Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
In 1866/1867 Berlin-Görlitzer Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft (Berlin-Görlitz Railway Society), which has just seen its main project – Görlitzer Bahnhof – come to fruition, decides the brand new railway station needs an elegant frame and proper infrastructure. New streets should be build around it to improve access for both goods and passengers. And so it came that the section running along the station´s eastern from Skalitzer Strasse down to the canal, known as die Straße 54 Abt. I des Bebauungsplanes got covered with cobble stone and christened Görlitzer Strasse. For rather obvious reasons.
The street is going to become one of the chief meeting points for the future workers´movement. In the 1920s and early 1930s the whole Kiez (local for neighbourhood) is, politically speaking, of deep pink up to dark red hue: the communists from KPD, the socialists from SPD, their offshoots and split off´s all frequent the red Hochburgs (strongholds) of Kreuzberg. In Görlitzer Strasse 7a where the park stretches today many devoted members of Kommunistische Partei Deutschland (German Communist Party) raised their glasses to the sound of the Internationale. The place must have been part of a coal- or lumber-yard and as a Kneipe not exactly kosher, nevertheless, for the comrades it was enough.
At Number 52 Bei Burkhardt was very much legally frequented by the members of Fichte Arbeitersportverein: one of the biggest workers´ sports (and political) clubs in Berlin. Ten-thousand-strong (in Berlin) organisation had 1,200 membership-card holders in the borough of Kreuzberg. The club was a social hub for whole families: sports events, festivities for both big and small, even family hiking on Sundays. In the SA days (SA, Sturmabteilung, being the early paramilitary arm of National Socialist German Workers’ Party or NSDAP) Bei Burkhardt became one of the main anti-Nazi opposition cells in Kreuzberg. Raided and closed down by Nazis in 1932 it was turned into another SA Sturmlokal (“Nazi pub”). Many members of the Fichte Arbeitersportverein got arrested and went through the hell of tortures at the NSDAP´s office on the corner of Schlesische Strasse and Falkensteinstrasse: at their very own chamber of horrors.
Apart from Bei Burkhardt and the place at Number 7a, there was also Bei Helmut (Number 51) where Red Front Fighters’ League (Rot-Frontkämpfer Bund), the communist answer to SA, convened. Both they and the guests of the establishment next door (Görlitzer Strasse 50) took numerous short trips to the other side of the railway station. In Wiener Strasse Nazis were slowly gaining a firm foothold so it was important that they received regular remainders of how unwelcome their presence there was. The victims of those short encounters were promptly transported to the party Lazarett in Baerwaldstrasse 38, mentioned already “Today in Kreuzberg” on January 18th. Sadly, in 1933 the game was won by the losers.
There are several other things worth knowing about Görlitzer Strasse. It DOES have numbers between 1 and 31: the numeration starts already in today´s Spreewaldplatz and “wraps” itself around the front of the park in Skalitzer Strasse to curve smoothly into Görlitzer Strasse proper. Number 1 belongs to the “Parkcafe”: heaven for parents with small kids who enjoy watching them play right next to the busiest street in the ´hood. They have a fence though. And a mini-golf course. With a view towards the U1 viaduct, it is pretty much irresistible.
Number 2-3 are the only left-overs from Görlitzer Bahnhof: the cargo line buildings which you can see in this photo taken in 1870 (left and behind the main station):
Today known as “Edelweiss”, it´s a great place to eat, drink and be merry.
Numbers 4-31 are the park. The first house opposite “Görli” and facing Landwehrkanal is number 32/32A and the last one, 74, goes around the corner into Skalitzer Strasse.
As for the house at number 72, built in 1874 for the executive of Berlin-Görlitz Railway Society´s, according to Berlin Directory 1880 it was occupied, among others, by Eisenbahn Direktor Franck, Obergärtner Leeder, Direktor Poffeldt, Heizer Liepold (most probably the chief of the fire-fighters working at the station), Baurath Reder and Portier Thiele.
In the house number 32 in 1927, next to 22 other families, lived three Geldbriefträger (postmen responsible for delivering money transfers), one regular postman called Kunze, three locksmiths, two carpenters, a midwife (whose name has, unfortunately, not been recorded) and a pub owner, Kraaz. He was most likely the rightful owner of another famous KPD Kneipe right downstairs in the same building – on the corner of Görlitzer Strasse and Görlitzer Ufer. Today it´s a small kindergarten called “Plutonia”. The spirit of unruly striving for freedom prevailed.