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Border opening Rudolphstein/Hirschberg, 9 and 10 November 1989: Border guard by the border fence near Heinersgrün [23/42]

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November 17 1989
Heinersgrün (Saxony)/Töpen (Bavaria) border crossing, A 72
Created By: Berthold Flessa

License: Creative Commons License

Depicts

border fence, border guard, group of people, inner German border, Trabant (car), truck

Context

autobahn, celebration, inner German border, joy, opening of the border, traffic, welcome gift

People/Organizations

Border Troops of the GDR

Places

Heinersgrün, Heinersgrün border crossing, Töpen

Other items in this set

Memory

"The Bavarian side of the Frankenwald motorway services made for an unusual picture, namely the West German car spaces were filled with East German Trabis and Wartburgs. The Bavarian Red Cross had put up tents so that they could hand out warm drinks to the East Germans. Many had heard about the border opening on the radio or on television and upon leaving work had driven straight across the until recently inviolable border to Rudolphstein. After a short stay they returned to the GDR to recount the wonder of the border opening to relatives and friends. Complete strangers embraced one another with tears in their eyes. National and international press and TV crews were on site to report about this extraordinary happening. The first hours following the opening of the border were simply unforgettable.

On the next day, 11 November, the great charge towards the West began. Endless columns of cars from the GDR headed south at a snails pace. The Rudolphstein motorway services got hopelessly overcrowded; cars were even parked on the motorway because people from the GDR were collecting their 'welcome money' from the motorway services post office.
A blue cloud of smog, caused by the Trabi or Wartburg two-stroke engines, hung over the motorway, making it difficult for some West Germans to breathe. Hundreds of people stood waving excitedly on the bridges and on the motorway to greet the new arrivals with small tokens. The months to come were characterised by cars crawling towards Bayreuth, Bamberg and Nürnberg in the morning and back towards the East in the late afternoon. At times the traffic jams heading back to the GDR stretched as far back as Bayreuth.

A border opening was planned on the A 722 road near Heinersgrün so as to ease congestion on the Rudolphstein border crossing. And as a result, the Federal Government entered into intense negotiations with the GDR regime about re-opening this section to traffic. The one-way A 722 road had been closed to public traffic between the Bavarian-Saxon border and the Töpen junction since 1951. Only agricultural traffic made use of some parts of the former motorway's section which had long been relegated to history.
The order to re-open this stretch to traffic came through on 14 November. Different measures had to immediately be put in place in order for this section of road to open again. (…) The Münchberg motorway maintenance authorities demonstrated how this type of construction work could be done quickly. Under the management of Heinz Ringlein, work began with 25 men, six lorries, four unimogs and road sweepers, as well as 25 people from the Spörl company in Hadermannsgrün who used three excavators, three rollers, a road sweeper and a lorry.

The then Bavarian governor, Max Streibl, and Secretary of State, Gauweiler, visited the construction site on 15 November to see how work was progressing. Everything was going according to plan. At around 3.30 in the afternoon on 17 November, a radio announcement said that it was now possible to enter the sovereign territory of the GDR. The blue and white tollgate was dismantled and work on clearing the area up to the metal palings started. After midnight and with the help of countless spotlights, the GDR border police dismantled the metal fence along a stretch of 30 metres. After having worked on it day and night, the A 722 was finally rendered traffic-worthy by around 6 pm on Saturday, 19 November 1989 and could be opened to traffic the following day.

On Sunday 19 November 1989, Federal Minister, Dr. Jürgen Warnke, Karl-Marx-Stadt district council vice-chairman, Joachim André, and Bavarian Secretary of State, Dr. Peter Gauweiler cut the ribbon and in a historical moment, opened the motorway. After 38 years, a car was once again seen on this road. Several of the drivers that followed handed out Christmas biscuits to people standing watching from the side of the road."

Berthold Flessa

(Extract from Berthold Flessa, Helmut Goller: Die Geschichte der Autobahn 1934 bis 2000. Abschnitt Autobahndreieck Bayreuth/Kulmbach bis Landesgrenze Thüringen/Sachsen. 5, Arbeitskreis Stadtgeschichte, Münchberg 2000)

Original Caption

"NVA (National People's Army) troops observe the goings-on on the West side."