Aš, the former customs house
St2179, 95100 Selb, Germany
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The encounters of the Czechoslovak border guards with the members of the Bavarian border police (“Grenzpolizei”)

Available in: English | Česky

In the 1950s, there were no official contacts between the Czechoslovak border guards and their counterparts from the West and thus the encounters of the guards from the opposite sides of the border – divided by a barbed-wire barricade – were of a somewhat adventurous character. Since there was no direct phone connection in the early 1950s, members of the Bavarian Grenzpolizei, (GP), would leave messages for their Czechoslovak colleagues for example at boundary stones or bollards. The message usually contained a request for a meeting, stating the reason, place and time. The subject of the meetings was most often related to refugees from one or the other side of the border. These talks were meticulously recorded by the Czechoslovak guards and passed on to their supervisors and the counterintelligence service as there was some suspicion that the German party was organizing these meetings for other than just the stated purposes, in particular espionage. Here and there, the Czechoslovak border guards also had contacts with the Americans, who amazed them by their knowledge of Czech. It’s also worth noting the fact that in some of the reports the soldiers of the border guard delightedly reported of the displeasure of the members of the Grenzpolizei about the activities of the American troops at the border. Other reasons for organizing these meetings included the repair of damaged boundary stones, the demarcation of border streams and rivers or even a tree that fell on Czechoslovak territory as a result of a storm. In June 1959, the Bavarian and the Czechoslovak border representatives agreed on a joint walk along the border between the two states near the Tri-border area. The purpose of this operation was to eliminate any deficits of the delimitation, i.e. checking the boundary stones and their condition. They were painted in white --initials, numbers, and direction signs were marked. In a joint agreement both parties mutually guaranteed “absolute security and immunity” for their representatives and the free and unfettered movement in the border zone. Another example of mutual cooperation occurred in the early 1950s near Aš and concerned negotiations on gas prices. The town was taking its gas supplies from a gas works in Bavarian Selb. There were even more instances of cooperation. For example border guards who served in the 180s remember how their Bavarian colleagues used to leave cigarette packs of unavailable cigarette brands at the boundary stones.

Aš, the former customs house

Available in: English | Česky

The Iron Curtain divided Europe into its democratic and non-democratic parts. The Cold War even saw the prospect of military conflict looming large in the region on several occasions. Therefore, the border between Czechoslovakia and the countries of Western Europe rather resembled a dividing line between two belligerent parties. The old customs houses, as well as roads and railways, was closed. In some places railway tracks were ripped out. However, even this ‘hot region’ witnessed occasional contact and cooperation between the Czechoslovak and the West German sides.

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