All maps are to some extent political, and rarely more so than in divided Berlin. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, C.J. Schüler looks at the ways map-makers responded to the partition of the city – and to the rapid changes that have occurred since the Wall came down.
After the Second World War, Germany was split into four zones of occupation: American, British, French and Russian. Berlin, which lay deep within the Russian sector, was similarly divided. At first, Berliners were permitted to move freely between sectors, but by 1960 around a thousand East Berliners a day were voting with their feet by moving to the West.
On 13 August 1961, the East German government surrounded the Western sectors of Berlin with barbed wire, cutting them off from the outside world until 1989. Across the city centre, this was later reinforced by the notorious concrete wall. This ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart, as it was called in the East, was not of course intended to keep ‘fascists’ out, but to keep the good citizens of the workers’ state in.
A hole in the map
The division of the city presented map-makers on both sides of the Wall with a dilemma: its practical transport implications meant that it could not be ignored – but neither side wanted to acknowledge the legitimacy of the other. An East German map produced in 1960 labelled the eastern and western halves of the city ‘Democratic Berlin’ and ‘West Berlin: The area of the occupation regime of the United States, Great Britain and France’ respectively. Others reduced ‘Westberlin’ to an outlying suburb of ‘Berlin, Capital of the German Democratic Republic’. This one, dating from 1988, simply shows West Berlin as a gaping hole.
This West German map, on the other hand, emphasises the division by representing the Wall pictorially as a harsh red-brick barrier. The map dates from 1961, at which time the barrier actually consisted of barbed wire only.
Almost all the transport links between the two halves of the city were severed. But two U-Bahn lines went under the Wall, connecting different parts of West Berlin via the Mitte (centre) in East Berlin. The 11 eastern stations they passed through were abandoned. Western trains would not stop there, but slowed down, allowing passengers an eerie glimpse of these dusty Geisterbahnhöfe (ghost stations) with their peeling, long outdated advertisements.
Rail passengers could cross at only one station, Friedrichstrasse. In 1962 the East German authorities set up a steel and glass checkpoint there. Riddled with surveillance equipment and a maze of tunnels and walkways to prevent Easterners and Westerners from coming into contact, it soon became known as the Tränenpalast, or ‘Palace of Tears’. (It is now a memorial exhibition centre.)
This East German map of the Berlin rail network (above) uses a cunning ploy to obscure the division of the city: an inset of the Potsdam area is superimposed on top of West Berlin, with its rail connections to East Berlin shown by arrows, foreshortening the distance and almost obliterating the hated capitalist enclave.