Visiting the railroad station at Berlin-Schoenefeld: built in 1951 for the Outer Ring, a precursor of the Berlin Wall?

Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Rails at Berlin-Schoenefeld Station from the western footbridge
Rails at Berlin-Schoenefeld Station from the western footbridge | Source
Berlin Festival: At Berlin-Schoenefeld Station, Palestinian Festival delegation being given a warm welcome by Berlin Members of the "Free German Youth" (FDJ), Julu 27, 1973
Berlin Festival: At Berlin-Schoenefeld Station, Palestinian Festival delegation being given a warm welcome by Berlin Members of the "Free German Youth" (FDJ), Julu 27, 1973 | Source
Berlin-Schoenefeld Station
Berlin-Schoenefeld Station | Source
An aerial view of a segment of the Berlin Wall, 1989
An aerial view of a segment of the Berlin Wall, 1989 | Source
Map location of Schoenefeld, Brandenburg state.
Map location of Schoenefeld, Brandenburg state. | Source

Memories of the creeping, totalitarian division of Berlin

Berlin-Schoenefeld's railroad station, in Brandenburg state, Germany, is hardly the conventional idea of a tourist attraction.

But if one considers how it came about, it provides a fascinating insight into Berlin's history, including that of the Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer ).

After World War Two, Germany was occupied by the four main Allied Powers; the same occurred in Berlin, with the American, British and French sectors soon becoming isolated from the east of the city, and its surrounding area, occupied by Soviet forces. In principle there was one city of Berlin; from a practical and infrastructure perspective, two separate cities emerged (whatever the theory).

The railroad station at Berlin-Schoenefeld was built by the East German authorities in only 5 months in 1951. During this year and up to the year 1961, the East German authorities were building what is known as Berlin's Outer Ring (German: Berliner Aussenring ). This was a 125 kilometer railroad line which encompassed — indeed, bypassed — the part of the city which was becoming known as West Berlin. It would have been practically impossible for the concept of a Berlin Wall to have become feasible, were it not for the prior existence of this Outer Ring, providing economic and military (and, maybe somewhat secondarily, passenger) rail transportation around Berlin under the control of the East German authorities and their Soviet allies.

It took, in fact, 16 years for the Berlin Wall to be erected after Soviet forces entered Berlin in 1945. But if one studies the prior actions of the authorities of the nascent East Germany — or the German Democratic Republic (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republic ) — one can see how the viability of such a Wall became possible, once the necessary infrastructure had been built.

The station at Berlin-Schoenfeld was enlarged with an extra platform in 1962. The station subsequently became known as part of the rail link between East Berlin and the East German régime's main, international air hub, Berlin-Schoenefeld Airport.

I visited this unpretentious structure and, if it were not for the momentous events which were occurring at its building and during its life prior to 1989, my memories of its significance would probably not be acute. But when one considers how it and Berlin's Outer Ring came into being, one cannot but be struck by it as something of a solemn monument to creeping, totalitarian encirclement of Berlin by the now defunct East German régime.

Note re. the name 'Berlin-Schoenefeld': strictly speaking, the town of Schoenefeld, from which the station's name is derived, is not in Berlin at all, but in the German state of Brandenburg.

October 6, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Berlin itself, its many visitor attractions include: the Brandenburg Gate, the Fernsehturm (TV Tower), the Reichstag building , Charlottenburg Palace (German: Schloss Charlottenburg ), Berlin Cathedral (German: Berliner Dom ) and many others.

Potsdam (distance: 51 kilometres), has some palaces of historic importance. The Potsdam Conference between the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union was held here in 1945.

Slubice , Poland (distance: 85 kilometres); the 'NMP Krolowej' church has a distinctive tower.

...

How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Berlin Tegel Airport (Flughafen Berlin-Tegel ), where car rental is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their base, easyJet flies from London-Gatwick to Berlin-Schoenefeld Airport, where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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