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This exhibition, on display at the historical site of the Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station, recalls a special chapter in Berlin’s history of division: the closed-down and heavily guarded train stations of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines in East Berlin. The stations were only used by trains coming from the West. The exhibition describes underground escape attempts and the border fortifications built to prevent them.

The exhibition in the Nordbahnhof station shows the absurdity of the division on the basis of three U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines that crossed through East Berlin while traveling from one end of West Berlin to the other. Between 1961 and 1989 these lines had a special status within the city’s public transportation system that was otherwise divided. The trains of these lines (today’s subway lines U6 and U8 and the north-south rail of the S-Bahn) no longer stopped at the deserted train stations in East Berlin and could not be used from there. For West Berliner’s, the daily passage beneath East Berlin continued to be a strange experience. The closed-down stations came to be known as “ghost stations” in West Berlin. The trains slowed down before entering the stations, but they did not stop. Armed guards from East Germany stood in the dimly-lit stations and before the trains entered East Berlin a loudspeaker announcement was made: “Last station in West Berlin!” The exhibit uses the Berlin underground to address themes of the memorial – division of the city, migration to the West and living with the border fortifications. It also integrates the perspective of East Berliners who, no longer having access to the trains traveling to the West, tried to use the underground tunnels as a way to escape.

The exhibition “Border Stations and Ghost Stations in Divided Berlin” – the first completed section of the Berlin Wall Memorial expansion – displays unknown photographs, presents lesser known stories, and addresses forgotten fates.

Grenzsoldaten bewachen den S-Bahnhof Potsdamer Platz

Border soldiers guard the S-Bahn station at Potsdamer Platz, undated, photo of the MfS, BStU