Caldwell, W. J.
Touring the border, pp. -11 PDF (3.3 MB)
The Public Relations Division, HICOG, conducted 20 press, radio, magazine and newsreel correspondents, having a combined audience in Europe and North America of more than 200,000,000 persons, on a tour in May of Bavaria's northern and eastern borders overlhoking the Soviet Zone of Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria. The tour enabled them to observe firsthand how people live and work within the shadows of the Iron Curtain.. . to see how they are facing the threat of ideologies which would stifle human free- dom... and to observe the efforts of the US resident officer to introduce democracy and restore faith and confidence among a people who live in a region where West meets East. Touring the Border By W. J. CALDWELL Chief, Public Relations Branch, OLC Bavaria fI IE SLEEPY BAVARIAN HAMLET of Moedlareuth T typifies the results of the Communist doctrine of divide ... and utter confusion. There, as in many other communities lying astride the Iron Curtain which wraps snake-like around miles of Bavaria's twisting northern and eastern frontiers, the demarcation line between East and West lies flush in the center of town. Citizens of Moedlareuth tell you that having the home town split in two with a forbidden wall to keep lifelong neighbors and friends apart is no joke. One man living on the Bavarian side of town hadn't visited his brother, a resident of the Soviet half of the town, for more than 18 months despite the fact they live only a stone's throw apart. Countless others experience similar family splits. But many, with a sly wink, admit that Russian vigilance has not prevented an occasional "sneak" journey across the border. "A community of two nations," grunted one leathery- ficed native as he leaned on his cane on the Bavarian side of town. "Yah," sighed a peasant woman as she snatched up an unwary child of three toddling in the direction of the unpainted fence which marked the zonal dividing line, "two nations side by side -but so distant." M OEDLAREUTH WAS A TYPICAL German farming community situated party in the county of Hof, in the extreme northeast corner of Bavaria, until that fateful day when the Russians put up the fence in the middle of the village. The half which the Soviets claimed lies in adjacentThuringia. That original barrier,which follows the course of a small stream which forms the state border, was later made more impenetrable by the Soviets. They dug a trench parallel to the fence and then added another wooden fence as a triple deterrent to East-West relations. Reinforcement of the Iron Curtain at that point followed swiftly on the heels of two Curtain-defying incidents. A young Bavarian, on the day of his wedding, wanted to celebrate the nuptial occasion by publicy flaunting the Soviets. He brazenly drove his car across Moedlareuth's (Photographs illustrating this article were furnished by Claude Jacoby, PRD, HICOG, photographer; Gerald Waller, photographer for"Stars and Stripes," and Arthur Settel, chief, Public Relations Division, HICOG.) main street, smashing the fence to a splintered loop, and then driving triumphantly back through another section of the wavering Curtain to western safety. The second Iron Curtain-busting incident which prompted the three-layer border barrier involved a trucking com- pany whose owner decided it was healthier to go west. Mobilizing his fleet of trucks and tractors, he convoyed the rumbling exodus across town, through the hapless wooden barrier, to a safe haven on the Bavarian side. Moedlareuth as a whole comprises approximately 210 natives and some 50 houses, many dating back centuries. The Bavarian side of town was left without a school, a store, a post office and a community well by the Soviet's decision to partition the community. Fortunately, one enterprising woman on the Bavarian side of town had, with true womanly intuition, opened a tiny shop in her home which served bottled beer. Her foresight saved the Bavarian side from a complete drought. W ILLIAM G. KEEN of Chattanooga, Tenn., US resident officer of county Hof, said the Soviet-inspired divi- sion had created quite a problem for the hamlet's Ba- varian citizens. "In normal times," 38-year-old Keen drawled, "the kids on the Bavarian side of town merely crossed the road into Thuringia and in a matter of minutes were in school. The school is now barred to them so they have to walk two miles to the nearest Bavarian school at Toepen. There was also the mail problem. At first the Bavarian residents Looking over US Zone-Soviet Zone barrier at Moedlareuth are (I.-r.) Jerome Caminada, London Times; Richard O'Mal- ley, Associated Press; Ed Haaker, NBC; Allen Dreyfuss, ABC, and Jack Henry, Reuters. (Photo by Settel) JUNE 1951
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