Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


The decision was not easy. December 1st seems to have been a particularly eventful date for the past more less 200 years – both in Kreuzberg and in the rest of Berlin.

Just to give you the taste of how eventful: in 1827 Berlin postal services start running with 36 postal districts and 60 mail collection stations, in 1876 Berlin “Rohrpost” (pneumatic post)  starts pumping mail underground around the city (and  very good system it was), in 1925 the law finally makes it illegal to build the infamous Mietskasernen, giant tenement houses with high side wings and multiple  Quergebäuden (the houses parallel to the front one and leading to another and yet another courtyard). In 1933 Leni Rifenstahl and Sepp Allgeier present their new film from the Nazi party rally in Nürnberg, entitled Der Sieg Des Glaubens (Victory of Faith), that made Riefenstahl the star of Hitler´s film industry (while she, poor lamb, had no idea what evil, evil people she surrounded herself with back then…)

Other historic moments worth mentioning would be the 1886 angling triumph of brothers Dannhans who caught a giant pike (and we are talking almost 30 kg and 158 cm of fish here!) in Engelbecken on Luisenstädtischer Kanal and the decision to expand Oberbaumbrücke between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain to accommodate the growing car traffic between the boroughs (AD 1995).

Still, it is not the giant fish or the pneumatic post that will be the focus today. It is the streets. Street names to be exact. Here it goes.


Boppstrasse is named after the orientalist and linguist as well as one of the leading academics at Berlin university Prof. Franz Bopp. On December 1, 1821 he became the extraordinary professor of comparative linguistics at the school.

Franz Bopp (source: Wikipedia)

Franz Bopp (source: Wikipedia)

The same day another street in the future SW 61 is given its proper name. Exit Straße Nr. 7, Abt. II des Bebauungsplanes, enter Graefestrasse. It honours Prof. Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Albrecht von Graefe, the pioneering German ophthalmologist and the man who developed the surgical procedure for treating glaucoma (Grüne Stern) and strabismus (commonly known as “squinting” – it seems that the author of this text owes it to Graefe that she is not looking at her computer screen and at the bookshelf simultaneously today…)

Albrecht von Graefe

Albrecht von Graefe


Mariendorfer Strasse disappears from the map of Kreuzberg, only to re-emerge as Riemannstrasse at the other end.

Between 1874 and 1936 the Straße Nr. 26 b, Abt. II des Bebauungsplanes was named after Mariendorf, today part of the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg. Back in the days (very far back in the days for we are talking the 13th century here) it was a village owned by the Knights Templars, also known as The Order of The Temple or – and this is my favourite name ever – The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (expressed in a nutshell – a coconut nutshell).

The Templars sold the place to another venerable order returning from the crusades, the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of St John as they were also known (for today they are known as The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, called of Rhodes, called of Malta – and now try saying that very, very fast…)

Those happened to be the very same Johanniter after whom Johanniterstrasse in Kreuzberg was named and whose Johannistisch gave name to the whole area around it before. Read about in the following post.

Unfortunately – for some street-names would be best left unchanged – in 1936 it was decided that instead of some village a person should be honoured. The theologian and one of the founders of the first German student fraternity or Urburschenschaft Heinrich Herrmann Riemann might have seemed like a perfect candidate in the days when the words “German” and “fraternity” – especially when in one phrase – were gaining a new, much darker dimension.


The last two streets for today were the only ones here whose background was not entirely clear to me, as it usually is with new streets bearing the names of modern heroes.

Brandesstrasse, officially probably the ugliest (on the scale from 1 to 10 it scores 12) but also one of the shortest streets in Kreuzberg, can be found between Lindenstrasse and Mehringplatz, slicing its way through between some of the least attractive buildings in this borough (there you have your reason why 12).


Just like the other street named on that day, Franz-Klühs-Strasse, it was built where the allied air-raids left plenty of space to be filled in anew.

Brandesstrasse, placed right next to Berlin IG-Metall-Zentrale on the corner of Lindenstrasse and Alte Jakobstrasse, honours a trade unions activist and an anti-nazi opposition fighter Alwin Brandes.


Brandes was an SPD member and a devoted social-democrat who became an MP in German parliament (Bundestag) in 1920, 1928, 1932 and 1933. He was also a member of Deutsche Metallarbeiterverband (Trade Union of German Metal Industry Workers), a powerful socialist organisation banned by the Nazis on May 1st, 1933.

Alwin Brandes lived through KZ (concentration camp) Sachsenburg in 1934 and a prison sentence in 1936 followed by the so called Schutzhaft until 1937. And to quote Wikipedia: Schutzhaft or protective custody: In Nazi Germany, the German equivalent term, ‘Schutzhaft’, was used as a euphemism for the extra- or para-legal rounding-up of political opponents and especially Jews, sometimes officially defended as being necessary to protect them from the ‘righteous’ wrath of the German population. Schutzhaft did not provide for a judicial warrant, in fact the detainee would most probably never have seen a judge. The victims were then sent to concentration camps, where many were later exterminated.

Brandes was lucky to survive both the protective custody and the war. After 1945 he became again an active SPD activist in East Berlin.

Franz-Klühs-Strasse commemorates another albeit much less lucky important Berlin social-democrat. Franz Klühs who joined SPD in 1895 as a typesetter working in a printing shop, became also a well-known journalist for several social-democrat newspapers published in Berlin and beyond.

Vorwärts building in Lindenstrasse 3

Vorwärts building in Lindenstrasse 3

In 1920 he was trusted with the seat of the editor-in-chief of the most important socialist daily, Vorwärts, whose building used to stand very close to the place where the street named after him  begins (Lindenstrasse 3). As was to be expected, as soon as the Nazis came to power the newspaper was banned – it happened already on February 28, 1933. Klühs who attended a secret SPD meeting in Prague in August 1933 was arrested and sent to the infamous KZ Columbia-Haus (Concentration Camp Columbia-Haus) on the edge of Tempelhofer Feld and on the border between Kreuzberg and Tempelhof.

It will be the tortures he underwent there followed by another prison sentence in the police prison at Alexanderplatz from where he would be sent to the prison in Moabit that would cause his premature death.

Moabit was only a changing station for Klühs, who after being sentenced to another 2 years and 9 months for plotting high treason had to do his sentence in another goal, this time in Tegel. And it was from Tegel that he had to be released in June 1936 due to extremely poor health condition caused by the abuse at the hands of the Nazis.

He died on January 7th, 1938 and was buried in Mariendorf during a ceremony attended by many of his friends and supporters.


Franz-Klühs-Strasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg

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