Don´t Mention the Wall!

So, a long weekend in the Wolfenbüttel, visiting old stomping grounds from pads brats days. Saturday morning a trip on the bus to Mattierzoll. A nice 40 minute ride through glorious Nidersachsen countryside.

Why Mattierzoll? It consists of two bus stops, three houses, one Imbiss (closed when we turned up), and old railway station, one holiday home, a used car sales yard and a closed factory. The Germans would call it a “Kuhdorf,” a one-horse town. Not quite a Dörfchen, maybe a Dörfchenchen, super-dimunitive.

What else is in Mattierzoll? The answer: on the edge of the village, an exhibition (“Ausstellung”) about the old GDR border (“die DDR Grenze”). Here in Mattierzoll until November 1989 was part of the secure border of the GDR. The old display case that we last saw in the hot summer of 1978 was still there. The border marker (“Grenzpfal”). Two fences, about 50m apart, still with the small hole (for small animals) in the “enemy-facing” fence. The command watch tower, 300m further into the east. The Kollonenweg for patrolling border troops and their vehicles.

All, however, very understated. No sign in the village pointing to the Ausstellung. Had that been in the British Isles, there would probably have been signposts, a mini-museum, with cafe, souvenir shop, ice cream van nearby, etc. In Germany: barely noticeable, almost hidden out of the way.

Are the Germans perhaps shy about talking about their history?
Is the Grenze too painful to talk about?
Do Germans have a different way of dealing with history? Are they perhaps more pragmatic, logical, than the Brits?

I don´t know the answer.

Those of you who are fans of John Cleese and Fawlty Towers will remember his outburst, “Don´t mention the war.” Maybe the German approach towards the GDR is, “Don´t mention the Wall.”


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