The Last Wall - New Construction

The construction of the wall in 1968 (De Limburger)

In 1966, the Municipality of Kerkrade decided to invest 2 million guilders in reconstructing Nieuwstraat, which further fuelled the discussion about border fences. On the Herzogenrath side, great efforts were made to ensure the road could also be renovated on the German side. This led to the creation of the ‘Drahtzaunmelody – Wer soll das bezahlen?’ (The barbed wire melody – Who’s going to pay for it?) during the 1968 Herzogenrath carnival. The reconstruction plans included removal of the hated barbed wire, but the politicians and administrators in Kerkrade and Herzogenrath were unable to compete with the national governments in Bonn and The Hague. In January 1968, Kerkrade received a promise of 75% funding, and on 1 April 1968, work began on removing the ‘rotten wooden posts’ and placing Leicon concrete blocks. Exactly three years after Theo Kutsch had his vision of Eurode published in the Aachener Volkszeitung on 1 April 1965, presented as an April Fool’s joke:

1 April 1965 – Aachener Volkszeitung (Alsdorfer Geschichtsverein e.V.)

On the German side, restructuring started after most of the financing was covered by the ‘Grenslandfonds’ (Borderland Fund). The street was also widened, so some houses along Neustrasse had to be demolished for the construction.

The citizens of both municipalities had repeatedly turned against the border fences. After the Second World War, positions were initially so entrenched that it was a long time before the
IJzeren Gordijn (Iron Curtain), as the locals also called the barbed wire, was replaced by the ‘Wall’. The correspondence from the municipal authorities, along with private initiatives with the ministries, filled entire files.

It took another 25 years, after the Schengen Agreement and the fall of the Berlin Wall, for the demolition of the Leicon concrete wall to finally begin in 1993, after which Nieuwstraat/Neustrasse was redeveloped into a joint ‘European Street’.

With the assistance of an excavator, the mayors of Kerkrade (Jan Mans) and Herzogenrath (Petra Meisler) officially demolish the first part of the concrete boundary wall on Nieuwstraat that separated the two municipalities. (De Limburger)

Corner of Neustraße/Holz, on the right the Neustraße on the Kerkrade side is already completed, on the left the German extension is still under construction (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade).

The completed extension of Neustraße after 1968, on the right the junction Im Straßer Feld, in the background the border crossing Aachener Straße (Herzogenrath municipal archive).

When Neustraße was reconstructed as a shared road, technical issues such as traffic regulation, cleaning, etc. had to be clarified in addition to the financial question.

Street sketch – design (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

Early on, in 1989, the citizens began to think about what a common street could look like. Thus, an action group Nieuwstraat – Neustraße was founded, which submitted cross-border proposals for the design of the Neustraße: with regard to slowing down the traffic, safe crossings through traffic islands, greening, parking bays and cycle paths.

The result was impressive in 1995. On 6 and 7 May 1995, the joint “Europe Road” was officially opened by the Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo and the German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel in a grand ceremony.

Opening of Neustraße 06-05-1995 with Kerkrad Mayor Thijs Wöltgens, Herzogenrath Mayor Gerd Schwarz as well as Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo and German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel (De Limburger, photo: Arnaud Nilwik)

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