When you watch the movie below about one of Berlin ghost stations, it’s hard to imagine that this place is Potsdamer Platz. Today, it’s one of the most visited subway stations in the german capital but, if you go back in time just a little bit, things were a little bit different.
Berlin had ghost stations for a simple reason and we call it the Berlin Wall. When it went up in August 1961, it followed the borders that were draw by the Allied Powers and the Soviet Union when they split the city. Since those borders were arbitrary, they didn’t follow the flow and the geography of the city. Based on that, overnight, when the Berlin Wall went up, some families were separated, streets were cut in half and the network of public transportation was in pieces.
Berlin Ghost Stations: Some screenshots of Potsdamer Platz in November 1989
The Berlin Wall is the reason why Berlin had some ghost stations. Most of them were on the S-Bahn line S2, the U-Bahn line U6 and the U8. Those lines travelled through what was then East Berlin on their way back into West Berlin. Trains could go through it but the stations were sealed off and heavily guarded. This happened because, when the Berlin Wall went up, some people realized that they could escape using the train lines. After the East German police realized that, they closed down the stations. This way the stations couldn’t be used as a possible mean to escape to West Berlin.
Today, you can see it pretty clearly when you go to a station like Nordbahnhof. On the floors, you can see where the Berlin Wall used to be and where East German security forces build other inner walls. The same thing happened to Potsdamer Platz but you cannot see the scars from its past as easily as you can see at Nordbahnhof.
The video above was cut by Max Gold from some raw material shot a little after the fall of the Berlin Wall back in November of 1989. Called S-Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz – Geisterbahnhof bis 1989, the short movie is a amazing glimpse into a place that doesn’t exist anymore. One of Berlin ghost stations, probably, the most famous one.
East German guards are your guides here as you enter the sealed station. The columns are still there today, as well as the white titles. The typography from the station name is still familiar but the rest is not. Unless you are used to the peephole where guards used to observe and keep track of the passing trains going from West Berlin, through East Berlin.
Potsdamer Platz was the last Berlin ghost station to reopen after the German Reunification and this only happened in March 1992. If you want to learn more about ghost stations in Berlin, you should visit the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station and pay attention to the walls. There is a permanent exhibition there that tells the story of those places and they are a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial close by.
We found the Historical Map: West Berlin U-Bahn Map, 1977 here.