Located in the western outskirts of Berlin, the Berlin-Grunewald station was used to deport Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in the east. Today, where all of this happened, there is the Platform 17 Memorial inaugurated in January 1998 to commemorate the deportation done by Deutsche Reichsbahn during the years of Nazi Germany.
Between October 1941 and the spring of 1942, trains left Berlin from the Grunewald Station in the direction of extermination camps and ghettos on the eastern part of Europe. It was October 18 when the first train from the Deutsche Reichsbahn left Grunewald Station with about a thousand Berlin Jews. They were heading to Lodz, in Poland and, probably, they never came back to Berlin again.
Most of these first Jews that were sent to die from the Grunewald Station were first assembled at the Levetzowstraße Synagogue in Moabit. From there they were chased by SS Officers and the police through the streets of Berlin. Women, children, and men arrived at the train station by foot.
The first trains that left Grunewald Station were passenger cars but, Deutsche Reichsbahn soon changed this. By 1942, Jews were being sent away in cattle cars. And the people on the trains were charged for the transport. For each kilometer, adults were charged 4 pfennings and 2 pfennings for children above four.
From October 1941 to February 1945, the Grunewald Station was one of the significant deportation sites in Berlin. In the beginning, they were being sent to, mainly, ghettos in cities like Warsaw and Litzmannstadt, the Jewish ghetto in Lodz. From 1942, the trains started going straight into Auschwitz and Theresienstadt. This happened until 1945 when the focus of the war changed.
The Platform 17 Memorial was built by Deutsche Bahn to commemorate the Jewish people that were deported by Deutsche Reichsbahn during the Nazi era in Germany. This happened after the conclusion that, without the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the deportation of Jewish people wouldn’t be possible. During the Cold War era, when Germany was split in two, the Reichsbahn in East Germany and the Bundesbahn in West Germany were not willing to take a look at the role that Deutsche Reichsbahn played during the Second World War. This changed when both railways merged to form Deutsche Bahn.
To keep the memory of those who were deported alive, there were plans to build a memorial at the Grunewald Station. The monument was inaugurated in January 1998 and is composed of 186 steel objects that are arranged in chronological order next to the edge of the platform. Each of these objects mentions the date of transport, point of departure, destination and the number of deportees. For me, it’s interesting to see how the vegetation was left to grow between the rails and turn itself into a part of the Platform 17 Memorial. It helps create this feeling that no trains are ever going to depart from the platform.
The Platform 17 Memorial, called Mahnmal Gleis 17 in German, is open to the public and accessible at all times. You can find it at the Grunewald Station where signs can point you in the right direction.
I visited the memorial back in February 2018 when I was looking for locations where the Netflix series Dark was filmed. If you visit the Platform 17 Memorial, you should take a look at what we wrote about Dark and explore the area a little bit more.