The 'iron curtain' most people accept as an abstract expression of the differing ideologies of East and West; but in Germany the 'iron curtain' is as tangible and as visible as this barbed wire.
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Background: The 'iron curtain' most people accept as an abstract expression of the differing ideologies of East and West; but in Germany the 'iron curtain' is as tangible and as visible as this barbed wire.
For 866 miles a fence of barbed wire, supervised by 400 machine-gun manned towers, separates the east from the west. It separates too the townsfolk of Berlin from the countryside in which they used to ramble and picnic.
They need special permission to live and work within five miles of the barbed wire on the Communist side; but the guards need no permission and do not hesitate to shoot on sight anyone who sets a foot on the flattened earth of the death strip that flanks the wire.
For most of them this wire means separation from the graves of their families and neighbours who lived in what has become the 'forbidden' part of say a small village.
But for East German the 'Customs officials and police who patrol the wire, (men seldom seen in photographs taken from the West), this barbed wire is a protection against the free way of life they have been taught to fear.
This fear expresses itself all the way along the 'Visible Iron Curtain'. The land flanking the barbed wire is ploughed and harrowed so that footprints will show up in the soft earth. Trees are cut down in its path, and all natural obstacles have been bull-dozed away and cleared.
Where formerly 36 railway lines, 40 national roads, 123 provincial roads, and innumerable cart-tracks and footpaths, sped the flow of people through the countryside, now only seven railways and four roads are allowed to go through the wire. Even the Reich Highway Number One, the first of the great Autobahns, has been severed, and today peters out in the woods.
Despite the stringent restrictions there are still two possible crossing places, the Danube, and Berlin; and the flow through those places, West through Berlin, and East along the Danube, is the only safety valve of refugees and those who find it imperative for political or criminal reasons to flee to the 'other side'.
But to the majority of those who live peaceful country lives, the Visible Iron Curtain is an inexplicable separation from all they have grown up with, and love.