Berlin

Prepare to travel back down the decades as we take you on a journey through 100 years of iconic Berlin’s recent city history. Learn of its central place in the progressive Weimar Republic, the changes that occurred before and after World War II, and the impact of occupation and the Cold War.

1915-1925

1915 - Growing Pains


Berlin has been industrialising rapidly - over the last 30 years, the population has doubled to more than 2 million people. But now, war in Europe is taking a toll. The 1916 Olympics in Berlin have been cancelled. Foods like bread and potatoes are being rationed. Over 200 women take to the streets chanting Frieden! Frieden! (Peace! Peace!) in the “butter riots”.

1919 - A Hub of Scientific Inquiry


In the liberal atmosphere of Weimar Berlin, Magnus Hirschfeld opens the Institute of Sexology in Tiergarten. He coins the term “transsexualism” during his studies into sexuality and gay rights. Other pioneering scientists living in the city include noted physicist Albert Einstein.

1920 - International Dada Fair


Art is taking on new edgy and subversive forms. The Otto Bouchard Gallery holds the first International Dada Fair in 1920, organised by Berlin’s notably political Dadaists. They create the technique of “photomontage”, making satirical collages from newspaper and magazine cuttings.

1935-1945

1936 - Olympiastadion and the Berlin Games


The impressive Olympiastadion in Charlottenburg is built in time for the 1936 Olympic Games. It stands as a symbol of Nazi power and affluence even as their philosophy of Aryan supremacy comes into question...

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1939 - Goodbye to Berlin Published


Christopher Isherwood’s semi-autobiographical novel of his time in Schöneberg, Goodbye to Berlin, is published. Contemporary George Orwell describes it as “Brilliant sketches of a society in decay.” The book will become the 1966 musical and 1972 film Cabaret.

1940 - Society of Berlin Fashion Starts


Designers form the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Berliner Modelle to revive Berlin’s flagging fashion industry. Pre-1930s, half of Berlin’s clothes manufacturing was owned or staffed by Jews near Hausvogteiplatz - Nazi plans to emulate Parisian haute couture struggle because most skilled seamstresses and manufacturers have fled or are missing…

1945-1955

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1945 - Surrender After the Battle of Berlin


May 8 - Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel of the Wehrmacht ceremonially surrenders to the Soviets at Karlshorst. Hitler is dead by suicide, and many German units have already fought westward to surrender to the Western Allies instead of the The Red Army.

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1945 - Four-Way Occupation


Following the Yalta and Potsdam conferences, Germany is divided into eastern and western occupation zones. Despite being wholly within the “Soviet” Germany, Berlin is split into an east-west divide between USSR and the other Allies.

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1949 - Creation of Currywurst


Berlin is being rebuilt. Food kiosk owner Herta Heuwer invents a new fast food delicacy, “currywurst”, by slathering grilled pork sausage in a ketchup and curry powder mix that she borrows from British soldiers. The snack is an instant hit with Charlottenburg construction workers.

1955-1965

1961 - Berlin Wall Built


The Communist government of East Germany (GDR) builds a barbed wire and concrete wall between East and West Berlin. This “Antifascist Bulwark” not only stops Western interests from undermining the GDR, it also helps to halt a growing rash of defections.

1963 - Berlin Philharmonie Opens its Doors


The Philharmonie introduces the world to a revolutionary new concept in architectural acoustics. The “vineyard terracing” design by organic architect Hans Scharoun stems from his observation that “people always gather in circles when listening to music informally.”

1963 JFK’s Ich Bin Ein Berliner Speech


Visiting President of the USA John F Kennedy makes an uplifting speech in front of West Berlin’s city hall. He restates US commitment to the area and affirms that freedom is a gift to be celebrated. Berliners receive the speech so well that they posthumously rename the square in JFK’s honour.

1975-1985

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1970s - Underground Parties, Underground Politics


The chatter at Berlin’s all-night parties often moves on to The Wall, the growing wave of left wing terrorism, and a new musical movement. “Punk” is becoming popular both in East Berlin and at Western clubs like Dschungel on Nürnberger Strasse. The city’s answer to Studio 54, patrons include David Bowie and Iggy Pop.

1983 - Pop Protest Goes Global


Protest song “99 Luftballons” by Nena reaches number 1 in West German charts, and goes on to global acclaim. The song tells of an apocalyptic overreaction to unidentified flying toy balloons by Cold War military forces - the idea originates from the band’s guitarist watching balloons float away from a Rolling Stones gig at Waldbühne.

1985-1995

1989 - Fall of the Wall


9 November - Under mounting people pressure, border guards allow East Germans to pass freely to West Berlin at Bösebrücke. The Berlin Wall is soon brought down, with local people chipping away at the wall and celebrating with their neighbours.

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1990 - Kunsthaus Tacheles


Tacheles - Yiddish for “straight talking” - becomes a Berlin centre for the arts. Originally called “Friedrichsstadtpassagen”, it was once a Jewish department store, then a Nazi prison. In 1990, artists rename and reclaim the building for creative initiatives.

1995-2005

UNESCO Recognises Museum Island


UNESCO gives World Heritage Status to Museum Island, an area of Berlin that used to be a town called Cölln. Host to the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum and the Bode Museum, this mini metropolis of iconic sites is a distinctive part of Berlin’s cultural landscape.

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Denkzeichen Modezentrum Hausvogteiplatz Erected


Rainer Görss’ Memorial Fashion Centre Hausvogteiplatz is erected . The sculpture shows three double-sided mirrors arranged in a triangle. Text inside the structure and on nearby steps documents the fate of Jewish clothing houses during the Nazi era - blank areas indicate manufacturers who disappeared without trace.

2005 - Present

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2006 - World Cup Final


Germany hosts the FIFA World Cup 2006 with the final played at Olmypiastadion. Italy defeats France on penalties, but the match is probably better known for France playmaker Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt on Italy defender Marco Materazzi in extra time.

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2014 - Rolling Stones 50 & Counting Tour


June 10 - the Rolling Stones perform on the city’s Waldbühne stage in remembrance of the concert that never took place back in 1969. Many East Germans arrested by the Stasi in 1969 finally get to see their rock and roll heroes in unified Berlin, some 44 years later.

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