Helms­tedt Border Museum

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Until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Helms­tedt was Check­point Alpha, the only place where civil­ians could drive between East and West Germany, making it a hotbed of smug­gling and espi­on­age. Now it’s a quiet market town in north­ern Germany, with a free museum about the border cross­ing.

The west­ern side just had some signs and a barri­er, the east­ern side had full on guard towers, pits, dogs and search­lights. Appar­ently they were constantly catch­ing Wessis trying to smuggle bags of cheap jeans into East Germany to sell for a huge markup.

ID card from the imme­di­ate post-war peri­od when it was the border between the UK and Soviet occu­pied zones of Germany. When the DDR and BRD were estab­lished, the west­ern govern­ment subsid­ised people to contin­ue living in the border zone to keep it popu­lated, and the DDR govern­ment took the oppos­ite approach, clear­ing out whole villages so that people wouldn’t go getting ideas. However they kept digging out the coal- the dirty brown coal from the area is what powered East Germany and created their huge air pollu­tion and acid rain prob­lem.

Propoganda efforts, fired by rock­et by each side. The East Germans sent attract­ive glossy leaf­lets about how life was better in the DDR…

The West Germans sent books delib­er­ately designed to look like compil­a­tions of boring polit­ic­al speeches and commit­tee hear­ings that wouldn’t get you in trouble, and then filled the insides with the worst dirt about Honeck­er etc they could dig up.

Typic­al shoddy DDR elec­tron­ics on the launch­er. I’ve got this book of East German product design. I don’t recom­mend the tampons.

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