A citizens’ group wants to rebuild Anhalter Bahnhof, the central Berlin train station that burned down during WWII — but without the trains. Huh?
A few sports fields, a Nazi bunker that’s home to the exhibition ‘Berlin Story’, and the Tempodrom next door: the area around Anhalter Bahnhof is relatively empty today. From the train station itself, only a sad fragment of the façade is left. Its hall was destroyed in the Second World War, but only demolished in 1959. Berlin’s then-Senate thought the building was close to collapse — but the structure turned out to be so stable that several demolition companies had to give up, until the last one was successful.
Plans for a ‘Museum of Exile’
Fast-forward 60 years, and a citizens’ initiative with almost 500 members wants to rebuild the station. The trigger that led to the founding of the group was a plan to build the ‘Museum of Exile’ in the area — the idea of a group that includes literary Nobel Laureate Herta Müller. They argue that the location would fit, since many people began their journey of exile from Anhalter Bahnhof.
The group that argues for the rebuilding of the station, however, doesn’t think the historical location would be right for a newly built museum. According to the administrator of the Facebook group, Jörg Selbig, there are already too many examples of Berlin’s questionable modern buildings.
But what should the rebuilt train station house? It cannot become a station again, as there are no remaining rail connections. Selbig has other ideas. “Our proposals would be, for example, a concert venue, a large swimming pool, a covered market, or an exclusive living complex, Italian-style with a patio”, he says.
Berlin’s authorities, however, appeared confused by the rebuilding project when contacted. An anonymous employee of Berlin’s Landmark Preservation Council says that the protected portico will remain in either case. And there is space in the area for the proposed Exile Museum, for which there will be an architecture competition held soon. They had not heard about the rebuilding initiative, though. “Why should it be rebuilt?”, he asked. Sounding a little perplexed.
Translated by Aida Baghernejad // Original text Dirk Engelhardt