Exchanges of territory


As a result of the Four-Power Agreement of 3 September 1971, the West Berlin Senate and the government of the GDR agreed to exchange territory in three separate cases. The exchanges made it possible to smooth out the border between West and East Berlin and between West Berlin and the GDR and to find pragmatic solutions to some of the territorial issues caused by postwar developments.

When Greater Berlin was constituted on 1 October 1920, a total of ten Berlin exclaves (or enclaves, from the point of view of the surrounding territory) were created in the Mark of Brandenburg. Although these exclaves were under Berlin’s administration, they were physically located outside the city limits. The London Protocol, which set out Allied arrangements for dividing Germany into zones of occupation after the war, took the old German administrative borders as its guide. As it happened, all of the exclaves belonged to West Berlin boroughs; as a result, they ended up being retained as enclaves after 1945 – first inside the Soviet occupation zone and then, after 1949, inside the GDR.

Exclaves after 1945

  • Falkenhagener Wiese (S) 45,44 ha
  • Wüste Mark (Z) 21,83 ha
  • Laszinswiesen (S) 13,49 ha
  • Steinstücken (Z) 12,67 ha
  • Große Kuhlake (S) 8,03 ha
  • Nuthewiesen (Z) 3,64 ha
  • Fichtenwiesen (S) 3,51 ha
  • Finkenkrug (S) 3,45 ha
  • Erlengrund (S) 0,51 ha
  • Böttcherberg (Z) 0,3 ha
(S) = Part of the Spandau borough
(Z) = Part of the Zehlendorf borough

These exclaves raised sovereignty issues that led to repeated conflicts. Traffic to and from Steinstücken, for instance, the only exclave with permanent residents, was often hindered as it crossed GDR territory, resulting in frequent confrontations between GDR authorities, residents, representatives of the Berlin Senate, and the American allies.

The construction of the Berlin Wall had also disrupted an urban environment that had developed over many years, and thus had a negative impact on transport connections and planning on both sides of the Wall. From the GDR government’s point of view, there was the additional “security risk” created by deviations in the course of the border.

Consequently, both sides benefited from an initial resolution of these problems in 1972 as part of the Four-Power Agreement. Part II C and Annex III 3 of the agreement stated that “the problems of the small enclaves, including Steinstücken, and of other small areas may be solved by exchange of territory.” The specific arrangements were to be agreed on by the “competent German authorities.” Article 6 of the agreement then entered into by the Berlin Senate and the GDR also contained a development clause facilitating additional agreements in the future.

On 3 September 1971, the day the Four-Power Agreement was signed, the Allied Kommandatura authorized the West Berlin Senate to start negotiations with the GDR government on territorial exchanges. These talks resulted in the "Agreement on the Regulation of the Enclaves Question by Exchange of Territory(Externer Link)", that was signed on 21 December 1971 and went into force on 3 June 1972 along with the Four-Power Agreement. This agreement gave the GDR a total of 15.6 hectares of land, while West Berlin got a total of 17.1 hectares. The most important piece of property was the 2.3 hectares that connected Steinstücken to the Zehlendorf borough as of 30 August 1972. The Senate paid the GDR government DM 4 million in compensation for the extra land. In a second, supplementary arrangement signed on 21 July 1972, the Senate and the GDR government included an 8.5-hectare property belonging to East Berlin at the former Potsdam train station in their agreement of 21 December 1971. The GDR received DM 31 million for this piece of land.

Although not technically an example of territorial exchange, the basic agreement on the Südgelände Schöneberg signed on 21 February 1974 by the West Berlin Senate Department for Building and Housing and the Reichsbahndirektion Berlin, the Berlin division of the East German railroad, shared the same context. This piece of land between the old Anhalter Bahnhof station in the Kreuzberg borough and the “Insulaner” hill in the Schöneberg borough measured more than 68 hectares and fell under the jurisdiction of the Reichsbahn. In correspondence from 24 January 1980, the Reichsbahn’s administration at the GDR Ministry of Transport and the corresponding West Berlin Senate Department laid out the specifics of a plan that included permission to tear down or renovate S-Bahn stations and tracks, along with building new ones, in exchange for building a new freight station to the south with a switchyard and storage facilities. It also provided for the construction of a new section of an expressway along the S-Bahn embankment of the Wannsee line, new lanes on existing roads, including the ring road to the south near Sachsendamm, and developing the former railroad grounds at Anhalter Bahnhof. Changes in demand forecasts for the freight station and domestic policy disputes, especially over the proposed road construction, prevented these plans from being realized. Reunification on 3 October 1990 meant a fundamental change in direction, making the original agreements and plans irrelevant. Today the grounds are used as a public Nature Park(Externer Link).

A third agreement on exchanging territory was signed on 31 March 1988 after more than 4 years of negotiations, and went into force on 1 July 1988. This deal gave West Berlin 14 pieces of property, or a total of 96.7 hectares, along the inner and outer borders of the city, including the Lenné-Dreieck, a triangle of land at Potsdamer Platz. The GDR acquired the last West Berlin exclaves Falkenhager Wiese, Laszinswiesen and Wüste Mark , along with a 50 m strip of land along the freight station Eberswalder Güterbahnhof north of Bernauer Strasse in the Wedding borough (today’s “Mauerpark”). The Senate also paid the GDR additional compensation of DM 76 million. Thanks to the exchange, West Berlin’s territory grew by 9.4 hectares.

As part of the Four-Power Agreement, these arrangements stayed in force until reunification. A statement entered in the minutes on Article 1 of the Unification Treaty confirmed the exchange of territory between Berlin boroughs and between Berlin and the new federal state of Brandenburg. Surveying and documentation of the Berlin-Brandenburg border was agreed on and carried out in 1991.



Steinstücken, an area covering a good 12 hectares and belonging to the Wannsee section of the Zehlendorf borough, is located southwest of Kohlhasenbrück on the Berlin border. From 1945 to 1971, Steinstücken was West Berlin’s only inhabited exclave in the Soviet occupation zone or the GDR.

Steinstücken is located on farmland that once belonged to the village Wendisch Stahnsdorf, which had probably already been abandoned by the time it was mentioned in the list of villages, towns, and cities from 1375 commissioned by Emperor Charles IV. In 1787 the village Stolpe purchased 151 acres of this land, which included part of the Potsdam Forest. A small settlement was established here in 1817; called Steinstücken, it was named after a piece of village land where rocks from the ice age had once been found. When Stolpe, which had joined the new rural community of Wannsee in 1898, became part of the Zehlendorf borough with the incorporation of Greater Berlin in 1920, Steinstücken (with the exception of the Potsdam Forest section) came with it, although it was not physically connected to the city. In line with the Allied arrangements (the London Protocol), based on the existing administrative borders, on how Berlin was to be divided up during the occupation, Steinstücken became part of the American sector starting in 1945 and an exclave in the Soviet occupation zone (and later the GDR) that surrounded Berlin.

On 18 October 1951, Steinstücken was temporarily occupied by GDR police officers. The U.S. intervened, however, and the GDR ended its annexation four days later. At the end of May 1952, when the GDR put up barriers along its borders to West Germany and West Berlin in the wake of increasing East-West conflicts, Steinstücken was also sealed off. After that, its roughly 200 residents had access to their homes only via a 1-kilometer connecting road under the control of the GDR. Visitors, including people making deliveries, had to show proof that they had a second residence in Steinstücken.
After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, three U.S. soldiers were stationed here, with helicopters connecting them to the rest of West Berlin. A small “Airlift” monument composed of two rotor blades, installed on the airstrip used until the end of 1976, recalls the Allies’ protective role.

Official opening of the access road on 30 August 1972 © LAB
Official opening of the access road on 30 August 1972 © LAB

After the 1971 agreement on an exchange of territory, the exclave was connected to the rest of West Berlin by a corridor that was about 900 m long and 100 m wide. A cul-de-sac was opened on 30 August 1972, creating access and connecting Steinstücken to West Berlin’s public transportation system (Bus 118). While the area’s energy and water had previously come exclusively from the GDR, responsibility for supplying these was gradually transferred to West Berlin. When the borders were opened in 1989, 12 households were still getting their water from Potsdam. One noteworthy building in Steinstücken is the house at Bernhard-Beyer-Strasse 12, which was built from 1926 to 1927 according to plans by Erich Mendelssohn.

An info board on Steinstücken’s history was officially unveiled in November 2005, as part of the “Mauer-Stele” project that marks the course of the Wall in Potsdam. The Berlin Wall Trail also leads to Steinstücken, where another info board at the corner of Steinstrasse and Bäkestrasse tells the story of this former West Berlin exclave.



In 1988, the “Lenné-Dreieck,” around 4 hectares of land located between the Tiergarten park and Potsdamer Platz, became the third property to be exchanged between the GDR and the Berlin Senate. Bordered by Lennéstrasse, Bellevuestrasse, and Ebertstrasse, it had been part of the Mitte borough since the incorporation of Greater Berlin in 1920; like the rest of the borough, it belonged to the Soviet sector as of 1945. When the Wall went up in 1961, this triangular piece of land was cut off by the border installations; projecting into West Berlin, it was surrounded by a makeshift fence and left undeveloped. The exchange of territory agreed to on 31 March 1988 made it part of West Berlin’s Tiergarten borough as of 1 July 1988.

The Lenné-Dreieck attracted public attention outside Berlin, too, when it was occupied on 25 May 1988 by protestors opposed to the Senate’s plans for road construction here, once the territory had been formally exchanged. When the police came to clear the property on 1 July 1988, more than 180 of the squatters fled over the Wall to East Berlin, leaving the GDR a little later via the usual checkpoints.

The fall of the Wall and reunification put an end to plans for a divided highway here. Instead, the Lenné-Dreieck became part of the Urban Planning Ideas Competition(Externer Link) for the Potsdamer Platz/Leipziger Platz area; today it is home to a mix of office, hotel, and residential spaces.



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