In the Altmark, about two kilometres from Aulosen, is the Stresow Memorial and Meeting Place, which commemorates the village of Stresow and its history. The borderland tour along the Elbe leads visitors here for a good reason.
Today Stresow is a deserted village in the Aland-Elbe lowlands, but that was not always the case.
The history of the village of Stresow
The first documented mention of the village of Stresow (at that time still known as Striesow) dates back to 1319, when Margrave Woldemar transferred some property to the Amelungsborn monastery. From 1687 onwards, the name Stresow is found in old documents.
If you jump further into the time around 1800, the information about the small village starts to become a little more precise. At that time, dike captain Friedrich von Jagow was the owner of the village and lived on the Stresow estate. Figures show that 121 people lived on the estate and in the village. There were 14 hearths (i.e. households), a jug and good cattle and horse breeding. So it was still a tranquil and, from today’s perspective, rather quiet village life.
After a fire destroyed the village in 1922, the people rebuilt it.
“Aktion Ungeziefer” (Action vermin) and the village of Stresow
After the Second World War, the village was located on the territory of the GDR not far from the inner-German border. Stresow and many other villages on the state territory were located in the spear area along the inner-German border and posed a security risk. The state leadership planned a forced resettlement of the inhabitants from these areas, which was to be carried out in two actions planned by a general staff. In May/June 1952, the “Aktion Ungeziefer” concerned the village of Stresow.
At first, “politically unreliable” citizens and their families were resettled in the interior of the country. The official reason was the “consolidation” of the inner-German border. Today it is assumed that about 11,000-12,000 people in the entire GDR were affected by the resettlement action.
In Stresow, the first resettlement action within the framework of the “Aktion Ungeziefer” began at 11.58 p.m. on 29 May 1952. Army trucks and cars drove into the village and took away about half the population without prior notice. They were taken to Thuringia, for example, where they had to build a new life for themselves.
Life in Stresow did not get any easier for the remaining residents. There were constantly new laws and orders regulating everyday life. Later, people were only allowed to enter the village with a pass and it was no longer permitted to stay outside after sunset. They closed down the grocery store and the pub.
Life had become so unbearable in Stresow that some families moved away voluntarily. New residents were not allowed to move into the empty houses. One by one, the old residents died and in 1974 the last two people moved out.
Then the village was abandoned and 16 farms, where about 80 people had lived, were deserted. Four families escaped forced resettlement during this time and fled to the Federal Republic of Germany.
On 30 June 1974, Stresow was completely demolished. Nothing reminded us of the life of the families, what remained was borderland.
Stresow Memorial and Meeting Place
Today, after reunification, there is a memorial and meeting place on the exact spot where Stresow once stood. It is part of the Schnackenburg Borderland Museum, which is only about 3.5 kilometres away in the Wendland region of Lower Saxony.
Today, 16 oak trees commemorate the 16 farms that once made up Stresow. A memorial stone has stood there since 1997 to commemorate the forced resettlement.
I was particularly impressed by the presentation of the GDR border fortifications of the time. This has been reproduced in original size and presents all the elements that were available to “secure the national border”: the border fence, signal fence and barrier fence, an observation bunker, a column route, light routes, a communication column with a border reporting network and a motor vehicle barrier ditch. The heights of the fences are shown at the original height. Only the distance between the individual elements has been reduced to provide a better overview. So originally, after the first fence, there was a protected strip about 500 metres wide. The barrier ditch shown here was also originally wider.
I was impressed by the visit to the memorial. The reconstruction of the border fences and the idea that these fences divided the country is depressing. How many people died trying to escape at the fences, how many families these fences separated and how many dreams these fences destroyed. A time that should not be forgotten and that must not be repeated.
Directions to the Stresow Memorial and Meeting Place
via the B493 in the direction of Gartow, turn off before Kapern onto the L 256 in the direction of Aulosen.
follow the sign “Gedenkstätte Stresow”.
the Elbe cycle path in the direction of Wahrenberg / Wittenberge
If you want to know more about the region, you should download the Auentour app (Auenerlebnistour an Elbe und Aland). Here you can also hear eyewitness accounts.
The visit to the Stresow Memorial and Meeting Place took place as part of the “Borderland Tour” press trip.