Innsbrucker Platz

Der „Tiroler“ Platz

[An aerial view of Berlin-Schöneberg district with Hauptstraße running at centre, seen from the railway at Innsbrucker Platz in 1930. The original Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche and its distinctive rounded tower is at top centre.] 

Photo: friedenau-aktuell.de

The Innsbrucker Platz in Berlin was the post-war location of our previous post Die Amis arrive!, with some American and Soviet soldiers next to a Sherman tank in July 1945, just a few days after US forces reached their occupation zone of the German capital. Located on the southwestern zone, between the inner circle and the Steglitz and Friedenau districts, it was a traffic junction where the city’s S-Bahn, bus and tram met. In 1927 a square was built here as a starting point to Innsbrucker Str. under the name “Innsbrucker Platz” after the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck and a S-Bahnhof with the same name was opened on July 1, 1933, a few months after the country began to be ruled by the Nazis. 

The complete history and development through the years of this place is well beyond this post, so we recommend the excellent Friedenau aktuell blog for further reading.

[Schöneberg’s Innsbrucker Platz with Hauptstraße and the Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche at right, viewed in 1930. Heavily damaged during the war, it was demolished in 1950.]

Photo: friedenau-aktuell.de

[A 1939-1941 map of this area just before war’s destruction, with S-Bhf Schöneberg at right. To the south across the railway tracks is the Friedenau district.]

Photo: Histomap/ ©Landesarchiv Berlin.

[Berliners going down into the underground entrance at Innsbrucker Platz Bhf in the 1930s. Two SA-members can be seen on the mechanic stairs at left on their way to the street.]

Photo: IMAGNO/ akg-images (AKG1054853).

Bombenkrieg 1940-45

The square and its surrounding area were seriously damaged during the Second World War. Berlin-Schöneberg was one of the most bombed districts from the first days of the campaign, and Innsbrucker Platz would not escape destruction from the air. Virtually all of its buildings and the U-bahn station were hit. The city reports list minor bomb damage already on 20/21 October 1940 (30 RAF bombers raided Berlin) in this area, receiving some bombs on 16/17 January 1943 too (169 bombers). The first major damage came during the night of 1/2 March 1943 (251 RAF bombers) with numerous fires around this point and Ebersstraße. This attack left in flames the roofs and upper floors of Wex Str. 60/63 Ecke Innsbrucker Platz. 

[This is a detail view of the area from a vertical PR image taken by an RAF Spitfire of No 542 Sqn on 6 September 1943, during a long photo-run flight over the capital to assets bomb damage (BDA) after the bombing raid two nights before.]

Photo: NCAP http://ncap.org.uk/frame/000-000-009-009.

[A British target indicator (bottom centre) descends over the Schöneberg and Friedenau districts, during a night raid in 1944. Innsbrucker Platz and the Ringbahn rail junction can be seen at middle right. The original IWM caption refers to a 27 aircraft-raid on that night and known nights with Light Night Striking Force Mosquitoes to harass Berlin in that number were June 25th, July 25th and September 16th 1944, so possible date for this picture must be one of those.]

Photo: © IWM (C 4926).

American bombers hit the Schöneberg district again on 21 June 1944 (868 a/c), some high-explosive bombs badly damaged the railway bridge next to Innsbrucker Platz. A massive daylight raid on February 26th, 1945 (US 1,066 bombers) caused severe damage to the area between this square and Bayerischer Platz with bombs hitting the Schöneberg Rathaus, Stadtpark, Hauptstr. and Martin-Luther-Str. among others, leaving 139 dead and 64 wounded only here.

Finally, the Soviet assault caused great devastation. On April 27th, 1945, the Ringbahn circle became the front line. Train traffic and services had been stopped two days before due to fighting and lack of coal. In the case of the southwestern area from Friedenau through Schöneberg the Soviet assault was made by Red Army’s 9th Mechanized Corps with its 69th and 70th Mechanized Brigades, and after minor resistance they reached the Innsbrucker Platz line at midday meanwhile elements of the 91st MB penetrated the right flank and captured U-Bhf Schöneberg. The advancing troops encountered makeshift barricades, anti-tank barriers and strongpoints as the Germans set up the railway line as a huge defensive perimeter. Heavy fighting led to the taking of the underground station and the exit to Wex Str. by the end of the day when resistance was overcome.

[German defensive line with ‘Panzersperren’ next to the Ringbahn railway before the Soviet assault, in this case at Hermannstraße in the Neukölln district, March 1945.]

Photo: Bundesarchiv (Bild 183-J31386).

[Once Soviet troops overcome Innsbrucker Platz and U-Bhf Schöneberg ran northwards to seize the rest of the district, here a Red Army column with a SU-85M self-propelled gun in the foreground at Hauptstraße Ecke Koburger Str. just a few blocks from the square.]

Photo: Buryat-Mongolskaya Pravda No 105 (5795) May 30, 1945.

By war’s end, many buildings have been destroyed during the fight added to the damage already caused by the bombings, like this ruined house at Innsbrucker Str. 30 located in front of the square and next to the Reichsbahn “Opel” building in July 1945, it was demolished after the war too.

Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

[Hauptstraße in Schöneberg looking towards Innsbrucker Platz, this picture was taken by an American soldier in July 1945. Rathaus-Friedenau’s tower can be discerned in the background.]

Photo: mocr/flickr.

[Opposite view of Hauptstraße as seen under the Ringbahnbrücke at Innsbrucker Platz, July 1945. Note the burn out DeGeWo-Hochhaus at left.]

Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

The most significant building of this square was heavily damaged by war’s fires too. Located at Innsbrucker Str Nr 31/34 (today’s Innsbrucker Platz 4), the DeGeWo Haus (Deutsche Gelleschaft zur Förderung des Wohnungbaues) is one of the best examples of German interwar modernism. It was designed by architects Paul Mebes and Paul Emmerich as a six-story building with a perimeter-block complex, and built by Ph. Holzmann AG during 1922-28. This Weimar-era showpiece was rebuilt in the post-war years as luxury apartments and with two more floors added. It was used by Marshall Plan publicists to highlight West Berlin successes and presented as built in 1950 as “Berlin’s first high-rise”.

Photo: © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

[July 1945: destroyed and burnt out facade of the apartment building and its modern block complex between Hauptstr. and Innsbruckerstraße caused by the air raids and the ground battle.]  

Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

[A 1948-picture taken by Walter Schulze which shows the DeGeWo rebuilt works at Innsbrucker Platz Ecke Hauptstr.]

Photo: akg-images (AKG61817).

[The “new” DeGeWo-Hochhaus, rebuilt in 1950. At right can be seen the big Fournes lettering, for Otto Fournes’ restaurant and wine store located here. It was the first major neon sign after the war.]

Photo: akg-images/AKG398128.

[Rolf Goetze took this picture of the snow-covered Innsbrucker Platz in February 1954.]

Photo: SM 2014-1914,9.

[The modern DeGeWo Hochhaus, today’s Innsbrucker Platz Nr 4.]

Photo by A.Savin/ Wikimedia Commons.

Across the street, the other side of the square was severely damaged by war too. Here, Berliners gathered around an American M4A3(76) Sherman tank from the 2nd Armored Division guarding Innsbrucker Platz. Also, a pair of Willys Jeeps are parked next to the tank parked over the tram tracks. Notice the tram stop blown up at extreme right and the road signal in Russian cyrillic pointing “KARLHORST” in front of the tank. 

Photo: https://www.how-amps.org/2nd-armored-division-history

[A 1950-scene shot by German press photographer Georg Pahl at the ruined Innsbrucker Platz, Berliners waiting around the tram stop for the streetcar at noon time, at the same spot where the US tank was parked in July 1945.]

Photo: akg-images (AKG55128).

[Destroyed house Nr 96, taken by Herwarth Staudt on March 3, 1956 on behalf of the Baulenkungsamtes Schöneberg. It was demolished years later and a bigger commercial building was built there in 1984, today as Innsbrucker Platz Nr 3.]

Photo: CC0 @ Museen Tempelhof-Schöneberg/Archiv.

[Jürgen Henschel took this picture of West Berliners waiting in front of the DegeWo Haus for the bus stop at Haupstraße 97 - Innsbrucker Platz in October, 1982. Note that there is still an empty lot in the place where the number 96 was before.]

Photo: CC0 @ Museen Tempelhof-Schöneberg/Archiv. (HEN3-616-5295).

Today’s view of Innsbrucker Platz looking into Haupstraße with the DeGeWo Haus at left and the 1980s white building (Innsbrucker Platz 3) at right. The corner building with orange roof seen at centre survived the war.

Photo: BishkekRocks/WikimediaCommons.

The intense battle left the underground train station badly damaged and didn’t reopen until December 1945. The access in the middle of the square was closed after the area was completely rebuilt in 1954 and a new entrance was opened a few metres north in a glazed pavilion. The construction in 1971 of the new motorway Stadtautobahn 100 and the underground tunnel under the main road led to a total res¡design of the square and both train stations, the renovated Südring didn’t reopen until 1993. Today, Innsbrucker Platz remains a chaotic intersection of main streets and a traffic and train junction of the southwestern part of the city, with three S-Bahn lines (S41, S42, S46) and one subway line (U4 and the planned expansion of U10) and the road exits to two adjacent motorways. 

[The “inner circle” of the square seen in 1953 looking southwest with the original U-Bhf entrance and the Ringbahnbrücke, just before the tram service 88 was closed and the tracks sealed. Notice at upper right of the picture the Reichsbahn building before being demolished.]

Photo: Museum Tempelhof-Schöneberg.

This is the modern S-Bahnhof entrance at Innsbrucker Platz adjacent to the Sudringbrücke where the original Reichsbahn building was until the 1960s.

Photo: Dirk Ingo Franke/WikimediaCommons.


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Bibliography:

  • Demps, Laurenz.(2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Diefendorf, J. (ed) (2014). Transnationalism and the German City (Studies in European Culture and History). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Friedenau aktuell. Innsbrucker Platz <http://www.friedenau-aktuell.de/stra%C3%9Fen-pl%C3%A4tze/innsbrucker-platz/>
  • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 78 ff.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 15 f.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 31. ; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 99 ff.; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 31 ff.
  • Muschelknautz, Johanna. (2001). Berlin-Schöneberg: Blicke ins Quartier 1949 - 2000. Jaron Verlag.
  • S Bahn Berlin DB. Die Historie der Berliner S-Bahn. <https://sbahn.berlin/das-unternehmen/unternehmensprofil/die-historie-der-berliner-s-bahn/>
  • Stivers, William and Carter, Donald A. (2017). The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. Available at: <https://history.army.mil/html/books/045/45-4/index.html> 
  • Sven, Heinemann. (2021). Die Berliner Ringbahn: Die Geschichte der legendären Eisenbahnstrecke 1871 bis heute. GeraMond Verlag.
  • The Battle of Berlin Forum. Facebook Group. Battle reports of the 3rd Guards Tank Army by Piet Vergiet.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
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