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We were on our way to a large Flea Market in Germany when we crossed "Checkpoint Harry" which was once a border crossing point into the former Eastern Germany. We realised that we took our freedom for granted, so we stopped for a while and had a photo shoot, as we thought it would make a great little addition to our adventures page.

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During World War II, at the Potsdam Conference in 1945, the victorious countries France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to divide Germany into four parts. Each country controlled a part of former Germany.
East Germany was situated in the centre of territory that once belonged to Germany, the place was known historically as "Mitteldeutschland" Middle Germany. In the face of the German defeat, the victors decided at the Yalta Conference that post-war borders of Poland will be moved westwards to the Oder-Neisse line, just as Soviet borders were also moved westward into former Polish territory. Middle Germany thus became the new East Germany or the GDR DDR in German.

When in 1949 the three sectors controlled by the United States, the United Kingdom and France united and formed the Federal Republic of Germany "West Germany" the Soviet part was made its own country, the German Democratic Republic, or "East Germany". East Germany was heavily under the influence of the Soviet Union, becoming a Stalinist-style socialist country, and part of the Warsaw Pact. The first leader of the new state was Walter Ulbricht. The East German Constitution defined the country as "a Republic of Workers and Peasants".  Just as Germany was divided after the war, Berlin, the former capital, of Germany was divided into four sectors. Since Berlin was entirely enclosed in the Soviet part of Germany, the areas of Berlin being held under the control of the three western countries soon became known as West Berlin. Conflict over the status of West Berlin led to the Berlin Airlift.

The increasing prosperity of West Germany and growing political oppression in the East led large numbers of East Germans to flee to the West. The increasing depopulation in the GDR caused the political leadership to order the borders closed, with fences, turrets, dogs and most of all huge walls which included the Berlin Wall, in 1961. The Stasi spied extensively on the citizens to suppress dissenters. Competition with the West was carried also on the sport level. East German athletes were sure winners in several Olympic disciplines. Of special interest was the only football match ever between West and East Germany: In the world championship of 1974, which took place in West Germany, East beat West 1-0. West Germany, though, won the tournament.

When East Germany closed the western borders, it also literally enclosed West Berlin within a huge wall, the Berlin Wall. Travel was greatly restricted into, and particularly out of, East Germany. Many who had come to East Germany as anti-fascistss who were opposed to the quick reinstatement of Nazi functionaries and industry in the west found themselves captives of a dogmatic and economically weak state which, alone, was forced to pay reparations to the Soviet Union. In 1971, Erich Honecker overthrew Ulbricht in a technical coup. Despite the inefficiencies of Communism, East Germany was generally regarded as the most economically advanced of the Warsaw Pact.  Before the 1970s, the official position of West Germany was that of the Hallstein Doctrine which involved non-recognition of East Germany. In the early 1970s, Ostpolitik led by Willy Brandt led to mutual recognition between East and West Germany.

On November 9th, 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and with it the whole socialist system of East Germany. Although there were some small attempts to create a non-socialist East Germany, these were soon overwhelmed by calls for reunification with West Germany. After some negotiations 2+4 Talks, involving the two Germanys and the victory powers United States, France, Britain, and the Soviet Union, conditions for German reunification were agreed on. Thus, on October 3rd 1990 the East German population was the first from the Eastern Bloc to join the European Union as a part of the reunified Federal Republic of Germany.

To this day, there remain many differences between the formerly "eastern" and "western" parts of Germany e.g. in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs and such and thus it is still common to speak of eastern and western Germany distinctly; one would hesitate however to contend it is greater than say that between a southern Bavarian and a Hamburg resident. In this new Germany the economic chasm is greater than in the former West Germany, and much greater than in the former East Germany. Unemployment and long term poverty have led sometimes to an uncomfortable reawakening of nationalist and neofascist sentiments.

Click Image to Enlarge

The Former Watch Tower
at Check Point Harry
An Attack Dog would be attached to this line.
Machine Gun Posts
at various intervals
Mobile patrols ran up and down a road in no mans land.
Mines were planted and the soil racked to spot foot prints. Ditches were dug to prevent ramming with a vehicle. The wire was electrified with a deadly amount of volts. specially chosen Patrol guards would satellite random areas.
       

Well That's the end of another crazy adventure.

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