Took a daytrip to the region around the border of Hessen and Thüringen, which of course, used to be the Inner German border. There's about a dozen preserved sections of the old Iron Curtain border, but Point Alpha is the closest to where I live. It sits on a ridge between the villages of Rasdorf (Hessen, former BRD) and Geisa (Thüringen, former DDR). There's a small museum of the US observation post, then another one a stone's throw away for the DDR/Soviet post. In between, you can see the remains of the guard towers, wire fences, dog posts, minefields, sniper pill boxes, and all the other wonderful things the DDR erected to keep their citizens from leaving the workers' paradise. The DDR museum is only in German, but there's plenty of English in the US post. I had visited the Wartburg castle on the outside before, but never inside (dogs aren't allowed, this time I had someone with me who was willing to wait outside with the dog while I toured). Honestly, despite all the historical importance of this castle, the inside isn't the most fascinating. The singer's hall, however, is quite nice. If I was Lutheran, I probably would have found the Luther room and the adjacent exhibits a little more interesting. I'm not sure if they offer tours in English, but they can provide an English translation of the tourguide's spiel. Eisenach is quite a nice town, although like a lot of former DDR towns, its a little sleepy.
If there is/was a concentration camp near Eisenach, I'm not aware of it.
Thanks Tom. I have to get there in the next trip or two. It brings back memories of 2:00 am alerts half knowing and hoping no one was coming across the line. The unit I was with had a detachment in Fulda and I was really happy not to be stationed there. Compare that with Wurzburg and it was no contest.
Tom - thanks for this report. Is there a concentration or work camp in or near Eisenach? If not, I must be thinking of the wrong town.
Oh, one other thing I should mention. The view of the Wartburg from Eisenach, and the views of the surrounding landscape , the Thüringerwald, from the Wartburg are breathtaking. It was a little overcast, snowy and otherwise dreary on the day I visited, but the views were still amazing. When I visited previously on a cloudless spring day... even better.
Thanks for the report. Have wanted to visit the Wartburg for a long time. Lots of interesting things happened here, besides Luther. This was the home of St. Elizabeth. There is a frieze of her life in the Deutsche Orden Church in Frankfurt. There was a huge patriotic German gathering here in the early 1800's that was part of the run-up to the rebellion and 1st German parliament of 1848. I remember taking a trip to Point Alpha with my Reserve unit in 1986, when we came to Hanau for 2 weeks. It was quite emotional and moving, seeing this spot where people were shot down and killed, just for trying to cross the border. Glad to see they are preserving some of the remnants of this not so distant past, for future generations to see and learn from.
One of the rooms is decorated with mosiacs of scenes from St. Elizabeth's life, and there's also a hallway with frescos of a similar theme. I thought the 15-minute spiel the tourguide gave in the mosiac room was a bit over-lenghty. Then followed by over 10 minutes of more of the same in the fresco room... a little too much St. Elizabeth for me.
Oh je, that does sound like a bit much. Her life wasn't that astounding, plus it was pretty short.
The only person to be shot at Point Alpha was a East Germany border guard. Please many died trying to cross over in Berlin but not so at Point Alpha. Let's get history right.
Hi Tom, we visted Point Alpha over Easter. It was quite interesting and I whish one could post pictures here. It's just as you described it. Just South of the town of Geisa is Tann, a picture-postcard-like beautiful small town. It was sealed by the Iron Curtain on three sides with only one road being open to connect with the rest of West Germany. Regarding concentration camps in Thuringia. Yes, there was Buchenwald near Weimar and it had plenty of outposts...
Point Alpha would have been one of the worst possible locations to attempt an escape, because it's located on an open ridgeline, and there was a DDR/Soviet garrison located right there. Now, plenty of people died trying to cross other points of the Inner German Border (estimates range from 200s to over a thousand). But I'm pretty certain most potential escapees would have chosen a far less densely guarded sector to attempt a crossing. As an interesting footnote... the West German who pulled the trigger in the above-mentioned incident was found dead of a gunshot wound well after the end of the Cold War.