Many people have heard of Berlin, Germany. It’s one of the most visited cities in Germany. It’s best known for being the symbol of a divided Germany after World War II due to the Berlin Wall being erected which split East from West Germany. It took almost thirty years before the wall was torn down. Every military family stationed in Germany makes a point to visit Berlin to learn about the history of The Berlin Wall in person. However, the most overlooked historical site in Germany goes unnoticed because it’s off the beaten path.
Have you ever heard of Little Berlin which has rolling hills and a winding river stream running through the town? Neither had I until my husband told me that there was a town with that nickname less than two hours from our home. Many Americans living in Germany have never heard of Mödlareuth, which was named Little Berlin by American soldiers after the WWII. Just like Berlin, the town was separated by West and East Germany. It actually was erected before The Berlin Wall and it wasn’t even torn down until after The Berlin Wall was taken down. The eastern side of Mödlareuth was controlled by the Soviets, while the western side fell to the Americans.
In the beginning it was still possible for residents to cross the border. Yet, in the fifties things changed and families and friends were separated and relocated to homes out of the zones. A cement wall was built and barbed wire was added to make getting over the wall even more difficult. While watch towers with automatic lights scanned the land in midnight searching for someone who dared to challenge the wall, other devices were available to report if anyone had made it over. As if trying to get to the other side wasn’t difficult enough, trespassers were shot to be killed. If they somehow escaped unscathed, kill dogs patrolling the edge of the fence would tear them to shreds.
Once the wall was finally torn down, families were joyful and emotional. These emotions can be seen played out in the photographs that are on display in the Little Berlin Museum. Photographs also depict what the town looked like at the time while you’re looking at the site presently. It’s an eerie feeling that is almost an out of body experience. A variety of uniforms, devices and mechanisms that were created to try to make it over the wall are also on display. In addition, models of the town from the past and the layout of the Little Berlin wall are contained in glass cases in the museum. You can spend hours roaming the small town and the museum dedicated to the town.
Information is presented in both German and English in the permanent exhibitions. If you’re interested in watching the documentary you can ask the woman at the front desk for times. If you only speak English ask when the next English showing will play in the theater. The video will reveal more photographs, video footage, and information about the history of the wall and the town, touching on information about a few of the refugees as well.
The military vehicle exhibition presents visitors with around 25 motorcycles, tanks, cars, buses, trucks, and even a helicopter. Across from the exhibition one can see a piece of The Berlin Wall on display. Although Mödlareuth is possibly the most overlooked historical site in Germany, the town still manages to draw in more visitors than residents. One of these visitors was George H W Bush during the time that he was still vice president. The entrance fee is only 3 euro to visit the entire village and the museum. For being able to climb into the watch towers alone, it is well worth your money and your time.
If you need a snack break grab an ice cream or Coca-Cola from the shop near the museum and have a seat at the pond while enjoying the ducks creating ripples in the water. If what you desire is something more filling there is also a restaurant located across the street from the pond with outside seating. The restaurant seemed to be bustling with the locals and visitors alike.
Little Berlin is a road less traveled and because of that not many people even know it exists, making it the most overlooked historical site in Germany. Do not go with the masses to generic destinations and overlook the history that Mödlareuth has to offer. It is such a small town, but one that had to endure and suffer such an immense amount of pain in the aftermath of WWII. We are fortunate that after reunification the wall and history has been preserved and restored. There is so much to be learned about the wall that served as a symbol of divided Germany, a symbol we should always learn from.