The map of all main locations from the most costly TV series ever produced in Germany, “Babylon Berlin”, has recently appeared on sky.de. It shows the location of the Police Headquarters “Rote Burg”, where Gereon Rath and Charlotte Ritter work, the location of the legendary “Moka Efti”, and other places that were of great importance in Berlin at the end of the 1920s.
I have initially made this list for my personal use only but if you have also fallen under the spell of Berlin in 1920s-1930s, here you can find the information on all the places to note, in English. (And I will try to forget that That Tower has not been built in Berlin yet). —
- Meyer’s courtyard (Der Meyerische Hof)
- Stamp vending machine (Briefmarkenautomat)
- The Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Die Berliner Charité)
- The Babylon cinema (Kino Babylon)
- “Red Castle” (Polizeipräsidium “Rote Burg”)
- Berlin Stock Exchange (Börse)
- Cocaine / Anita Berber
- Unter den Linden / Friedrichsstraße
- Berlin Victory Column at Platz der Republik (Siegessäule / Platz der Republik)
- The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor)
- Moka Efti
- Gustav Stresemann
- Fatherland House (Haus Vaterland)
- The Potsdamer Studio “Babelsberg”
- Berlin Zoologischer Garten Station (Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten)
- The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche)
- Luna Park
- Albert Einstein
I will not focus only on the information given by sky.de as there are lots of other facts worth to be mentioned. I will include information that covers not only the Golden Twenties but also some other periods of history of the mentioned places, as it may be useful to set the scene. This post is to be updated and (perhaps) one day it will also have another map to cover more locations.
Now, let’s begin our journey.
Starting from the North, we found ourselves near Meyers Hof (1). In such metropolises as Berlin, ordinary workers often lived in apartment buildings such as Meyers Hof situated at Ackerstraße, 132 in the former Berlin district Wedding (today: Mitte). A large trading yard served as a workplace, a storeroom for raw materials, a production site and a place of residence. Of course the idea to build such large tenements came from the fast growing need for workers’ homes. Dirt, tightness and darkness determined the living conditions. The Berliner Morgenpost, the famous Berlin newspaper, wrote in 1929, “Only in the house of a thousand people at Ackerstraße, 132 nothing has changed. The glitter of the walls is faded, the plaster peels off the facades in large sheets, but still it [Meyers Hof] stands like a castle, whose courtyards, when the day breaks, resemble castle entrances, into which a joyless fate threw sun-hungry city dwellers”.
The Germans even have a special name for such places that actually tells it all: ‘Mietskaserne’, or ‘Wohnkaserne’, which is literally translated as ‘residential, or rental barracks‘, as those were not really apartments, rather barracks.
There is a very good source to learn more about Meyers Hof and other rental barracks.
You can also see the list of other notable people who worked or studied at the Charité.
Carrently, the Charité is Europe’s largest University clinic, affiliated with both Humboldt University and Freie Universität Berlin.
The the silent film cinema Babylon or Kino Babylon (4) was opened on April 11, 1929, on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. We know that by the end of November, 1929, there were already exactly over 5,076 cinemas in Berlin.
The building of Kino Babylon was designed by architect Hans Poelzig in the style of the ‘New Objectivity’ (a translation of the German ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’, sometimes also translated as ‘New Sobriety’). A film projectionist of Babylon, Rudolf Lunau, belonged from 1933 until his arrest in 1934 to an illegal resistance cell of the Communist Party of Germany (German: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD). He hid all the materials for the work of the group in the cinema.
After the end of the Second World War the Babylon reopened on 18 May 1948 and until 1989 served as a speciality cinema of the GDR. The two-year redevelopment of the Babylon began in 1999.
In May 2001 the reopening of the auditorium took place with the film Othello by Orson Welles.Kino Babylon still operates as a cinema.
Lots of information on its history (in German, though) can be found in this brochure.
The next place is something I could talk about for hours — Alexanderplatz (5), or just “Alex” to all Berliners. It is named to honour Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, on his visit to Berlin in 1805.
Alex was a cattle market back in the Middle Ages. Then, a military parade square and an exercise ground until the mid 19th century. In the Golden Twenties, the square was an important traffic hub and the quintessence of the lively vibrant cosmopolitan city of Berlin. Lots of its buildings and rail bridges bore large illuminated billboards that literally turned night into day as at at Piccadilly Square in London. After the Second World War Alexanderplatz became the centre of East Berlin with all its high-rises erected exactly during this time.
“Babylon Berlin” was filmed at Alexanderplatz with all modern buildings, such as the Berlin TV tower, erased using computer technology.
It is also worth noting that Alfred Döblin portrayed Alex in his iconic literary monument “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, published in 1929 and later made into a TV series by Fassbinder. This novel, written in the working-class argot of pre-war Berlin, is almost untranslatable. I can still remember struggling through this text that clearly looked like a mess at the beginning. Translators, though, mostly use plain English or plain Russian, losing the main point of the original, so it’s definitely worth reading it in German if you can, as, like with every argot, sooner or later you are going to get all the main changes and finally adapt to it. I promise to write about the book and about the play of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin as well.
“Red Castle”, or Polizeipräsidium “Rote Burg”(6), is the Berlin police headquarters that were also situated in the vicinity of Alexanderplatz from 1890 and until its destruction in 1945. Back in 1926, Germany’s most famous criminal Ernst Gennat (called “Buddha” or “The full seriousness”) founded here his so-called “Central murder inspection”.
In “Babylon Berlin”, Red Castle is the workplace of all main characters, including Gereon Rath and Charlotte Ritter.
In the series, the “Red City Hall” (Rotes Rathaus), the town hall of Berlin, served as an outside backdrop for the police headquarters.
Berlin Stock Exchange, or Börse (7),was located in the Burgstraße and was sometimes simply called “The Burgstraße”. It was opened in 1863 and until the outbreak of the First World War was one of the most important stock exchanges in the world.
In 1922, a stock market index was calculated for the first time. On “Black Friday”, on May 13, 1927, two years before the outbreak of the global economic crisis, this stock index collapsed enormously. Two years later this led to the Great Depression that had an enormous impact worldwide. In year 1929, in Berlin alone there were 664 company bankruptcies, and already in February the city had 450,000 unemployed.
The modern Berlin Stock Exchange is housed in the Ludwig Erhard Haus designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and situated at Fasanenstraße, 85 in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Please see this information to learn more about the Ludwig Erhard Haus, the steel-clad building of the unusual shape.
Cocaine (8) used as anaesthetic in the First World War was the absolute fashion drug of the Golden Twenties. In the streets people called it “coke”, “cement”, “snow” or “cocoa”. It was used for the sexual arousal and against impotence and was the perfect stimulant for the interwar generation.
The notorious nude dancer Anita Berber, who died as a result of her addiction in 1928, even dedicated a danced interpretation of the poem “Cocaine” to her elixir. Among other things, Berber appeared in the “Wintergarten”, a variety theatre in the Central Hotel, which was located south of the Friedrichstraße Station, on the corner of Dorotheenstraße in Berlin Mitte.
Apart from cocaine, Anita Berber was also addicted to opium and morphine, as well as to a home-made concoction of chloroform and ether, which she’d stir in a bowl with a white rose then eat the petals. Aside from her addiction to narcotic drugs, she was also a heavy alcoholic.
To read more about Anita Berber, please refer to “The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Debauchery” by Mel Gordon.
Another place in Berlin I love with all my heard is the corner of Unter den Linden and Friedrichsstraße (9).
In the 16th century, Unter den Linden (literally: Under the Linden trees) developed from a bridle path laid out by Elector John George of Brandenburg to reach his hunting grounds in the Tiergarten. The linden trees were planted there in 1647 by order of the “Great Elector” Frederick William.
As the Berlin S-Bahn, a rapid transit railway system in and around Berlin, was being built back in 1934–35, most of the linden trees were cut down. During the last days of World War II, the remaining trees were destroyed or also cut down for firewood. The present-day linden were replanted there in the 1950s.
Unter den Linden has always had a significant traffic importance, as even the first horse buses and motorized buses of Berlin used this street. Already at the beginning of the 20th century the corner of Unter den Linden and Friedrichstraße developed into one of the busiest and most chaotic hubs in Berlin. Impressive buildings such as the State Opera, the former residence of the Prussian King and German Emperor Wilhelm I, and the Friedrich Wilhelm University were also to be found on the boulevard back in 1929.
Today Unter den Linden is the central boulevard of Berlin that leads from the Pariser Platz with the Brandenburg Gate for approximately 1.5 kilometres in the direction of Alexanderplatz. The most popular point of interest in the boulevard today is Museumsinsel (Museum Island), an island with the complex of internationally significant museums added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Berlin Victory Column (10) with the Goddess of Victory in the centre of the Tiergarten is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks and a popular tourist spot.
The Victory Column was built in 1873 as a symbol of Prussian military victory over Denmark in the Danish-Prussian War of 1864. The column with a bronze sculpture, which weighs 35 tons and measures over 8 metres, originally stood in front of the Reichstag in the former Königsplatz (today: Platz der Republik).
In 1938, it was moved to the Tiergarten’s main roundabout by the Nazis following Hitler’s plans to transform Berlin into his world capital Germania, as it was believed it would help to enhance the East-West axis running through the Tiergarten. The Nazis have also added another section, raising the column to a height of 67 metres. The place where it stays now is called the Großer Stern because it’s where five avenues stretch out to different directions around the compass, resembling the Place Charles de Gaulle, or the Place de l’Étoile, in Paris.
The Victory Column survived the Second World War largely undamaged. In the mid-1980s, it was restored and is now one of the city’s must-see sights.
There is a golden statue atop the column, which can be seen in many movies and music videos. For example, another movie also covering the Golden Twenties, is 1989 “Spider’s Web” (German: Das Spinnennetz) directed by Bernhard Wicki. It is based on the 1923 incomplete novel by Joseph Roth and tells the story of Leutnant Lohse (played by Ulrich Mühe) who joins a plot to bomb the Column.
The Brandenburg Gate (11) is an 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, the most famous Berlin landmark built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II to commemorate the successful (only for some time) restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution.
Until 1918, only members of the members of the imperial family and their visitors were allowed to use the middle passage of the Gate. Citizens originally were allowed to use only the outermost two on each side.
After the 1806 Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession, and took its Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, to Paris. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris by General Ernst von Pfuel, the Quadriga was restored to Berlin.
After the First World War, the Gate (including Quadriga) was renovated and restored until 1927. The expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner painted the Brandenburg Gate in 1929 as a colorful, lively scene.
When the Nazis ascended to power, they used the gate as a party symbol. The gate survived World War II and was one of the damaged structures still standing in the Pariser Platz ruins in 1945. The Gate was badly damaged with holes in the columns from bullets and nearby explosions.
Throughout its existence, the Brandenburg Gate was often a site for major historical events. It has literally seen it all: the new German Empire and the First World War, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and the Second World War, the division of Germany after the war, the Fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the end of the Cold War, and the final reunification of both Berlin and Germany, and yet it’s still there, remaining the symbol of European unity and peace—
In Berlin, themed restaurants and entertainment palaces that combined multiple entertainment offerings under one roof were the hot spots of the 1920s. The coffee house “Moka Efti” (12), located between Friedrichstraße and Leipziger Straße, was decorated in the oriental style of 1001 Nights. Its owner Giovanni Eftimiades opened another coffee house on Potsdamer Platz, “Moka Efti Tiergarten”, which became one of the city’s most famous dance palaces.
In “Babylon Berlin”, “Delphi”, the former silent film cinema in Prenzlauer Berg with a glorious Art Deco arched stage, served as a location. “Delphi” was one of the largest cinemas when opened in 1929 and hosted premieres and other important film events. It was heavily damaged by an air raid during the final year of WWII and was closed back in 1959 only to be used as a storage facility during the GDR era.
Unfortunately, it’s not regularly open to visitors nowadays as it’s too fragile. But you can still catch some events there and it’s definitely worth waiting for, as those are often amazing costumed balls and themed parties.
Gustav Stresemann (13)was a German politician who served as Chancellor and Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic. He stood for the reconciliation between Germany and France, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. In October 3, 1929, he died of a stroke. The state funeral found great sympathy among the population. Hundreds of thousands gave him the last escort. His grave can be found in the Luisenstädtischer cemetery in Kreuzberg.
It is interesting that Gustav Stresemann also popularized wearing semi-formal daytime dresses comprising a single- or double-breasted coat (black or grey), grey striped or checked formal trousers, a neck tie (silver or grey), and a waistcoat (black, grey, or buff). This look became so identified with Stresemann that such outfits are often called “Stresemanns”, even though even Winston Churchill is also depicted in many photographs and paintings wearing a black stroller and striped formal trousers while serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Fatherland House, or Haus Vaterland (14), was a six-storey building on Potsdamer Platz, on the corner of Stresemann Strasse. It was built in 1912 and was originally called “Café Piccadilly”. It got the name “Haus Vaterland” back in 1914.
Carl Stahl-Urach re-built the building in 1928 into an amusement palace with numerous international restaurants. All the guests could enjoy music, variety, artistry or movies in such places as, for example, the Palmensaal (a famous ballroom), the Wild West Bar, the Japanese Tea House, The Türkisches Café (Turkish cafe), The Löwenbräu, which emulated a Bavarian bierkeller, or the cinema. Fatherland House promised “die Welt in einem Haus” – “the world in one house”. The Rheinterrasse (Rhine terrace) was famous for its impressive weather simulation. It also had its own motto, as a thunderstorm with thunder, lightning and rain was simulated there every hour—
“Haus Vaterland does it thoroughly – in Haus Vaterland it storms hourly”
(Original: “Haus Vaterland machts gründlich – im Haus Vaterland gewitterts stündlich”)
“Haus Vaterland” was partially destroyed by fire in World War II, reopened in a limited form after that, but was finally demolished in 1976.
The Potsdamer Studio “Babelsberg” (15) is the birthplace of the “Neue Berliner Straße” (New Berlin Street). It is the oldest large-scale film studio in the world, producing films since 1912.
Previously, before the Neue Berliner Straße, there was the so-called Berliner Straße, also on the grounds of Studio Babelsberg. It was in fact was a 15-year film set built in 1998 and demolished in 2013.
The construction of the Neue Berliner Straße began in 2014. The plan was to create an exterior backdrop with streets in different architectural styles, consisting of classic façade resets, which can be flexibly used in combination with blue and green screen recording methods. In May 2016, the Neue Berliner Strasse was opened and used for “Babylon Berlin”. For this, four streets including a square were moved to Berlin in the 1920s.
“There is a rich, a mediocre, a rundown and a very modern street. We now literally have the whole Berlin on a silver platter,” – says production designer Uli Hanisch.
Studio Babelsberg even offers a Studio Tour, which is currently in German language only.
Berlin Zoologischer Garten Station (16) is located in the district Charlottenburg. The first subway line in Berlin, U2, runs there since 1902. For Berliners, the station had been the gateway to the area since 1882, and two years later the station was also opened to long-distance traffic. Since the opening of the new Berlin-Hauptbahnhof its role has however diminished, as long-distance (InterCity) trains no longer stop there.
The station became famous in the 1920s outside Berlin thanks to Erich Kästner’s “Emil and the detectives”. At Bahnhof Zoo, title character Emil Tischbein gets out and follows the man named Grundeis, who stole the money from him.
The station is also the setting for the book “Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo” (“Christiane F. – We Children from Bahnhof Zoo”), which tells the story of Christiane Felscherinow, a teenage girl who became involved with drugs and prostitution around the Zoo station in 1970s Berlin.
This station was the inspiration for a song “Zoo Station” by Irish rock band U2, for their “Zoo TV tour” and for their eighth studio album called “Zooropa”. The Scorpions used it for their song “The Zoo”.
On March 22, 1891, the foundation stone was laid for the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (17). It was opened four years later by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who had the church built in honour of his grandfather. Architect Franz Schwechten had built the church in the Romanesque Revival (or Neo-Romanesque) style. The church originally had five towers (see Pic.1), the highest one soaring 113 meters into the Berlin sky. The bells of the church rang so loud that the wolves living in the nearby zoological garden began to howl.
During the Second World War, on 23 November 1943, the upper part of the church was destroyed in a British air raid. The ruin was preserved with structural security as a memorial against against war and destruction. In addition, a new building came in the 60s.
Today, the church is a striking landmark of Berlin. It’s definitely the most famous landmark in what was earlier West-Berlin. The old building of the church is the greatest memorial of Berlin torn apart by war. The new one is a place of contemplation where you can leave all troubles, worries and and noises of the city and of the whole world behind. It’s a deep blue light that fills the space.
Apart from daily church services and concerts, there are jazz concerts in summer, and one of Berlin’s biggest Christmas markets in winter. The market takes place every year on Breitscheidplatz, just outside the church.
The later so-called Kurfürstendamm (18), where the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is situated, got its name from prince-electors (Kurfürsten) who used this road to get to Grunewald. In 1873, Bismarck desided to turn the path into a magnificent street, following the example of the French “Champs-Elysées”.
In the 1920s, the Kurfürstendamm was the epitome of the Golden Twenties, or the Roaring Twenties. Cafés, such as “Café des Westens” (later “Café Kranzler”), cabarets, revues and various theatres were situated there. Josephine Baker, who brought the original Charleston to Germany and turned a costume, consisting of only a girdle of bananas, into an iconic image and a symbol of the 1920s., performed in the Nelson Theatre on Kurfürstendamm.
Today, Kurfürstendamm, or simply Ku’damm, is the most popular shopping boulevard is the heart of the former West Berlin. The legendary KaDeWe, Berlin’s most famous department store, does not stand directly on Kurfürstendamm, but is still associated with this street.
Kurfürstendamm is a home for all famous labels and international brands. “Karstadt”, another big department store, is also situated there.
Interesting is that if you pay for the house numbers on Kurfürstendamm, you won’t find numbers 1 to 10. They were reassigned to Budapester Straße in the 1920s and no longer exist.
At the end of the Kurfürstendamm was “Luna Park” (19), at that time Europe’s largest amusement park. Opened in 1910, it included numerous rummaging attractions such as a water slide that ended in the lake, a wobbling staircase with a fan at the end, which lifted the skirts of the ladies or a “Liliput” city with stunted residents. Fireworks, theatre, revues, jazz music, cabaret, but also dance tournaments and boxing matches – it could easily fit everyone’s tastes. In 1926 the young Max Schmeling won his first title fight there. The noisy amusement park faced some critics as well, especially among the residents of Grunewald.
During the first World War and in the following period of hyperinflation, visitor numbers expectedly declined and the part lay desolate and abandoned. On May 9, 1929, the amusement park reopened after a huge renovation but did not attain its former success.
Finally, it was closed in 1934 by the Nazis and demolished, partly due to the fact that it was situated in the way of the required Halenseestraße, which was opened for the 1936 Summer Olympics.
From 1914 to 1932, Albert Einstein (20) worked for the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. In 1929, he celebrated his 50th birthday in the capital. The famous physicist and his wife Elsa lived in an apartment at Haberlandstrasse 5 in Berlin district Schöneberg. Famous personalities such as Max Liebermann, Charlie Chaplin and Franz Kafka were among his guests.
After the seizure of power by the Nazis, Einstein gave up his German passport, and all his possessions, including summer house in Caputh near Potsdam, sailboat and bank balances, were confiscated.
There is an anecdote of Einstein’s time spent Berlin I read once in another blog about Berlin that tells about the physicist time in the German capital—
“One light-hearted anecdote of Einstein living in Berlin involves him travelling home from a social engagement in a taxi and proclaiming to the bewildered driver that he had forgotten where he lived. Asking the taxi driver (who did not recognise the professor) if he knew where Albert Einstein lived, he was told “Of course, everyone around here knows where he lives,” to which Einstein replied, “Good, take me there, then.”
Though, it’s commonly believed that this happened after his migration to the U.S., in Princeton, New Jersey, but one can never know for sure.
~ ~ ~
Everything leads to and everyone is going to Berlin in the series “Babylon Berlin”, and hopefully the locations mentioned above, gave you at least an idea why.
Hopefully, next time you travel to Berlin, you will visit some “Babylon Berlin” locations. Berlin is still the most popular city for night life lover, and in Berlin night clubs they still party like it’s 1929. Most of these places can still be seen, visited, and even experienced. There, Weimar-era is still round the corner, and this is why we love Berlin: it has always been and will probably always remain the city where all its history can be seen and smelt. There, time flies too fast, but it makes all the time spent there even more precious.
As a very famous saying notes–
Paris will always be Paris, but Berlin is always becoming Berlin.