Skip to Content

The Town Divided By War – Moedlareuth

Imagine this. Your country has just lost a war, and now the Soviets who are in charge are building a wall in your town. How will you visit your family? How will you shop? How will you go to school? For almost 37 years, this small town of 50 inhabitants was divided by a wall and guards. Brother could not visit or even wave at brother.

Families were torn apart, but only lived mere feet from each other. It wasn’t until 1989 that the border that had blocked them from seeing each other was finally removed.  If this type of story interests you, you will want to visit the German town of Moedlareuth.

Disclaimer: Some of our articles may contain affiliate links; when you click on these links you’ll have the option to purchase or register for a service at no extra cost to you, but doing so helps us run this blog. That’s awesome!

A tank and a guard tower impose order on Moedlareuth.
Can you imagine this imposing tank taking up residence in your peaceful town?

A model of how Moedlareuth was divided in half.
A mode of Moedlareuth.

Divided Moedlareuth

This small town had always straddled two German states, Bavaria and Thuringia. It didn’t really affect the townspeople much, because the only border was the small segment of the River Tannbach.  The children from the Bavarian side, just walked over to the Thuringian side to go to school. The churchgoers from the Thuringian side just crossed over and attended services in the church on the Bavarian side. Both sides sent their sons to war together. Being a divided town just wasn’t an issue.

A guard tower and wall separates families that had always lived in this small town.
A guard tower and wall separates families that had always lived in this small town.

Until 1944 when the London Protocol of the Allies split up Germany. The Soviets were handed the Thuringia, and Bavaria became part of the American zone. Then in 1949, the founding of the new German states divided the town, not by an invisible border of two states, but now into two separate countries.

The guarded gate and a sign showing the town as it was in the 1940s.
The guarded gate and a sign showing the town as it was in the 1940s.

Even as two completely different countries, though, the townspeople could still go to the other side with a pass. It may not have been easy to get a pass, but once they did, they could visit for the day. All this stopped on May 26, 1952. The Soviets completely sealed off the crossing, and put in a 500 meter wide protective strip that was covered by guns.

More separation apparatus in Moedlareuth.
Another Moedlareuth gate, where they kept families apart.

From that day forward, they built more and more barriers between the two sides of the town. By 1965, there was a steel chain link fence called a “Flanders Fence” as well as a concrete wall, so now you could hardly even catch glimpses very often of your loved ones.

Signpost showing where the DDR, East Germany, began.
Signpost showing where the DDR, East Germany, began.
A guard bunker.
A guard bunker.

After the Cold War and Today

The separation continued until December 9th, 1989. It was a full month after the fall of the Berlin wall, and both the folks on the Thuringian side and Bavarian side were eager for it to come down. It finally did, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl as well as U.S. President George Bush were in attendance. It was cause for celebration, but even though there was a passage during the day, at night it was closed down again. Only people with passports could cross.

Remnants of the Iron Curtain in Moedlareuth, Germany
More remnants of the “Iron Curtain” separating East from West.

In June of 1990, most of the barriers were completely destroyed, but thankfully enough was left so that a museum could be built reminding the people of the hardships and inhumane treatment that especially the Thuringians had to bear during the almost 40 years of Soviet occupation.

These shoe plates with spikes were made by would-be escapers.
Shoes with spikes for climbing the “Iron Curtain”.

Deutsche-Deutsches Museum Modlareuth

Today part of the town of Moedlareuth as been turned into an open-air musuem. We arranged for an English speaking guide for our visit, and he explained the many deadly barriers as well as how the people tried to find ways to escape. We also visited the second floor of the museum to see artifacts of the Cold War and across the street there was a barn full of vehicles.  All in all, we spent about two hours at the museum.

Historic photo of Moedlareuth, Germany, in 1962.
Photos in the Moedlareuth Museum depicting the wall.
East German Cold War era military vehicles in the Moedlareuth museum.
Moedlareuth Museum also houses World War II automobiles.

Practical Information

The Deutsch-Deutsches Museum Moedlareuth is open all year from 8:00 – 5:00, except on Mondays. It is very inexpensive, only 3 Euros for adults and 2 for children. You can contact them if you have a group, and they will arrange an English tour for you which costs 3 Euros per person. It’s well worth it, although I wouldn’t bring children if you are taking the tour. It was 90 minutes long, lots of talking.

Pin Moedlareuth for later!

Does Cold War history fascinate you? Just like the Berlin Wall, the small town of Moedlareuth was divided and the museum is definitely worthy of any German itinerary. Click here to find out more. ..............................Germany guide | German history | war stories | German museums
Does Cold War history fascinate you? Just like the Berlin Wall, the small town of Moedlareuth was divided and the museum is definitely worthy of any German itinerary. Click here to find out more. ..............................Germany guide | German history | war stories | German museums

melody pittman

Friday 4th of August 2017

My first time hearing about Moedlareuth. To think that it near Bavaria is just unbelievable. Such a small place with such a big history. Thanks for sharing. Nice to learn about something so important, yet unknown.

Corinne Vail

Friday 4th of August 2017

Melody,This world always surprises me. It still holds many secrets.

twotalltravellers

Thursday 3rd of August 2017

it's a sad story but at least it is over now. i bet it was super interesting doing the tour!

Corinne Vail

Friday 4th of August 2017

It really was. I would say it would be hard to get the full story unless you took the tour.

Elena Nemets

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

This is such an incredible story! We all know about Berlin wall, but forget that there were other cities and towns affected as well!

Corinne Vail

Friday 4th of August 2017

Exactly, Elena, exactly!

TravellingDany

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

We've always been interested in military museums, but after our visit to Auschwitz we're even more focussed on learning about everything that happened during WWII. Added to our bucket list, it'd make for a very interesting addition to our tour!

Corinne Vail

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Dany, I have much, much more. Germany is the place to do some serious WWII touring.

Katie @ Zen Life and Travel

Tuesday 1st of August 2017

It's so crazy to think that a small town could be divided into 2 separate countries!

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 1st of August 2017

Katie, I know. From the States I know a couple of towns that cross state lines...and feel that is pretty cool too.