70 years ago the GDR closed down. The inner-German border is sealed off. Destinies take their course, people lose their homes. The culture of remembrance is maintained in Hötensleben.

Barbed wire fences, surveillance of the border area, forced resettlement from the exclusion zone: at the border monument in Hötensleben (Saxony-Anhalt), contemporary witnesses and representatives from politics and society commemorated the closure of the inner-German border 70 years ago.

On May 26, 1952, the GDR regime began to completely seal off the inner-German border, which had been permeable until then.

On the occasion of the commemoration, wreaths were laid at the border monument on the state border with Lower Saxony. There was also a minute’s silence, and schoolchildren from Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony presented an art installation.

Forced resettlement and trauma

“The border cut through properties and fields, commutes, families, groups of friends and biographies,” said Kai Langer, director of the Saxony-Anhalt Memorials Foundation, according to the announcement. The fact that thousands of people were forcibly resettled from the restricted area from 1952 still has repercussions today. “The loss of their homeland and their previous social relationships also resulted in a loss of polyphony in the affected places,” said Langer. It also weighs heavily that those affected were not able to talk about their traumatic experiences and fears until 1989.

The actions with which “politically unreliable” residents from border towns were forced to leave their homes bore cynical names such as “Action Vermin”, “Action Cornflower” or “Action Blümchen”. According to the Memorial Foundation, around 12,000 people were forcibly resettled by the end of 1961.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Justice Minister Franziska Weidinger (CDU) emphasized the special importance of commemorative events and memorial sites in her welcoming address. “It is very important to clearly name the GDR regime as a dictatorship and to make it clear what oppression and political persecution mean in concrete terms and to say that injustice has been done,” said Weidinger according to the statement. It is a duty and responsibility to pay tribute to the victims of the GDR regime – especially on a day like May 26.

The Hötensleben border monument, where the border installations have been preserved true to the original, is part of the Marienborn German Unity Memorial at what was once the largest German-German border crossing on the A2 motorway.