Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
I do realise I am running very much behind the schedule but as my 1st Rule of Research says: the deeper you dig, the heavier the spade. Facts, images and stories keep popping out of the ground around me like mushrooms whenever I move my feet. While looking for pictures for today´s post I visited, just a second… 173 pages. I have learnt of at least five new persons or places without whom Kreuzberg wouldn´t be what it is, bought three historic newspapers (because of the aforementioned persons or places), read four articles, paid an online visit to Stabi (Berlin National Library – a treasure trove par excellence), seen pictures I wish I had not seen and took notes per kilo. Needless to say, I loved every single moment of it. I hope it shows.
Salvation Army´s Berlin branch (with its seat in Blücherplatz 1) opens a Wöcherinnenheim – Maternity Home – in Lankwitzstrasse 4.
Do not google “Lankwitzstrasse, Kreuzberg”, though – you will not find it on the map. On the last day of August in 1949, for reasons not entirely clear to anyone, it was re-named Ruhlsdorferstrasse. This tiny road between the former Teltower Strasse (Obentrautstrasse today) and Tempelhofer Ufer was situated only a couple of hundreds of metres from Salvation Army´s headquarters and offered a perfect location for their new charity project.
The Maternity Home was a sanctuary for “fallen” single young women, with strict exclusion of prostitutes, regardless of marital status or age. Unmarried pregnant girls – for this sad fate usually befell younger females, who more often that not “fell” thanks to their employees or relatives – could count on care and help during the last weeks before the delivery and directly after giving birth.
Even though the Heim could afford taking only seven guests at a time, those lucky enough to get in could rest assured: they were in good hands. As the Krankenhaus-Lexikon für Das Deutsche Reich published in 1900 (by Georg Reimer´s publishing house from Anhalterstrasse in Kreuzberg) informs us, the home was run by a former midwife under medical supervision of a certified medical practitioner. The young women, considered evil and spoilt and as such commonly rejected by the so called “morally sound” society, were given board and lodging plus medical care they very often needed. What they needed even more was being treated like any other pregnant women: fragile, very often completely helpless and in their case almost without exception, seriously physically weakened. Also, they were desperate for help during the delivery and during the first days with a new-born baby. And that is exactly what Salvation Army house in Lankwitzstrasse provided.
As statistics show, their help was more than necessary: in 1900 around 15% of all children born in Berlin were born out of wedlock. Only every third one of them survived infancy.