Wall Passages

Josefstrasse/Kokelestraat passage post (Kerkrade Municipal Archives)

From the moment the widening of Neustrasse began in 1968 and the decision was made to build a wall to replace the previous border fence, the municipalities of Herzogenrath and Kerkrade fought hard to have passages in the wall included. A sealed wall would have obliged residents to drive to the border crossings in Pannesheide or Aachener Strasse, a detour of up to four kilometres. However, the ministries responsible were initially unwilling to budge; the Dutch customs authority in particular was adamant that no passages could be made.

The battle for the wall and the passages was also reported in the national press. The
Hamburger Abendblatt, Welt am Sonntag and Bild am Sonntag carried stories on the ‘harassment’. In the end, the massive amount of correspondence to the ministries, including letters from Theo Kutsch, a resident of Herzogenrath who was particularly committed to spreading the idea of Europe (‘Eurode’), to the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Walter Scheel, achieved their purpose. The headline in the Abendpost Nachtausgabe on 9 June 1970 announced ‘Citizens beat bureaucrats – passages in the border!’

These ‘holes in the wall’ were created in two places in the wall in the summer of 1970; on the side road of Josefstrasse/Kokelestraat and Bleijerheiderstraat.
However, crossing from one country to the other at these official crossing points was only allowed for border residents under the following conditions:

– A permit (‘Grenzausweis’ in German) and a valid identity card or passport had to be carried.
– The border could only be crossed on foot or with a bicycle without assistance from a motor.
– Only tax-free travel goods could be taken over the border.

Violations of this regulation were subject to a fine of DM 20.

Even so, these crossing points and the associated pass made residents’ lives much easier. They were now no longer tied to the opening hours of the customs offices at the ends of Neustrasse (Aachener Strasse and Pannesheide). These passes allowed them to cross the border day and night. Sometimes, border crossings had limited opening hours due to a shortage of customs officers.

 

Errands across the border, often the way to the next border crossing was simply too far (Stadtarchiv Herzogenrath)

Local border traffic – Until 31 December 1992, this permit was required for direct passage through the transit posts.

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eyewitness report

Contemporary witnesses: Regina Leue

Living on the Neustrasse

I was born in Hamburg in 1948. In 1968 I met a very nice man who came from Kerkrade. In March 1969 I moved to Kerkrade. I got a furnished room on the first floor on the Dutch side, number 62, with Mrs. Betsy Arkenbosch.

Mrs. Arkenbosch produced lumpias on a daily basis for the surrounding restaurants.

I found my first job in Kohlscheid, The daily border crossing in Pannesheide was quickly familiar to me and after a while also to most of the customs officers on duty and I did not have to show my identity card every time.

House number 62 and the old customs house still exist today.

When I lived there, I often wrote letters to my family in Hamburg. The German letterbox was where the Deichmann shop is today.
I had written again, took the letters, jumped over the little wall and threw the letters in. The way back was the same – but there was the car with the customs officers who stopped me – because I had crossed the border without permission;-(

Well, and of course I didn’t have any papers with me. I explained why and that I lived up there – and the customs officer came into the flat with me and convinced himself that I was telling the truth. But he probably pointed out to me that I had better apply for a pass so that I could at least use the “holes” provided in the little wall.

In 1970 our son was born. Then we found a nice flat at number 72, where a grocer called Hamers had his shop, and they moved a whole row of houses away. The flat was on the ground floor and had a small courtyard. The house still exists.

Unfortunately, the owner sold the house and the new owner sued for owner occupation. In those years, that was still possible. So we had to look for a new flat within three months. At that time the municipality of Kerkrade was still responsible for this kind of housing allocation and so we got a flat in the high-rise building (B-flat) in Bleijerheide. I lived there until they were demolished in 2013. Now I have a flat on the Holzstraat – again very close to the border at the roundabout with the “Knup” and to my satisfaction, because I still work “cross-border” ;-)

Regina Leue