Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin



Saarlandstrasse (Stresemannstrasse: ex and in spe) 1940s

On January 26 the Nazis changed the name of one of Kreuzberg´s main and longest streets: Stresemannstraße ceased to be Stresemannstraße and turned into Saarlandstraße instead.

Gustav Stresemann was German Chancellor and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during the Weimar Republic. In 1926 he was awarded Peace Nobel Prize – along with the Foreign Secretary of France, Aristide Briand. The two statesmen, working together, impressed the Nobel Prize Committee with their active involvement in re-conciliation between the post-WWI Germany and France. One could think he was a perfect role model for the role-model-fixated Führer. Not so. Stresemann´s politics might have been of nationalist, monarchist (although he supported the republic, deep at heart he was alleged to have craved the return of Kaiser) and conservative hue (especially his trade war on Poland in 1920s), but he was not a friend of the early edition of the brown-shirt  club either. On top of that, Stresemann´s wife was Jewish.

Since Saarland had just returned onto the ample bosom of the Thousand-Year Reich from the unenthusiastic soujourn by the French – its fate sealed by the Treaty of Versaille as part of Germany´s repentance for the sins of WWI – the Führer considered Saarlandstraße a perfect new name for one of the most important streets of his capital.

But the story of name-changes in Stresemann- aka Saarlandstraße did not end here. And neither did it begin. In fact, today´s Stresemannstraße – for that´s what it is called again since 1947 – has been a cartographer´s nightmare for a long time.

Between 1831, when it was in fact two streets called Schulgartenstrasse and Hirschelstrasse, and today it went through further 13 linguistic and also partly geographic metamorphoses. It was known as Brandenburgische Kommunikation, Anhaltische Kommunikation, Potsdamer Kommunikation only to turn into Königgratzer Straße when the old city walls (and the gates whose names you have just read) were removed. Then the northern part of the street – from Potsdamer Platz up to Brandenburg Gate – was re-named Budapester Straße, only to be called Friedrich-Ebert-Straße and Hermann-Göring-Straße within less than next 20 years. Today it is known as Ebertstraße…

The southern part became Stresemannstrasse, then Saarlandstrasse, then Stresemannstraße again. The section of the street with numbers 71-75  – the one that remained Königgratzer Straße until 1936 although the rest was called Stresemannstraße since 1930… (feel free to scream) on the 19th of December 1936 magically turned into Hallesches Ufer. Number 2 to 12.

To find Gustav Stresemann´s grave, go for a quiet walk to Luisenstädtische Friedhof – one of the municipal cemetaries in Bergmannstrasse next to Südstern in Kreuzberg, where he rests in a massive stone tomb. Stresemann died having suffered a massive stroke in 1929.

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