Welcome to the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse. This historical site in the center of the German capital is dedicated to the memory of Germany’s division.
This is a unique site: The street’s history shows how the Berlin Wall destroyed both the urban space and people’s lives, and how it separated friends and families. The border on Bernauer Strasse ran between two city districts, Wedding and Mitte, and drew a line right here between West Berlin and East Berlin. The boundary line created an unusual situation: The buildings on the south side of the street still belonged to East Berlin, but the sidewalk right in front of these buildings was already a part of West Berlin.
The photographs taken at Bernauer Strasse at this time were seen all over the world: They show people trying to escape to West Berlin by jumping from the windows and rooftops of houses on the border. They show the border houses being walled up and later torn down. There are pictures of successful escape tunnels and also of the East German policeman jumping over barbed wire. The very first victims of the border regime died on this street. And this is where the Reconciliation Church was blown up. After the Wall was built, the church was unreachable, isolated in the death strip between East and West.
These events earned Bernauer Strasse a degree of notoriety. The street became a symbol of German division. But the Bernauer Strasse also calls to mind the peaceful end to division: On the night between November 10 and 11, 1989, the first segments of the Wall were knocked down between Bernauer Strasse and Eberswalder Strasse.
The Berlin Wall Memorial runs along both sides of Bernauer Strasse. On the side of the street that belonged to West Berlin, you’ll find the newly erected Visitor Center and the Documentation Center with a viewing platform. At the Visitor Center located at Bernauer Str. 119, two films are shown and information is available about the entire memorial site and what it has to offer. The Documentation Center at Bernauer Str. 111 shows an exhibition about the division of the city.
In the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station, an exhibition titled “Border Stations and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin” documents how the construction of the Berlin Wall also affected the city’s public transportation system.
Today the grounds of the memorial extend along 1.4 kilometers of the former border strip. Many photos and films are presented to show how Bernauer Strasse looked during the time when Germany was still divided. Various exhibit stations, devoted to different subjects, tell the history of the Berlin Wall.
We would first like to introduce you to a few of the central areas at the memorial site:
- The “Window of Remembrance” commemorates the deaths that occurred at the Berlin Wall.
- The national monument is dedicated to the memory of the city’s division and to the victims of Communist tyranny. It is the only place in Berlin where you can still see the broad expanse of the deadly border fortifications. The monument gives visitors a glimpse into the former border strip while also commemorating the victims of Communist tyranny.
- The Chapel of Reconciliation serves as a place for contemplation. It stands at the very site where the Reconciliation Church that was torn down in 1985 used to stand.
- The exposed foundation walls of a building that stood on the border give an im-pression of what life had been like for the residents of Bernauer Strasse after the Wall was erected.
You have probably already noticed the reddish steel poles. If you observe them from a sharp angle, they seem to form a solid wall. The poles mark where the Berlin Wall used to stand and are a key element of the memorial’s design concept: The original remains of the Berlin Wall have been preserved as an historical monument, but where sections of the Wall no longer exist, the Wall is designated by poles of Corten steel, also known as weathering steel. This principle also applies to the border fortifications, to the escape tunnels, and to the border houses that were torn down. In addition, archeological windows show older layers of the border fortifications and the remains of buildings and streets.
More information is provided by QR Codes at various places throughout the grounds.
One more tip: During the tour you should take note of the incident markers imbedded in the ground at different spots. They mark places where something special happened such as an escape or a protest. You can learn more about each of these events through the number displayed on the marker. Furthermore, fliers with a map and details about each incident are available in both the Visitor Center and Documentation Center.
We hope your visit to the Berlin Wall Memorial will be both informative and stimulating.