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The Anhalter Bahnhof

Updated: Mar 27

Historical photo of the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin

The Anhalter Bahnhof in the late 19th century, Waldemar Titzenthalter, Wikipedia


The Anhalter Bahnhof - Anhalter Train Station - in Berlin was once one of the most iconic railway stations in Germany and Europe.


Origins and Construction

The Anhalter Bahnhof was designed by Franz Heinrich Schwechten shortly after the founding of the German Empire in 1871 as the predecessor station could no longer cope with the rapidly growing passenger numbers. Construction began in 1874 and in 1880 on the Askanischer Platz the so-called "Gateway to the World" opened to the pride of the city.

The station was constructed in Neo-Renaissance style from brick with terracotta decorations by 1880 with a huge 34-meter-high reception hall for 400 people and various rooms specifically for the Kaiser of Germany. With dimensions of 170 by 62 meters, the hall was enormous and left an imprint on many.

Additionally, there were six high-class hotels here, including the famous Excelsior - connected to the station by an underground passage. It preserved discretion and exclusivity on one hand, but on the other hand, it also protected from the hustle and bustle on the station forecourt above 13 trams and numerous buses met in front of the Anhalter Station in the 1920s.


Expansion and Glory Days

In the early 20th century, the Anhalter Bahnhof underwent several expansions to accommodate the growing demand for rail travel. The station's popularity increased, and it became one of the busiest train stations in Europe. During World War I, the station served as a key transportation hub for the German army.

The Anhalter Bahnhof reached the peak of its popularity post-war during the 1920s and 1930s. It was the departure point for the luxurious Orient Express, which traveled from Berlin to Istanbul. The station's grand hall and facade were considered to be among the most impressive in Europe.


Destruction and Reconstruction

During World War II, the Anhalter Bahnhof was heavily damaged by Allied bombing. The station was nearly destroyed, and much of its interior was lost, but despite severe destruction in February 1945, the station was still operational after the end of the war. However, Berlin's rail traffic from 1949 - when Germany was divided into East and West Germany - was in the hands of the Deutsche Reichsbahn of the East, which cut off access to the western part of the city.

The ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof surrounding by a field and parked cars

Anhalter Bahnhof 1970s, David Hananel, Flickr


From 1952, the German Democratic Republic - East Germany - demanded: "Trains previously running from and to Berlin Anhalter Station now start and end in Berlin Ostbahnhof, Baumschulenweg, and Teltow." The result was the Anhalter Station became deserted and was finally demolished by the West Berliners down to the portal remains between 1959 to 1961.

The final nail in the coffin of the station was the construction of the Berlin Wall leaving West Berlin further isolated within East Germany. The huge former railway area, extending to the Landwehr Canal, became neglected, and the former track facilities turned into a unique, almost forgotten biotope.


The Anhalter Bahnhof Today

The front of the modern Anhalter Bahnhof a ruins

Today, the Anhalter Bahnhof is a shadow of its former self. The station's grand hall and facade were not rebuilt, but rather an underground station - that was also a Ghost Station during the time of division - was refurbished, far from its grandeur of the 1920s. The area above, where the station proper used to be, is now a football pitch and has the Tempodrom and Liquodrom. The former being a concert hall and the latter a spa and sauna - both are quite great and the design of the building is very distinct.

Though the ruins remain a stark reminder, the history and legacy of the Anhalter Bahnhof live on in other ways. Inside the underground station today are photos from the 19th and 20th centuries and the German Museum of Technology has relics of the once mighty station.


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