The Harz at the focal point of history
1000 years ago, the Harz stood at the centre of world history. Ore and silver from mining made towns such as Goslar and Quedlinburg rich. Their well-preserved mediaeval townscapes have been declared UNESCO world heritage sites. Going on a journey through the culture of the Harz is to take an exciting and pleasurable trip back in time through past centuries.
But it is not only previous centuries: more recent German history is also reflected in many places in the Harz.
National Socialism and the division of Germany that followed the Second World War left their mark on the history of the most northern low mountain ranges in Germany in the 20th century. In the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp near Nordhausen, the last concentration camp of the National Socialists to be built, in the summer of 1943, prisoners had to work in underground production facilities constructing V2 rockets. Today the former camp is the most important memorial and commemorative site on the national socialist reign in the region.
The Iron Curtain that was drawn after the end of the war and the "Cold War" left an indelible mark on the Harz. For more than four decades, the low mountain range and its foothills were insurmountably divided. East and West faced each other irreconcilably to the left and right of the wire-mesh fence which literally cut through the Harz. The "Brocken" became a symbol of German division visible from afar - apparently close enough to touch, and yet out of reach for people on both sides.
In many places in the region you still come across relics from this period. The Brockenhaus on the crest of the Brocken - the so-called mosque, because of its prominent dome, used to be a listening post of the Stasi, the East German secret police. In the Freiland Grenzmuseum Sorge, an original observation post of the GDR border troops, as well as parts of the fence and security installations, have been preserved. In the Grenzlandmuseum Tettenborn you can find many original exhibits, such as documents from the Stasi or a hot-air balloon used for an attempted escape. At the former local border crossing in Teistungen, between Duderstadt and Worbis, impressive exhibits and facilities of inner German border history can be explored in the Grenzlandmuseum Eichsfeld.
What was once the Iron Curtain has today become the Green Belt. The Harz border path (Harzer Grenzweg) crosses the mountains from north to south. The history, nature and culture of the Harz are combined on a walking tour along the former border corridor.
In 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the opening of the border, a wide range of guided walking tours, lectures and other events are taking place in the region in which you can learn more about life on both sides of the inner German border. The exact dates can be found at www.gruenes-band-harz.de.