Behrungen

Getting there

Unlike some more prominent museums on this page, the ‘Freilandmuseum Behrungen’ open-air exhibition is not associated to a border crossing point. Actually, the public road giving access to the memorial runs parallel to it. Access is very easy driving from the village of Behrungen (Thuringia, former GDR) along Röhmilder Strasse, leaving the town heading east. The memorial can be found to the south of the road roughly 1 mile from the town. A first part of the memorial is a small preserved portion of the fence line, very close to the road. From there you can spot the watchtower. You can approach the latter by car, driving on the original service road, and park right ahead of it.

Visiting the watchtower is rarely possible. However, you can move around the area and cross the border with a short walk on a trail, to get good pictures anyway. The surroundings of the preserved part are in the middle of a natural preserve, making the visit a possible stop when wandering in this very nice area.

Sights

The installation in Behrungen is basically a preserved section of the original border in the deep countryside, not corresponding to any crossing point. The focal point in the exhibition is an early-type watchtower, which has been restored and hosts a small exhibition, seldom open unless by appointment. The detection sensors on top of the tower are still there, as well as the communication antennas.

A service road with the original prefabricated concrete slabs can departs from the tower.

As usual in the structure of the border barrier of the GDR, the tower was in the middle of an interdicted strip, between two fence lines – one towards the GDR (north of the tower in this case) and one towards the FRG (to the south of the tower).

Two little portions of the inner fence line have been preserved, and can be seen quite apart from one another along the public road coming from Behrungen.

Besides one of the two fence traits, a smaller concrete shooting turret can be seen. Turrets like this, often covered in camo coat, can be found in a high number all along the line of the former inner border.

A big portion of the outer fence, south of the tower, is also visible in this exhibition. Running along it, a vehicle stopping moat made of concrete slabs is clearly visible still today.

In the vicinity of this fence, a mine was found by chance as recently as 2001. A commemoration stone was put in place, to stress how the monstrosity of the wall left a long-lasting and unwanted inheritance for the local population and visitors as well.

Unlike in the Cold War years, you can now cross this border, heading south into Bavaria. The original striped concrete post and white signals, showing the actual line of the border – south from the monstrous fence – are still there.

Further south, you can find the original ‘Stop’ line put in place by FRG authorities, with prohibition signs and an explanation of the rules in the border area dating from 1989. This rules were very tricky, especially for the fact that getting past the line marked by the posts, without even reaching to the fence, was already a border violation. This was something that could happen for Westerners just by mistake, but would trigger capture, interrogation and possibly fines by the GDR border control police.

The silent and peaceful area of the Behrungen site makes for a thought-provoking stop along the former inner border.

Eußenhausen

Getting there

The open-air exhibition of the ‘Grenzmuseum Eussenhausen’ can be reached along the St2445, roughly 1.5 miles north of the small village of Eussenhausen in Bavaria. Crossing the border with Thuringia, the road changes its name into L3019, and the closest village is Henneberg, about 1 mile north of the inner border. The exhibition is arranged on a former apron of the border control area, slightly uphill, but fairly accessible for the general public, and with a large parking ahead. The exhibition is open-air and arguably accessible 24/7 for free.

As of 2021, the large border control area on the GDR side of the border line (i.e. in Thuringia) is basically abandoned and severely damaged. For relic- and ghost-place-hunters or like-minded people, this can also be toured, and makes for an evocative sight. A dedicated parking is not available in the vicinity of this former facility, hence parking close to the official memorial is recommended.

Sights

This border museum is located on a former border crossing point between and the GDR and FRG, likely opened similar to other checkpoints in the 1970s, to reduce the traffic jams created by border controls on major transit arteries. Today, the site is composed of three parts, two of which are officially for visitors, and the latter an abandoned site.

The first and most significant part of the site is made of the (arguably) original road giving access to the large control area. The original external fence of the GDR border area can still be seen along the sides of the road, as well as the original external gate.

It is likely that this area was originally intended for a kind of pre-check of vehicles, heading inside the GDR from the West. Today, the area has been converted into an exhibition of a wide array of stopping mechanisms and control booths once in place in the area of the border checkpoint.

Among the most striking items are one of the closing bars moving on a rail, and pushed by a still visible hydraulic actuator. The mass of the bar allowed to stop heavy traffic, and hydraulic power allowed for a very quick closure. This item was likely transferred here from the eastern side of the checkpoint, since similar stopping gear was intended to prevent GDR citizens fleeing the country.