Oh-Berlin paid a visit to Bernauer Strasse, a street that became a focal point of the German-German division, divided by the wall into eastern and western parts it became a symbol of the inhumanity of the GDR Border regime. Today the area offers an opportunity to learn all about that moment in time by walking around the open air exhibitions, Documentation Centre and the Visitors Centre which make up the Berlin Wall Memorial ensemble at Bernauer Strasse.
Houses that tell a story
Stepping out of Bernauer Strasse U-Bahn you immediately see the large scale images printed onto the sides of houses. Images like that of border soldier Conrad Schumann launching himself over a barbed wire fence as he makes his escape to the West or of people hurriedly carrying their possessions with them as they also make a bid for freedom.
Original pictures are placed all along the memorial and give you an evocative insight of the area while the Wall was up.
You won´t be able to miss the series of brown poles which denote where the Wall stood.
Both outside and indoor exhibitions make up the Berlin Wall Memorial along Bernauer Strasse. Walking along the serene maintained area it´s hard to comprehend that you are actually walking in the former “death strip” border in what was East Berlin.
The building of the Wall
The exhibition really goes into a lot of detail about the erection of the Wall. Quite a lot of information focuses on the technical aspect of building the border fortifications. It documents how what started as a little minimal barbed wire fencing grew to a many layered border strip complete with fierce free roaming attack dogs. You can also see part of the only original Berlin Wall in the memorial area.
The great escape
One of the things that made Bernauer Strasse stand out in its time was that the street became famous for escape attempts. Stories would spread through the western media that people were escaping to the West from Bernauer Strasse.
One of the most famous daring escape attempts was through an underground tunnel which began in a cellar at 97 Bernaeur Strasse. There is a very moving audio translation from Eva Klein speaking about her escape with her husband and child using Tunnel 57 as it has become to be known due to the amount of people who escaped. In the recording Eva explains how she was initially very frightened as she thought she was actually being tricked by the Stasi to attempt to escape and that they were setting her up. Not really knowing where she was going, but taking comfort that she was with her husband and child among a large group, until she said ´I saw some light as I stepped out and then realized I was in the West and it was a beautiful moment.´
The Documentation & Visitor Centres
Leaving the open air exhibition you can walk to the Documentation Centre and then on to the nearby Visitors Centre.
At the Visitors Centre you can see video footage from the Berlin Wall period. The footage is very watchable – an interesting mix of normal people and border guards going about their day to governments and politicians debating matters and setting agendas with typical hot air and bluster.
At the Documentation Centre you can also climb the observation tower for a view of the original death strip and and watch tower.
At the Visitors Centre you can see a couple of interesting shorts films, one charting the leading up to and construction of the Wall, “The Berlin Wall” and also an animated film, “Walled in”, showing what the environment would be like blocked off from the rest of the city. Note times for English showings: The Berlin Wall – on the hour, Walled in – 15 minutes past the hour.
Last but not least, pay a visit to the Nordbahnhof station for information around the station about how the politics of the day affected the train services leading to “ghost stations”.
The Last Word
The free exhibitions at Bernauer Strasse have been really well planned out, particularly the outdoor exhibition. Allow yourself at least 2 ½ hours for a leisurely look around the outdoor and indoor exhibitions.
Bernauer Straße 111/119
WebsiteTel: +49 (0)30 467 98 66 66
Fax: +49 (0)30 467 98 66 77
E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.orgOpening hours:
Open-Air Exhibition and Memorial Grounds
All year round Monday – Sunday 8:00am – 10:00pm
Visitor Centre and Documentation Centre
April – October
Tuesday – Sunday 9:30am – 7:00pm
November – March
Tuesday – Sunday 9:30am – 6:00pm
S-Bahn: S1, S2, S25 to S-Bahnhof Nordbahnhof
Tram: M 10 to S-Bahnhof Nordbahnhof or Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer
Bus 245, 247
U-Bahn: U6 to Naturkundemuseum or U8 to Bernauer Straße