“Between 1949 and 1990, about four million people left East Germany (the DDR) for West Germany (the FRG), with 1.35 m of them passing through the Marienfelde Refugee Centre in Berlin. The Marienfelde Refugee Centre, which was opened in 1953, supplied refugees with housing and provisions, and was also where refugees completed the official procedure to receive residency permits for West Germany and West Berlin. Located on the historic site of the Refugee Center, the museum preserves and memorialises the causes, process, and consequences of inner-German flight, exploring not only flight from the GDR itself, but also the official process of emigration and the subsequent integration of refugees into the FRG.” Source: Marienfelde Refugee Centre.
Marienfelde had been on my list for while, but a rather like the Topography of Terrors its somewhere that just gets overlooked on a sunny (or snowy) Sunday. Seeing the film Western was the motivation I needed. I assumed that once you were across the Spree, under the wall, through a tunnel – however a successful escapee managed it, that you were a free bird. But no, DDR escapees spend months, years even in refugee centres being medically and psychologically assessed by West German doctors, American officials – you name it. I’ve heard one West doctor was selling details of escape methods back to the Stasi. It all happened at Marienfelde. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the centre is still processing and housing refugees, albeit people from further afield.
Thumbnail image © T+T, Border Crossing West Berlin Entrance