From the death strip to the lifeline - Green Belt
Watchtowers, border fences, mine systems, free field of vision and shooting range, dog patrols - the GDR's western border was as well secured as hardly any other border in the world.
From the death strip to the lifeline - Green Belt offers nature experiences on the former border
It was less important to defy the class enemy on the other side than to block the way for one's own citizens. 14 people lost their lives in the Prignitz border section alone trying to leave the GDR. The 21-year-old Hans-Georg Lemme from Groß Breese near Wittenberge made it to the middle of the river in 1974 before the propeller of a guard boat caught him. The skipper was acquitted after the turn for lack of evidence.
Fortunately, nature survived. Without a border, the Elbe might today be canalized just like the Rhine. As part of the “Green Belt” along the former zone border, the Elbe offers rare animal and plant species a protected habitat in the Elbe-Brandenburg River Landscape Biosphere Reserve. By relocating the dike at the so-called “Böse Ort”, a regularly flooded meadow wilderness has been created on over 400 hectares. The four-country corner Elbe-Altmark-Wendland is one of the three model regions of the “Green Belt Experience” project funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and funds from the Federal Environment Ministry, which makes the fascinating natural treasures that were able to develop along the former inner-German border tangible. Three watchtowers, model buildings made of precast concrete parts, which the GDR border troops used as observation points, have stood the test of time. Two of them are under monument protection and are open to tourists.
Watchtowers on the Elbe dike:
Lenzen - right by the ferry, walk-in observation tower
Gandow - on the old dike, visits by arrangement on guided tours through the meadow wilderness
Cumlosen - not accessible
Bike tours to the Borderline experience
For brains and bums: east-west bike tour with a history stop - The borderland tour
Rather in the middle of the 52 km long borderland tour with start and finish in Wittenberge is Schnackenburg, spoken with a long a. Schnackenburg is the smallest and at the same time easternmost town in Lower Saxony and has another special feature: the Grenzlandmuseum. It is not surprising that people in this particular place in West Germany wanted a house of remembrance: A look at one of the large maps on the ground floor of the museum shows how close the border to the GDR, in the water and on the land, people are must have shaped here - Schnackenburg was virtually “surrounded” by the GDR in the northeastern tip of Lower Saxony.
Wendland and Prignitz travelers will find a piece of border fence at the original height of 3.20 m with a replica of a self-firing system on the first floor of the half-timbered house at the mouth of the Aland. Display boards illustrate the history of the elaborately designed structure of the security strip. The original “Russian stake” on the ground floor is a rarity. This type of border post in the colors red for the Soviet Union and blue for Great Britain marked the border between the zones of war winners from 1945 onwards.
If you want to know which journeys the approximately 5,000 museum visitors accept each year, you should have a good time looking at the map in the staircase with hundreds of pins.
Also worth seeing
Lanz is the birthplace of the gymnastics father Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. He was an important educator and writer of the early 19th century. The memorial in the small school is practically on the route of the Grenzlandtour.
Boundless beauty - foresight on the Lenzerwische Tour
Lenzerwische is the name given to the stretch of water between Löcknitz and Elbe. The well-secured border to the class enemy shaped the landscape here for 40 years. Today it is a cyclist's paradise. The residents of the Elbe villages led a life under constant observation, from 1972 the expanded metal fence also massively clouded the view of the Elbe.
The villages behind the dike are small: many abandoned farms have been demolished. The fact that the Kietz Church, which was wonderfully situated on a mound and formerly in the restricted area, still exists is thanks to the courageous actions of the residents: in 1999 they founded a support association for the church with the ailing roof structure, and the Kietz Church was completely open again on Christmas Eve. The Tietz family is happy to receive from the project in the “Café Kietz - Zur Alten Wecksternburg”. In the “Alter Hof am Elbdeich” in Unbesanten, searchers not only expect excellent food, but also the only opportunity to see the border fence. A photograph shows the depressing scenery on the dike.
In Mödlich, the fence material, which had become superfluous in 1989, was treated pragmatically: The expanded metal was suitable for a variety of purposes. In the “Café Elbeglück” a piece of it is in front of the house. As a doormat.
Café zur alten Wencksternburg
19309 Lenzerwische / Gemeindeteil Kietz
Hiking tours to the border experience
Circular hiking trail meadow experience
Alluvial forests in the middle of the water and a fascinating variety of rare water birds - this is how a piece of lively river landscape is presented to you right outside the gates of the city of Lenzen. Discover the meadow wilderness on a 14-kilometer hiking tour over the Elbe dike and a former ferry dam. Depending on the season, the thousandfold concert of frogs and toads determines the air, the call of wild geese, the trumpeting of the cranes or the melancholy melody of the whooper swans. If you want to experience river nature up close, you've come to the right place: where the Elbe dike was relocated in recent years to give the Elbe back lost floodplains, a unique habitat for many rare plants and animals was created on 400 hectares. From the elevated Elbe dike you get fascinating insights into the new meadow wilderness. The “Auenblick” observation stand invites you to linger and stow.
Overcoming boundaries: history in the river - Ilka connects what belongs together
A ferry connection between Lütkenwisch and Schnackenburg has been handed down to the beginning of the 17th century. In 1945 “the Russian” violently put an end to ferry traffic - getting to the other side was impossible from then on cause the inner-German border ran right in the middle of the river. After the fall of the Wall, the Schnackenburger Klaus Reineke bought a ferry in Holland in 1991. Since September 7, 1991, Ilka has been connecting what belongs together again.
Within the first eleven months, Reineke personally took over all shifts and witnessed countless emotional moments: people fell around their necks and did not want to let go of each other. Business flourished, and the need to step onto the sorely missed other shore was enormous. A memorial was erected during his lifetime to the skilled inland skipper and later customs officer who was born during the war: at the Schnackenburg ferry terminal, a not to be overlooked sign reminds of the abolition of the inhuman separation of a continent.
The Ilka runs daily, provided the water level is right. With a little luck you can see Klaus Reineke, who has been retired since 2004, as a temporary helper at the wheel in the summer months.
Lütkenwisch-Schnackenburg ferry service
May 1st to August 31st
6 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sat / Sun from 8 a.m.
September 1st to April 30th
6 a.m. - 7.30 p.m., Sat / Sun from 8 a.m.
You can also go on a bike tour:
Ferry service Pevestorf-Lenzen
Also worth seeing
Arrived in Wendland, just a minute's walk from the Schnackenburg pier, is the Grenzlandmuseum. A piece of border fence with a self-firing system and countless exhibits keep the memory of 40 years of the inner-German border alive. Just ten minutes away by bike, the Stresow memorial is reminiscent of the village of the same name, which was completely wiped out in 1974 by the GDR state authorities as part of the “Aktion Ungeziefer”.