Car accident at the newly opened GDR border, Lichtentanne, January 6, 1990: Car accident at the inner German border [1/4]



January 6 1990
Lichtentanne (near Probstzella)
Created By: Hans Dieter Kiemle

License: Creative Commons License


car, group of people, snow, street


border guard, border installations, escape, inner German border, prohibited area, victim of the Berlin Wall


Lichtentanne, Probstzella

Other items in this set


“It is Epiphany Day (a public holiday in some German states) and after a successful East-West jazz convention in Saalfeld we drive to the border for a stroll. Our host, filled with relief and joy wants to show us the beautiful countryside in the hitherto inaccessible prohibited area. It is slippery with snow and the narrow and neglected streets have not been gritted. A car coming the other way, from the West, crashes into us. It must surely be the first accident of this kind here, just beyond the security fence and alongside a watchtower. No-one is hurt; just some minimal car body damage.

A local turns up wearing farmers’ clothes claiming to be a traffic policeman, a former member of the border facility forces. Everyone is easy-going and friendly to one another. Eventually, the East German border troops’ ABV [Absnittsbevollmächtigter] (community policeman) arrives, a man who had been feared until now by GDR fugitives as a master of life and death. He courteously introduces himself with a handshake and asks about what has happened. It’s all conceivably straightforward to him; as the antagonists are both West German, they ought to come to an arrangement themselves, which they then peacefully do. There’s an awful lot of photographing going on and all of this would have been inconceivable a few months ago.

I ask the ‘ABV’ about the border facility. He readily explains how the security system was set up to function: Every day, the 5m wide pebbled path along the fence was smoothed so that tracks could be found in time. If anyone still climbed over the fence and cut the barbed wire (made of Swedish steel!) then their exact location would be indicated by signal lights inside the watchtower. A major alarm would then be activated – leaving escapees without a chance. On top of all that, the border fence would then be illuminated as bright as day, leaving the nearby villagers without electricity, something they had to put up with regularly. This fiendishly perfect system was the reason why ultimately, only border guards attempted flight, something even most of them paid for with their lives.”

Hans Dieter Kiemle