Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


#OTD 1951 Berlin celebrated the re-opening of one of the city’s most popular department stores: Karstadt am Hermannplatz.

When the splendid 1929 building, designed by Philipp Schaefer and modelled on the American skyscrapers of the time, was blown up on April 15, 1945 by the SS troops – Division Nordland (mostly French volunteers) led by SS Brigadenführer Gustav Krukenberg – to prevent it from being captured and occupied by the fast approaching Red Army, the nearly 72,000 m² of space were turned over 55,000 m³ of rubble.

Karstadt after blowing up by SS in 1945.

Despite this, late in July 1945 the store re-opened again offering a very basic but badly needed range of products. The least damaged rooms were turned into makeshift sales points and used as such until 1951 when Alfred Busse’s new Karstadt building opened its doors to crowds of curious customers. At that point however, Karstadt am Hermannplatz was downsized to a meagre 5,000 m² (later, thanks to the refurbishments in the 1970s and the 1990s it would reach 31,500 m² but never again come close to the original number).

The 1951 building soon after its opening (the remains of the Phlipp’s Schaefler KaH building visible in Hasenheide Street (image via Axel Mauruszat Sammlung)


Considering both the appeal of the original 1929 building (it was widely admired and famous worldwide) it is quite a pity that no attempts have been made to restore it to the old glory – which would mean erecting a replica of Schaefer’s store. However, there are rumours that such efforts are currently underway and if all goes well, Kreuzberg’s Karstadt am Hermannplatz (a reminder: the store is in Kreuzberg whilst the plaza belongs to Neukölln) might have its impressive blue-lit towers pierce the sky over Berlin again.


Karstadt at night in the 1930s.



  1. penwithlit
    May 7, 2018

    Reblogged this on penwithlit.

  2. berlioz1935
    May 15, 2018

    I like the idea of rebuilding the old Karstadt building. But it should make commercial sense. Does Berlin need another department store?

    • notmsparker
      May 15, 2018

      I don’t think it does, really. But in this case the store IS already there. They should keep it the way it is – no pimping up, no turning into a shopping mall. Just the exterior change;-)


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