“Germany’s Iron Curtain is now the Green Belt, but turning the old border into a haven for wildlife has taken much more than just letting it be.”

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An absolutely fascinating outcome.

The Green Curtain, by Andrew Curry (Atlas Obscura)

Germany’s Iron Curtain is now the Green Belt, but turning the old border into a haven for wildlife has taken much more than just letting it be.

For most of its length in Germany, the Iron Curtain was actually a steel fence, and Kai Frobel could see it from his childhood bedroom in the West German village of Hassenberg. The barrier, more than 10 feet tall and made of a kind of mesh specially designed to offer no finger-holds to would-be escapees from East Germany, snaked through the Steinach Valley. It divided the landscape into the domains of documents. On one side, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. On the other, the Warsaw Pact …

 … The 866-mile border was one of the most recognizable and politically charged changes to the landscape following World War II. But all of West Germany was transforming, too. As it had in many parts of the world, industrial agriculture was turning what for millennia had been a patchwork of pasture, fields, and forest sprinkled with small towns into a much more uniform landscape—a monoculture of barely distinguishable crops.

In a twist of fate that reverberates decades later, the land on the Death Strip and some areas around it were protected from the plow and the combine. “In the ‘70s, the landscape was drained, cleared, planted,” Frobel says. “The border was the last refuge.”

In the 30 years after the crumbling of East Germany, known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the border between east and west has transformed again, into the Grünes Band, or Green Belt, a swath of protected land that runs from the Baltic Sea in the north all the way to the mountains of Bavaria in the south. It connects more than 100 different types of habitat, from grasslands to marshes to forests. And the corridor—longer than the distance between New York and Chicago, but only about 50 to 200 yards wide; 68 square miles in total, a little bit less than Brooklyn—is home to a staggering 1,200 threatened species.

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