The building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 shocked the world. Ever since, the image of this impenetrable barrier has been a central symbol of the Cold War. Based on vast research in untapped archival, oral, and private sources, this book reveals the hidden origins of the Iron Curtain, presenting it in a startling new light. Historian Edith Sheffer's in-depth account focuses on the intersection between two sister cities, Sonneberg and Neustadt bei Coburg, Germany's largest divided population outside Berlin. Sheffer demonstrates that as Soviet and American forces occupied each city after the Second World War, townspeople who historically had much in common quickly formed opposing interests and identities. Sheffer describes how smuggling, kidnapping, rape, and killing in the early postwar years led citizens to demand greater border control on both sides--long before East Germany fortified its 1,393-kilometer border with West Germany. Indeed, Sheffer shows that the physical border was not simply imposed by Cold War superpowers, but was in some part an improvised outgrowth of an anxious postwar society.--From publisher description.