Just outside the Friedrichstraße station is a simple building that – when I first came to Berlin – housed a nightclub called “Tränenpalast”… Palace of Tears. The name came from its former function, as the border departure hall for people travelling from East to West Berlin. The doors of this pavilion would have been last point of goodbye, as western visitors headed back across the border that split the city in two, and left their family and friends behind.
Despite the fact that I live a few hundred metres from the path of the Berlin Wall, and that I cross the old border almost each and every day, the absurdity of the division of the city sometimes strikes me, and it came again this weekend as I explored the Tränenpalast. The pavilion now houses an exhibition, with the chance to explore a wealth of artifacts related to the division of the city and the border-crossing, including the old cubicles where travellers would come face-to-face with the uniformed border guards of the East German regime.
The exhibition is free to visit, and definitely worth a look as it is another reminder of the individual impact of the division of Berlin, and what it meant for families and friends, beyond the wider geo-political implications that become the main concern of the history books. Walking around the building, past some punks sipping from their bottles of beer, a bike tour making wobbly progress down the cobbled street by the river, and groups of ordinary Berliners and visitors sunning themselves on the concrete steps, it was hard to imagine that this had once been such a Palace of Tears.
Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton
I really enjoyed the exhibition at the Tränenpalast and it wasn’t until I read about it that I knew any of the history of the building that houses it. Ironic as I spent my first two visits to Berlin staying in the Melia hotel just across the road.