Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


It is a pity to know and not to share (my motto). Therefore, I am going to catch up a bit on street names and streets of Kreuzberg for it seems summer has always been good time to name (or re-name) some of them. This is Part 1 of this small sub-series.

July 23rd, 1831

What we know as Stresemannstrasse and what many others before us knew as Königgratzer Strasse, Saarlandstrasse, Brandenburgische Kommunikation, Anhaltische Kommunikation, Potsdamer Kommunikation, Hermann-Göring-Strasse and Schulgartenstrasse among others (more about the thoroughfare in this Today in Kreuzberg post), is officially introduced to the street register as Hirschelstrasse.

Probably the best famous resident of Hirschelstrasse was the brilliant German writer, Theodor Fontane. At 14 Hirschelstrasse family Fontane – Theodor, his wife Emilie and their children – welcomed on February 5th, 1864 its youngest member, Friedrich. About his little Friedel (a pet name for Friedrich) Theodor Fontane, far from being a doting father, wrote in a letter once: “a good and kind boy but insignificant”. Later Friedrich Fontane became one of the leading book publishers in Berlin: on October 1st, 1888 he established his own publishing house, F Fontane & Co and soon went on to publish true gems of contemporary world literature. For example all of his father´s works…

July 28th, 1872

Built by Kommerzienrat Stobwasser new street joining today´s Stresemannstrasse (then Königgratzer Strasse and before that… oh, you know that yourselves, don´t you?) and Friedrichstrasse is named Hedemannstrasse.

It honours and commemorates one of the longest residing mayors of the city of Berlin, Heinrich Hedemann. A lawyer by education and a politician by heart, before he took this post, he had been a very long-lasting member of the city council (30 years in service) and the man who in 1844 founded Berliner Handwerkerverein (Berliner Workmen Union) which he then led as its chairman for the next 4 years.

Heinrich Hedemann was a busy man that year: in 1844 he was also one of the founders of St.-Jakobi-Gemeinde (The Parish of St. James) – the spiritually exciting and historically challenging subject of our recent post, Today in Kreuzberg: July 2nd.

After becoming the mayor of Berlin in 1860 he did not know yet that he would keep this office for the rest of his life.

Hedemann himself was no stranger to today´s Kreuzberg either. His first address might have been at Alte Roßstrasse (today Neue Roßstrasse in Mitte), but then he stayed true to this borough: around 1846 is family resided in a flat in 113 Alte Jakobstrasse , only to move some 6 years later to 96 Oranienstrasse (today he would have the Bundesdruckerei or Federal Printing Office as his direct neighbour) and at last in around 1859 to 11 Schöneberger Strasse, where he stayed until his death in March 1872.

He is still here – his grave can be visited at the Luisenstädtischer Friedhof in Bergmannstrasse. He spends the eternity there in the excellent company of Tobias Feilner, Family Späth, Gustav Stresemann, factory owner ad industrialist August Heckmann (of Heckmann Ufer in Kreuzberg 36) and Erwin Beck, among many, many many others.

July 28th, 1891

Enter Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. But do not try this in practice: the street does not exist anymore. Although officially re-named Niederkirchnerstrasse in May 1951, it looks nothing like it used to before WW2 and for that let us be thankful.

Named Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse after, well, Prinz Albrecht – Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Albrecht, Prince of Prussia to be exact – it was not so much meant to commemorate his numerous acts of military and strategic finesse (he fought in many a Prussian war and knew his way around the battlefield) as to solve a little technical problem. The reason why his name was chosen was very likely of a more mundane and, let us be honest, amusing nature: the new street built when Zimmerstrasse was extended westwards and in need of a monicker, cut right through the land property of the Prince. How better to mollify a nobleman whose land has been tresspassed on and shall be tresspassed on forever more? Name the street after him. Hence Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse.

Until 1891 more of a path and known as Verlängerte Zimmerstrasse, it stretched between the bustling Wilhelmstrasse and the always busy Königgratzer Strasse (Stresemann-, Hirschel-, Saarlandstrasse – I shall not say another word but for “do see above”…). And it was a thing of beauty: here stood the aforementioned park of Prinz-Albrecht-Palace in Wilhelmstrasse, the Kunsgewerbeschule (Academy of Applied Arts), the seat of the Prussian Parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus and today also the seat of Berlin Parliament) and the splendid Hotel Römerbad (later Hotel Prinz Albrecht), not to mention today´s Martin-Gropius-Bau which was erected as Kunstgewerbemuseum or Museum of Applied Arts.

Two major events in world history changed the face of the street which marks the border between today´s boroughs of Mitte and Kreuzberg: first WW2 and then Berlin Wall. You can find traces of both there. The latter left a split in the city and a scar on the surface of the street. The former left much much more: it is what is known today as Topografie des Terrors

What it was: Hirschelstrasse in yellow, the future Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse in red and the future Hedemannstrasse marked in green on the map of Berlin 1848 AD (source: Europeana/ZLB)



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