Tränenpalast Berlin – Palace of Tears

I actually managed to spend a morning last week with real people as most days are spent in front of my laptop networking with my on-line friends!  I  joined the Berlin International Woman´s Club (BIWC) on a trip to the Tränenpalast.  The name given to the border crossing station at Berlin´s Friedrichstrasse railway station because of the many tearful goodbyes that took place in front of the building.  It was here that citizens from the West had to say farewell to their friends and relatives from the former East Germany who were not permitted to travel to the Western part of Berlin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the building was no longer required but reopened in September this year housing a museum in memory of it´s former role as the GDR border crossing station.

Friedrichstrasse railway station was located entirely in the former Soviet sector of Berlin.  The Tränenpalast was used only for westbound border crossings, with separate checkpoints for citizens of West Berlin, and West Germany, foreigners, diplomats and East German citizens. There were guards stationed to separate people permitted to cross the border leading to many tearful goodbyes in front of the building.

The extensive checks in the building included three individual passport  checks, customs control, waiting rooms, since the crossing could take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, offices to register and record people crossing the border, and a counter for visa fees and the mandatory currency exchange. After the border check, passengers would enter an underground walkway that led to the underground stations.  Thousands of Germans attempted to escape the East German dictatorship but only a small amount were successful in fleeing through the heavily guarded Station.

Although the Museum is small in size it is packed full of original photos, artifacts, recordings from families telling their survival stories and a small cinema showing old newsreels from both the West and the East.  This was really fascinating seeing how one story was transmitted to the West side and the same story relayed with an entirely different meaning to the East. Makes you question the power of media!  The museum is well worth an hour or more and I will be adding it to my list of “things to do and see” for our UK visitors.

Entrance to the Tränenpalast which is not visible when exiting Friedrichstrasse Station


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