Pannesheide Customs Post

Kerkrade-Pannesheiderstraat customs post during the First World War, 1915 (Kerkrade Municipal Archives)

The area around Nieuwstraat/Neustrasse is characterized by two important border crossings; the Herzogenrath border crossing in the north and the Pannesheide border crossing in the south, which was used by many commuters crossing the border to and from Aachen. This is where orders were barked: ‘Stop! Border Patrol!’The border crossing was established more than 200 years ago following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, when the areas west of Nieuwstraat were assigned to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the areas to the east assigned to Prussia.In 1938, the National Socialist government in Germany ordered that North-South traffic between Herzogenrath and Aachen was no longer allowed to cross the border street. For this reason, a new, wider road was built through the town. This new ‘customs bypass’ is today’s Voccartstrasse / Alte Strasse.Initially, the customs authorities mainly checked goods traffic here. Later, however, all cars were checked at intervals, and pedestrians and cyclists were directed over a ramp through the building. Bicycles were often lifted up and placed back on the ground to check if any unusual sounds emerged that could indicate, for example, that the tyres were filled with coffee instead of air.Long queues arose at the Pannesheide customs control, especially due to commercial traffic. The stricter security measures implemented following the attack by the Red Army Faction (RAF) in 1978 only made the situation worse.These traffic jams from Aachen often included unfortunate residents of Pannesheide who had no need to go through customs control at all, but just wanted to get home. Their bad luck was that there was only one access road to Pannesheide, which branched off shortly before the customs post, but this access road had no separate lane for traffic to turn into it.The imposing German customs office and the Dutch customs office dominated this stretch of road for a long time. The building which housed the Dutch customs authorities in a bay window on the ground floor currently features a striking roof truss. Immediately next to the Dutch customs office, a border stone marks the place where the border changes direction from north/south to the west.The road also branches at the customs building, so that car traffic can cross the border with the Netherlands or continue on the German side parallel to the old fencing and later parallel to the Leicon wall that marked the border on Nieuwstraat

Peter Dinninghoff


Border customs office Pannesheide 1973 (Photo: W. Sevenich)

In 1972, the Cologne tax authorities planned to turn Neustraße into a one-way street. However, the municipality of Herzogenrath was able to successfully oppose this, as it would have been too much of a burden for the people of Herzogenrath.

At the same time, the customs offices planned to set up a joint D/NL office at the Pannesheide customs. Up to now, customs had been housed in the Krauthausen inn “Zum alten Zoll”. The German officials had already moved into the “Kiosk”. In a small ceremony on 1 December 1973, the head of the Aachen-Nord main customs office handed over to representatives of the Dutch customs administration the premises reserved for them in the kiosk, which was located on German land. Thus the German and Dutch customs officials worked back to back.

On 25 July 1984, the customs officials at the Pannesheide customs post had an unusual visitor, because a special Dutch advertising campaign started here:

Twenty South Limburger women were sent by the Dutch Dairy Products Bureau on a special mission to West Germany to boost sales of Dutch cheese. Before being unleashed on consumers, the girls attended a two-day cheese tasting course at the Dutch Dairy Office in Aachen. The action of Mrs Antje’s helpers began at the Pannesheide border crossing in Kerkrade, where the customs officials enjoyed the cheese on offer.

The Pannesheide customs office (today Roermonder Straße 141) belonged to Herzogenrath as a secondary customs office II. Klasse zu Herzogenrath for the section between boundary stones 230 and 236, responsible for cross-border land traffic from Aachen-Laurensberg-Kohlscheid-Richterich. There was lively border traffic here, especially in times of need. Because of the different taxation in the two countries, coffee, spirits and butter were popular items for illicit import. In the 19th century, the precious salt was also part of the trade. After the abolition of all internal customs duties for industrial products and the introduction of a common external customs duty, Pannesheide’s time as a customs office came to an end in 1974. Until 1989, the building continued to function as a customs clearance office for the Aachen customs office. After a post office was located in this building for a short time, this historic building now houses the municipal day care centre “Altes Zollhaus” [Source: plaque on the former German Customs House Pannesheide. Heimatverein Kohlscheid, n.d. 2017]

The customs “huisje” on Pannesheiderstraat, which is now privately owned and was the home of the Dutch customs on the ground floor, was completely renovated in 2005 according to the plans of the Plan A.G. Andreas Gülpen Ges. f. Generalplanung mbH. Great importance was attached to preserving as many historical elements as possible. For example, the bay window on the ground floor was preserved and the former entrance was fitted with fixed glazing. The entire beautiful brick façade was also preserved. Inside, too, historical elements such as the stone floor, which is over 100 years old, and the sliding window for declaring goods have been preserved. Today, it has a striking roof structure.

Pannesheiderstraat 136-138 (Photos: Stefanie Rotter)

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