Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
When on September 19th, 1818 the corner stone for the future Nationaldenkmal für Befreiungskreige (National Memorial for The Wars of Liberation) was laid on top of Tempelhofer Berg in today´s Berlin-Kreuzberg, the occasion was commemorated on hundreds of bronze memorial medals.
Those medals were sold and the proceeds from their sale formed a special fund helping the soldiers crippled during the Napoleonic wars. But what these soldiers and their families needed the most were jobs, a regular income that would allow them to thrive.
Martin Herborn, a war invalid, had more luck than many others. He was offered a position that was not only relatively well paid and respectable but also provided him with comfortable accommodation on top of that.
On January 1st, 1822 – a year after the Nationaldenkmal was finished and unveiled – Herborn moved into the small and cosy Wächterhouse (the guard´s house) at the foot of the memorial.
The house was placed out of direct view, on the north-eastern side of the hill that until 1821 was known as Tempelhofer Berg, Sandberg, Runder Berg and Weinberg and became Kreuzberg afterwards. The God of Prussian Architecture, Schinkel, designed it to match the memorial he built for the king: both constructions shouted “Gothic revival!” from far away.
Martin Herborn lived at the foot of Nationaldenkmal until at least mid-1830s. He was followed by several other guards until in the last decade of the 19th century the building was bought by the Milchkuranstalt from Kreuzbergstrasse down at the bottom of the hill (you can read more about the Milchkuranstalt or the “milk sanatorium” in Kreuzberg in the following post).
The building could be still seen on the 1938 map of the area and was most probably destroyed during the 1944 British air-raid that removed the villas of Wilhelmshöhe (the neighbouring elegant cul-de-sac) and ripped open part of the memorial´s stone base.
If you should go looking for it today, all that you will find is a forlorn damp little football pitch behind a high mesh-wire fence – unused because dark, damp and uninviting. Hard to believe that it is here that Martin Herborn spent the happiest years of his life.