Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


One of the best sources of knowledge about old Berlin are private photos and films made by regular people. Casual, often shaky and/or out of focus images tend to catch glimpses of places that TV crews and professional film-makers didn´t care or did not even know about.

Here is such a film. Originally a VHS recording (for our younger readers – and I do not believe that times have changed so much that I am saying this – the explanation for what VHS was can be found here), next to the key West Berlin locations such as Reichstag, Kurfürstendamm or Brandenburger Tor it shows some less obvious but not less interesting places.

The opening was shot at Oberbaumbrücke, the bridge connecting the then West Berlin borough of Kreuzberg with East Berlin borough called Friedrichshain. Today they are in fact one administrative unit known as Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg.

Then the camera moves along the section of Berlin Wall that was the main topic of the news for the past weeks: it presents current East Side Gallery in all its steel-grey totalitarian glory. Perhaps David Hasselhoff who is planning to alight from the Hoff-Jet in Berlin this Sunday in order to give a concert in support of the preservation of this part of Berlin Wall – by the way, the word “freedom” has clearly undergone a mighty shift in meaning since the last time he sang at the Wall – should watch it as well? The wish to have the whole of the Wall removed expressed by some of those who lived with it for years might be then a bit more understandable.

Along those obvious locations, this film will also show you Mariannenplatz and a couple of other rather unidentifiable places in Kreuzberg from the time before gentrification came to town.

Apart from that, it is going to give you a unique chance to look into the then still abandoned freight depot of the old Anhalter Bahnhof. If you were to visit the same spot today, you´d be standing among dozens of historic train engines on display at Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) in Trebbiner Strasse 9 in Kreuzberg. This empty, crumbling shed from whose window the camera is watching the passing train became one of the beautifully renovated engine sheds at the museum.

Here is what the author of the film, Lars Zinner, has to say about it (in English). As for the film, no worries about the language: it is without dialogues or comments. Just fantastic images and some great music. Enjoy!

“Shots from West Berlin, November 1987. A contemporary document of a long-passed era, filmed on VHS

The ninth of November 1989, all the people from East Germany could cross the Berlin Wall for the first time. The shots you can see in this video were filmed two years before this happened, in November of 1987 when the wall had not fallen yet. West Berlin was a kind of an island surrounded by the Berlin Wall (and the German Democratic Republic) like an ocean. It was a very special place at that time full of fallow land, an outpost of the “free world”, a biotope with people who could not exist elsewhere. And now… this Berlin is nothing more but a mere dream.

The music in this video is played by The Supposed Mission.

0:01 in der S2
0:13 Spreeufer-Oberbaumbrücke / Spree shore – Oberbaum bridge
1:11 irgendwo in Kreuzberg / somewhere in Kreuzberg
1:50 Kreuzberg – Mariannenplatz
2:19 Mauer am Niederkirchner Straße (Abgeordnetenhaus) / Wall at Niederkirchner Str.
2:45 Brandenburger Tor / Brandenburg Gate
2:51 Platz der Republik: Reichstag / Republic Square: Parliament
3:15 verlassenes Haus am Gleisdreieck (Anhalter Güterbahnhof) / abandoned house at the freight depot
3:45 rote BR 211 (V 100) / red DB class 211
4:05 in der S2
4:16 Swinemünder Brücke und Bahnhof Gesundbrunnen mit alter Treppenanlage / Swinemünde bridge and Gesundbrunnen station with old staircase
4:25 Nachts auf dem Ku’damm / Kurfürstendamm at night
5:22 in der S2″

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