Irma Luise was a well-to-do American and an amateur photographer who arrived in West Berlin in July 1953. Her camera, loaded with Kodachrome film, allowed her to capture street scenes so full of deep, saturated colours and so filled with warm July sunlight that looking at them now, in December 2018, you would wish nothing else but to be able to step into the pictures and feel both the thrill and the warmth of the moments she caught on film.

Irma died at the age of 100 and childless – her estate was in the hands of her accountant whose other client saved thousands of her photos and slides from being discarded. You can read more about her and the person who eventually presented her often incredibly good photos to the world on Flashbak website. The page also shows some more of her Berlin images. 

Just to give you the taste, however, here are several photos (all by Irma Luise, copyright lies with Found Slides ) I found particularly appealing. Enjoy them!

A construction site with the “Berliner Morgenpost” fence (image by Irma Luise)
Ku’damm at U-Bhf “Uhlandstraße” 
Ruins of residential buildings around the old Potsdamer Platz 
Street-tram travelling down the old Potsdamer Straße – Weinhaus Huth on the right is the only still existing pre-war building on today’s Potsdamer Platz.
Ku’damm in July 1953

Bombed in 1944 and abandoned ever since (image by Notmsparker)

Contrary to what we hear all too often these days – more as a warning than as a fact, I believe – Berlin still has its little secrets and surprises. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have stumbled into both of them during a bike reconnaissance for a new book.

The sight of an overgrown red-brick ruin with a large tree growing through a no longer present roof had me press my brakes with such gusto that I nearly catapulted myself out of the saddle. A beautiful rusty fence and an elegant gate whose bottom part has already been devoured by rust, guard what looks like a Secret Garden par excellence. If I have ever seen a time-traveller’s portal to the Past in Berlin, then this must be one.

Quick internet search helped me establish that the abandoned villa once belonged to Professor August Hinderer, a man whose name has long been forgotten but deserves to be remembered again.

You can learn more about him and about the history of the house, which hit by bombs on the night of March 23-24, 1944 has never been inhabited since, by reading a great text by a true expert in Berlin’s secret and abandoned sites, Ciaran Fahey. You will find the story of the Hinderer villa below (please click the image).

Ciaran’s book “Abandoned Berlin” is a must for all Berlin & urbex fans.

According to Karl Scheffler – and what must be the most often used Berlin quotation ever – Germany’s capital is “dazu verdammt, immerfort zu werden und niemals zu sein” (cursed never to be and forever to become).
Scheffler famously voiced this opinion in his 1910 book “Berlin- ein Stadtschicksal” and it was by no means meant as praise. Like the rest of the book, it reflected the paradox of the author’s relationship with the city. He loved it and he hated it at once. One could say, a conundrum faced by every Berliner before or after Scheffler.
Probably never before was Berlin’s typically unfinished, unready condition more visible than today. Modern digital technologies allow people like us to follow its permanent state of flux almost in real time broadcast. And never are those changes as striking as when you compare images from only a short while ago with its today’s look.
The ‘Berliner Zeitung’ has just published several Google Street-View images from only ten years ago juxtaposing them against photos of the same Berlin vistas today. The pace at which this city has been changing truly matches that of our time. Which might not be as much of a blessing as it is Scheffler’s curse.
Click the image to enter.
berliner zeitung cipping 1.03

Spittelmarkt seen from Leipziger Straße in 1904.

Spittelmarkt, once a central Berlin plaza in the borough of Mitte and today one of the most non-descript places in the city centre.

A 1900 traffic census carried out there rendered following results: between 6 AM and 10 PM the plaza was crossed by 144,223 pedestrians and 21,237 vehicles. At the time, Berlin had 1,888,848 registered residents.

By the end of nineteenth century Spittelmarkt, named after a small hospital (Sankt Gertrauden Hospital) and a chapel built there in early fifteenth century, became one of Berlin’s busiest traffic knots. This was only possible after the 17th-century Gertraudenkirche – built after the old chapel and the “Spittal” burnt down in 1641- was demolished in 1881 and the area underwent a significant re-design.

Gertraudenkirche in 1880, a year before its demolition (photo by Hermann Rückwardt).

In the 1920s another refurbishment followed and approximately a quarter of the century later, after May 1945, Spittelmarkt lay in ruins. Built anew by the East Berlin authorities in the 1970s, it reflected the then “modern” approach to architecture and urban planning. It virtually vanished again, overridden by the expanded traffic lanes as well as overwhelmed by the monstrous concrete high-rises erected around and partly on it.

Spittelmarkt in the 1920s (photographer unknown, PD).

The two map images – sections of a 1910 and a current Google-Map – featured below strongly reflect that change. The western entrance to the 1908 U-Bhf “Spittelmarkt” marked on both of them will help you locate the former within the latter.