Discover what connects different historical periods and how political powers divided the city and its inhabitants.
- The Berlin Wall
- The Brandenburg Gate
- The City Wall
- The Stasi Headquarters
Explore Berlin's borders
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Location: Remains throughout city, map pin at Niederkirchnerstraße, 10117 Mitte
The history of the Berlin Wall gives a detailed insight into processes, driving forces and political constellations in German history that shaped this city. There is more to the wall than the prevalent view promoted in many post-war movies.
Find out about individual fates that are closely connected to this structure, and discover the importance of the fall of the wall for German citizens on both sides of the 'iron curtain'.
Looking at this feature of Berlin also highlights the outcomes of World War II and their consequences for Berliners. The areas that once divided the city have now become important links between the East and the West.
[Image: © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation]
Location: Unter den Linden, 10117 Berlin
Explore why this world-famous structure has become a symbol of many historical periods, and of the highs and lows of life in Germany.
The events surrounding the Brandenburger Tor range from the heights of Prussian power to the defeat by Napoleon and the division during the 'Cold War'. At the same time, many people associate very happy memories with this landmark, like the fall of the Berlin Wall or big street parties, such as the Love Parade in the 1990s. You will also come across answers to the question of what this sight stands for today.
[Image: © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation]
Location: Stadtmauer, Waisenstraße, Mitte, 10179 Berlin
Berlin also houses the remains of another wall: the old city wall. This structure, first built around 1250, allows you an insight into the fast growth and development of Berlin, from a provincial medieval capital to the international hub of the 1920s. The remains of the medieval wall run along Waisenstraße, in the district of Mitte, and the ramparts still create a genuine old city touch that is otherwise difficult to find in Berlin.
The most atmospheric part of the wall is located close to the Parochialkirche, where several medieval houses back onto it. One of these buildings houses Berlin's oldest restaurant, 'Zur letzten Instanz', where Napoleon and Gorbatchev, among others, are said to have stopped for a bite to eat.
[Image: Elke Wetzig on Wikimedia]
Location: Stasi Museum, Ruschestr. 103, Haus 1, 10365 Berlin
This tourist attraction represents a 'border' of a very different kind: one between people in support of the ruling party and those who were not.
During the times of the communist regime in East Germany, the prison Hohenschönhausen was a top-security prison for political prisoners from the GDR, as well as abroad. The notoriously inhumane detention centre was run by the GDR Ministry of State Security.
Today it has been turned into a multi-functional institution that houses: the prison museum (where former inmates lead guided tours), an archive that supports academic research into the GDR, and a memorial, exhibition space and events venue.
[Image: Nikisublime on flickr]
Borders: further cultural references
'Strange Stars turn to Earth', by Emine Özdamar, is a fascinating auto-biographical account of a life between the two faces of Berlin. The author tells the story of her escape from the Turkish military regime to become a stage director at the famous Volksbühne in East Berlin. She lived in Hippie communes in the West and worked with artists in the East.
The Lives of Others (2006) – this internationally acclaimed feature film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck provides an enlightening insight into the way in which the GDR secret service exercised its power and tried to challenge and corrupt people’s integrity.
Gregor Gysi (*1948 in Berlin) is one of the most interesting and controversial figures of the political scene in Berlin. He grew up in a prominent GDR family. His aunt was Doris Lessing. He became one of the few independent GDR lawyers and the solicitor of many citizens seeking the right to emigrate. Today he is a leading left-wing politician.
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