Tuesday 15 March 2011

Postcard of the Night No. 6, Berlin bei Nacht

Echoes of Berlin’s dark past are never far from the surface of these images. This is the Askanischer Platz with the Anhalter-Bahnhof on the right and Hotel Excelsior on the left. There’s a newspaper kiosk and illuminated advertising columns and a solitary shadowy figure – the best estimate is that we are looking at the late 1920s, the last years of the Weimar Republic. The Anhalter was then Europe’s largest station and the Excelsior was Europe’s largest hotel – the two were connected by a pedestrian tunnel that must have run beneath this scene. There’s an air of desolation tinged with menace, an island of lost souls. Worse, much worse days would follow. A decade later almost 10,000 Jewish deportees began their dreadful final journey to Theresienstadt and almost certain death from the Anhalter-Bahnhof between 1941 and 1945. The Anhalter was all but destroyed in the battle for Berlin but continued in patched-up form to serve destinations in Soviet-controlled East Germany until final closure in 1952 followed by demolition in 1960. Only the central portion of the station façade remains in place while nearby there is a display dedicated to the memory of the Jewish victims of the Third Reich. Finally we have a link to an interesting 1927 film of a train approaching and arriving in the cavernous space of the Anhalter-Bahnhof.

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