Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
The images might often be shaky and out of focus but what they show was steady and sharp: Berlin in the years leading to the 1st World War.
The city was on its way up: growing, bustling and becoming more beautiful and merciless than ever.
The vintage film found online and already presented on this blog before shows it at its most charming, sparing us the view of its less enchanting side: the poverty, the dirt and the struggle of many of its inhabitants to make it through the day.
It is also a rare pleasure to be able to see the early 20th-century city in motion – most of the images we know are photos. But excellent as they might be, they will never be able to make you feel the life, the fever and the rush it was filled with back then.
In the years 1900-1914 there was no Kreuzberg yet – the borough was called to life in 1920 as “Hallesches Tor” (the named changed to “Kreuzberg” a year later to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Memorial for Wars of Liberation in Viktoriapark). But its several future parts: Tempelhofer Vorstadt, Luisenstadt, Southern Friedrichstadt and Upper Friedrichvorstadt carried on at the same pace as the rest of the city.
You know this when the Omnibus Line 4B from Müllerstrasse passes in front of you on the screen crossing the busy junction on its way toward Hallesches Tor.
And when you watch the horrific scene of one of the biggest U-Bahn accidents in the history of Berlin that took place at Gleisdreieck on September 26, 1908 (you can read more about it in the following post). By the way, the film was made by another well-known Kreuzberg establishment: Oskar Messter´s film production company. And behind the camera stood none other than Carl Froehlich, the future master of German cinema and one of the best film directors this country produced.
That the future Kreuzberg was a good match for the rest of this beautiful city you know the latest when when at 3:20s the camera shows you Belle-Alliance-Brücke (Hallesches-Tor-Brücke) in its whole pre-war glory: with trams crossing it slowly on the way to Belle-Alliance-Strasse (Mehringdamm), with the Hochbahn about to arrive at the Hallesches Tor station and with the view of Gitschiner Strasse behind the viaduct that we will never get to know ourselves.
Out of all the houses visible there only the massive body of Patentamt (today this part of the complex in Gitschiner Strasse 103 houses European Patent Office) with its characteristic roof remains.
The film is best watched with the sound out (unless you´re a die-hard fan of Beethoven´s 5th).