(Photo: Preparing Rosenthaler Platz station for re-opening in December 1989, a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1220-301 / Grimm, Peer / CC-BY-SA)
From 1961 until 1989, if you had tried to take the U-Bahn to our closest station Rosenthaler Platz you would have had no chance of getting off the train… indeed, it would not even have stopped at the platforms heavily-guarded by East German border police. There were a number of similar ghost stations on the U- and S-Bahn networks, on lines that started and finished in West Berlin but which passed through East Berlin en route. For what is now the U8 line to the Circus, this meant a 17 minute gap between stations in Wedding and Kreuzberg as the U-Bahn rumbled along beneath Mitte, a stretch that was often used by passengers to catch a quick nap.
There is an exhibition at the historical site of the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station (15 minutes walk or a short tram ride from Rosenthaler Platz), telling the story of these so-called “ghost stations”:
“For West Berliner’s, the daily passage beneath East Berlin continued to be a strange experience… The trains slowed down before entering the stations, but they did not stop. Armed guards from East Germany stood in the dimly-lit stations and before the trains entered East Berlin a loudspeaker announcement was made: “Last station in West Berlin!” The exhibit uses the Berlin underground to address themes of the memorial – division of the city, migration to the West and living with the border fortifications. It also integrates the perspective of East Berliners who, no longer having access to the trains traveling to the West, tried to use the underground tunnels as a way to escape.”
This is part of the general Berlin Wall Memorial up on Bernauer Straße… take a look at their website for more information of what you can see there, and again, it is only a short walk from the Circus so it is well worth a visit for anyone interested in the division of the city.