Europe without borders?

A Europe without borders – that is the vision of the Denkstein Eiserner Vorhang Association. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, the idea of erecting a memorial soon arose and became reality in 1999. Today, this historical moment is a mission for the future – a future of a united Europe. But what is the “Iron Curtain” anyway? How did it come about? And what happened after its fall? We’ll show you in this timeline.

What is the “Iron Curtain”?

In the second half of the 20th century, no term symbolised lack of freedom and insecurity more than the “Iron Curtain”: a symbol of the Cold War and the totalitarian system of communist states, of imprisonment and surveillance, of flight and expulsion, of a divided Europe and of the inhumane borders in this world. The term “Iron Curtain” became a universal expression for the division of Europe into democratic states and communist dictatorships. The border stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and was an insurmountable barrier between Eastern and Western Europe from the end of the Second World War until the fall of communism in 1989.

1945End of the Second World WarHissen der sowjetischen Flagge auf dem Reichstag in Berlin

Austria was occupied by the Allies and the country was divided into four occupation zones. The eastern zone was controlled by the Soviet Union.

1948The Marshall Plan

Austria was one of the countries that benefited from the US reconstruction programme. The Marshall Plan supported economic reconstruction and helped strengthen Western influence in Austria.

1955Austrian State Treaty

After protracted negotiations, the State Treaty was signed, ending the occupation and establishing Austria’s neutrality. Austria became independent, but remained a divided country.

1961Building the Berlin WallBau der Berliner Mauer

Although the Berlin Wall directly affected Germany, it also had an impact on Austria. The construction of the Wall symbolised the increasing division of Europe and reinforced the idea of the Iron Curtain.

1989Velvet revolution

The Velvet Revolution was a peaceful political change that took place in what was then Czechoslovakia. It led to the end of communist rule and paved the way for the democratization of the country. The civic movement worked for political freedoms and reforms through non-violent protests and negotiations. A contemporary witness tells his story about it here.

1989Fall of the Iron Curtain

The political changes in Eastern Europe also led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. From summer 1989 onwards, protests against the communist regimes took place in Eastern European countries. Before the borders were even opened, thousands of people fled from the GDR to the FRG embassy in Prague or took the opportunity to flee to Austria via Hungary. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, heralding the end of the Cold War. The fall of the Iron Curtain marked a political and economic reorganisation of Europe.

1991Dissolution of the Soviet UnionAuflösung der Sowjetunion

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc was dissolved as a political entity. Austria gained full sovereignty and the borders to the former Eastern Bloc were opened.

1998Founding of DenkStein AssociationDenkstein Logo

At the suggestion of the former Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Alois Mock, former State Secretary Helmut Kukacka and retired State Office Director Eduard Pesendorfer and other committed people took the initiative to erect a memorial; Guglwald (then the municipality of Schönegg, today Vorderweißenbach) was chosen from four locations. Then it went on in quick succession: Constituent General Assembly 11.1998, press conference 06.1999 and inauguration on 02.07.1999 in the presence of the former governors Josef Ratzenböck and Josef Pühringer as well as Alois Mock.