We get off the S-Bahn at Grunewald station and leave the platform where trains arrive and depart every day. The pedestrian underpass brings us not only to the station building, but also to a place that today you can no longer see at first glance what cruel things happened here, the platform 17 at Grunewald station.
The station “Hundekehle” 1879-1939
In 1879, the station “Hundekehle” with 4 platforms (three middle platforms and one side platform) went into operation. Here the trains of the Wetzlarer Bahn, the “Kanononenbahn” (a military strategic railroad line from Berlin to Metz) and the “Grunewald trains” arrived and departed. The Grunewald trains ran from the Ringbahn to what was then Grunewald station (from 1884 Halensee).
The imposing entrance building at the “Hundekehle” station was built in 1899. The structure looks a bit like a castle gate and, appropriately, a wind vane in the shape of a steam locomotive waved on the roof. The access tunnel, through which you can still get to the railroad tracks, was built at the same time. The tunnel and the station building are now listed monuments.
In 1928, the station was electrified. The S-Bahn began operating on the line and the “Grunewald trains” ceased operation.
Place of horror under National Socialism
During the National Socialist era, more than 50,000 Jews were deported from Berlin. A large part of the people had to board the train at Grunewald station.
On 18.10.1941 the first train with 1013 Jews left the station. And the horror at this place was not to end so quickly. Until April 1942, countless trains, in which people were crammed like animals, left for the ghettos of Litzmannstadt, Riga and Warsaw.
From the end of 1942, the trains then went to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. From Grunewald station alone, there were about 35 trains with 17,000 people.
Platform 17 – Place of remembrance
In recent years, several memorials were created in memory of the cruel time at Grunewald station. Unfortunately, some of them have been stolen or even removed again.
In 1987, a memorial plaque in Hebrew was placed on the former Stellwärterhaus. There it reads “In memory of the victims of extermination” and below it in German: “In memory of tens of thousands of Jewish citizens of Berlin who were deported from here to the death camps and murdered by the Nazi executioners from October 1941 to February 1945.”
In 2005, they renewed a commemorative plaque, which they placed on the 45th anniversary of the first deportation in 1987. Today there is a railroad sleeper with the inscription: “In memory of the people deported from this station. 18.Oct.1941-18.Oct.1987” in the station.
In 1991, a memorial was unveiled on the ramp leading up to the freight station. A Polish artist created a concrete wall in which the negative imprints of human bodies can be seen. A bronze plaque explains the work, which is also intended to commemorate the long marches of people to the deportation trains.
In 1998, the central memorial was unveiled to commemorate the role of the Reichsbahn under the National Socialist dictatorship.
We reach track 17 via some steps from the pedestrian underpass of the tunnel.
On both sides of the track today are 186 cast iron plates. At first glance, they look like a grating. If you then step up to the edge of the platform, you will discover countless numbers and dates. In chronological order, all journeys from Berlin and the respective number of deportees with their destination are indicated here. I was very shocked by this, because until then I was aware that many people were deported, but the numbers make the horror more vivid, more tangible.
If you then look at the now overgrown tracks with the dilapidated sleepers and rusty rails, you hope that no train will ever leave here again.
Am Bahnhof Grunewald