Queues at Dorndorf/Rhön Border Crossing, 10 November 1989: On Werra Bridge at Vacha [1/4]



November 10 1989
Werra Bridge at Vacha
Created By: Renate Börner

License: Creative Commons License

Driving over Werra Bridge, also known as the "Bridge of Unity", which joins Vacha in Thuringia with Philippsthal in Hesse


barbed wire fence, nature, river


Alexanderplatz demonstration, bank, birthday, border checkpoint, consumption, crowd, fall of the Berlin Wall, identity document, inner German border, joy, merchandize, opening of the border, television, traffic, welcome money


Bridge of German Unity, Philippsthal (Werra), Vacha

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"For several days, we followed events in our country on television. There were mass demonstrations in Leipzig and Berlin. On 4 November 1989, up to a million people gathered on Alexanderplatz in Berlin – it was an uprising. It was so exciting that we did not want to miss a single piece of information. Was the inner-German border truly about to open? The day of this huge demonstration was also my husband's birthday. But there was only one topic at this point. Everybody was enthralled by what was happening.

Then, on 9 November, we heard an announcement on the radio: the border could now be crossed at Herleshausen in Hesse.

10 November. More news on the radio. Now the border was also open between the village of Dorndorf/GDR and Philippsthal/FRG, just a stone's throw from our own neighbourhood. There was no stopping us. We drove to the border checkpoint at Dorndorf (Rhön), which had originally served as an access point to the restricted zone. Cars were queuing up for miles on end. The first piece of information we got was that we were suppose to get a stamp in our ID papers before entering the West. But that was not what happened. The border guards were completely overwhelmed. The next piece of information was that we would be able to get this stamp somewhere on the road between Oberzella and Philippsthal. The line of cars crawled on at a snail's pace. Just before we reached Oberzella, we were told that we could get the stamp at the laundry in Oberzella, and exchange, at a rate of one-to-one, 10 Ostmarks for 10 D-marks per person. And that was just what happened.

We drove on and reached Philippsthal. To our right and left people were on foot. They were faster than we were in our car. We were flanked by pedestrians from the GDR heading towards the West, and others coming towards us, heading to the East. It was a cheerful, exciting bustle. The air was filled with hearty 'hellos'. I had once heard of a place called Bad Hersfeld and that was where we wanted to go. But it was not to be. We made absolutely no progress in our car. We had been on the road for hours already and we still hadn’t got out of Philippsthal. There was also our “welcome money” to think about and we didn’t want to miss out on that. But when we finally got to the other side of Philippsthal, we decided to turn back.

In Philippsthal we came across a Raiffeisenbank. We squeezed our way in as best we could. The whole bank was packed with people. Everybody was there for the same reason. We got our money. Now we wanted to get something to bring home from the West for our children and grandchildren, sweets if possible, which we knew from TV ads. The little grocery we found was almost sold out, but there was enough left to provide a treat for everyone at home. We got back at about eleven o'clock at night after a long, unforgettable, and eventful day."

Renate Börner (Dönges, born 1940)