YOU ARE HERE: POTSDAMER STRASSE IN OCTOBER 1945
Today´s photo, made just off Potsdamer Platz in the old Potsdamer Strasse – today´s Potsdamer Strasse was built anew to fit into the modernised grid of the PoPla – was taken in October 1945.
To be even more precise, it must have been taken before October 29th, 1945: on that day the omnibus service on the Line 74, introduced to replace the street-tram service whose tramways had not yet been restored after Berlin´s surrender, was terminated.
The background is occupied by the massive, and surprisingly intact, façade of the Warenhaus Wertheim in Leipziger Platz. The famous department store, whose place is now taken by a new, large Berlin shopping centre, was not brought down by the war.
Although damaged during the 1944 air-raids, it was still in good enough condition to qualify, at least partly, for restoration. Sadly, sitting right in the middle of the border between the Allied and the Soviet sectors as well as standing for the unwelcome “capitalist greed” of yonder, it had to go. The building, described by many as the most beautiful department store in Europe, was demolished in 1955/1956.
As for the small hotel visible in the top right corner, “Hotel Borussia”, it stood in Linkstrasse 1 and was one of 52 Class B (a more or less 3-star affair today) hotels available around Anhalter and Potsdamer Railway Stations.
The interesting building to left of the hotel, known as Telschow-Haus, its groundfloor housed one of the best Berlin cake shops: Telschow cakes and pastries were strong competition for the delicacies served at such renowned places like Cafe Josty or Cafe Kranzler. The “BOENICKE” sign installed on its corner advertised tobacco products of one of the best European brands at the time.
Telschow-Haus at Potsdamer Platz – the company had several other branches – designed by brothers Wassili and Hans Luckhardt together with Alfons Anker, was a brilliant example of the “Neues Bauen”: a simple yet immediately noticeable, smooth, wave-like façade with its white surface, windows framed with black glass and ultramarine-glass elements on the side of Potsdamer Platz was in fact a “modern face” they put on three old commercial buildings.
Unfortunately, on the night of the 23rd of November, 1923 it was was hit by several bombs and the older parts of the building destroyed. Even though the 1929 glass façade remained almost intact, by the mid-1950s the remains of the building disappeared along with the ruins of another famous Potsdamer Platz edifice standing right behind it, the Pschorr-Haus.
The second photo, taken after 1945 and revealing the scale of destruction around Potsdamer Platz, is also an exercise in mental cartography. All of the buildings visible in this photo are gone – all but one. And here is a little test for all big Berlin fans: can you tell what remained?