Year Zero: the sea of rubble and ruins that Tauentzienstr. has become by war’s end, seen from Wittenbergplatz with the heavily damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the far background.
At the end of the Second World War in Europe in May 1945, Berlin became not only a defeated capital but also a ruined and divided city. From that year until 1949, Wittenbergplatz (you can read more about the war years on previous posts) and the Schöneberg district were inside the British occupation sector as well as Tiergarten, Wilmersdorf and Spandau, all part of West Berlin controlled by the Western Allies. The underground station was reopened in late June 1945, following the reactivation of part of the underground trains service in the city.
In 1950, with the reopening of the KaDeWe department at Tauentzienstraße the area became a symbol of Western Berlin’s ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ (economic miracle) economic boom. At least in the western sectors life returned to ‘normal’, and the influx of foreign money allowed the area to be rebuilt and new shops and places to open, led by the US support. From 1980 to 1983 the subway station and the hall were renovated again. The underground lines closed by the division such as the U2 from Wittenberplatz to Nollendorfplatz were not reopened until 1993, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification in October 1990.
[Cleaning work at Wittenbergplatz, 1945. In the background are the ruins of the former KaDeWe, with a burned out roof and twisted structure where the RAF bomber crashed onto the department’s roof a year before.]
[An aerial view of war-damaged Tauentzienstraße in Schöneberg looking east with U-Bhf Wittenbergplatz’s hall at middle right and Kurfürstenstraße at left, July 1945.]
[Wittenbergplatz, September 1945: Berliners placed signs in front of the ruined houses to make known the fate of its former residents.]
[These signs were used not only to locate people but also for new businesses, reopened once peace came as shown in this picture, Wittenbergplatz, 1946.]
[Life goes on among ruins: a striking scene at the British-US border with the destroyed Kaiser-Wilhelm church and the now famous ‘You are leaving the American sector’ sign in the foreground, Tauentzienstraße, 1946.]
[Flattened and ruined houses along Kleiststraße in this picture taken in 1946, with the destroyed KaDeWe store in the background.]
[Postwar life at Wittenbergplatz: mountains of rubble and bricks at Keithstraße Ecke Nettelbeckstraße (today’s An der Urania) looking into the square, summer 1947.]
[Badly hit by Allied bombs during the war, reconstruction work of the U-Bhf Wittenbergplatz entrance hall started in 1947-48.]
[Three years after the end of the war Wittenbergplatz area was still full of debris and scars from the fighting, with the titanic KaDeWe building left in ruins in the background, 1948.]
[Local children are seen here playing on a wrecked car left at Kleiststraße looking into Wittenbergplatz’s ruins, 1947.]
[Reconstruction of the entrance hall at U-Bahnhof Wittenbergplatz moved forward during 1948. Note at far left the weekly street market has come to life again too.]
[Kaufhauses des Westens building seen in 1949: reconstruction work took almost a decade and a half and the first floors were at first reopened in July 1950, meanwhile many houses were still in ruins in the Schöneberg district and became a symbol of the new beginning.]
[A view of the ruined Wittenbergplatz 4 Ecke corner Bayreuther Straße 8, taken by Herwarth Staudt in October 1950. This building was destroyed by a bomb dropped by an RAF Mosquito on the night of 29/30 January 1945, wounding four people.]
[In the 1950s the new and vanguardist Philippshaus am Wittenbergplatz building was built at the former Nr 11, heavily damaged by war’s destruction. Note the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in the far background.]
[Photographer Fritz Eschen took this B/W artistic picture of the rebuilt Wittenbergplatz hall building and the KaDeWe, view from Bayreuther Str. corner in the 1960s.]
[The rebirth of Tauentzienstraße as a commercial area part of West Berlin brought back life and colour as we can see here in the 1950s in this colour slide, with the KaDeWe and Leiser store departments at left.]
Today, Wittenbergplatz has become more than a underground station: it is a memorial place to remember the Holocaust and to not forget the dark years ruled by the Nazis and its horrors: a memorial plaque signpost with the names of several concentration camps with the text “Places of Terror We Must Never Forget” was erected in 1967 in front of the main hall (eastern gate) and in recent years a capital “B” sculpture in the name of the International Auschwitz Committee was placed here too.
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- Broadbent, Philip and Hake, Sabine. Berlin Divided City, 1945–1989. Berghahn Books, 2010.
- Das Berliner U-Bahn-Archiv. Wittenbergplatz. <http://u-bahn-archiv.de/aufnahmen/wittenbergplatz.html>
- Demps, Laurenz. Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag, 2014.
- Hildebrandt, B and Haiger, E. Kriegsende in Tiergarten: Die Geschichte des Kriegsgräberfriedhofs Wilsnacker Straße. Lehmanns Media, 2009.
- Janus, Urte. Das Kaufh aus des Westens („KaDeWe“) in Berlin. Technische Universität Berlín, Magisterarbeit, 1995.
- Meiners, Antonia. 100 Jahre KaDeWe. Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2007.
- Sobotta, Michael. West-Berlin. Farbdias aus den 50ern bis 70ern. Eine spannende Zeitreise in die bewegte Vergangenheit der Hauptstadt. Sutton Archivbilder, 2019.