Berlin Grunewald: no train will ever leave track 17 again
Present in the vicinity of a train station are very distinct and familiar sounds: the racket of heavy locomotives chugging down the rail and the screech of high-friction braking. A breeze sweeps through two columns of trees, creating a low keening sound which escapes into the open space beyond. To stop and listen, the sounds could easily be human: faint shouts and cries. Are they tricks of the mind, or are the dead speaking? The spectre of cruelty, despair, and suffering clings to the abandoned track; seven decades in the past don’t seem very far.
On a cool grey late-autumn afternoon, I’m on an S-Bahn train heading towards Potsdam. Beyond the limits of the “Stadtbahn” and one stop beyond the “Ring” at Westkreuz, the train pulls into the former goods and freight station at Grunewald. Dropping into the underground passage, signage points to the memorial at track 17. I leave the station by the southeast exit, and turn left to ascend the ramp along the side street.
In the Berlin borough of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Grunewald station lies on the S7 S-Bahn line serving central Berlin city, the city of Potsdam to the southwest, and Ahrensfelde to the northeast in the Berlin borough of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. Grunewald station began operation in 1879 under its original name Hundekehle named after a nature reserve nearby. The station changed its name to “Grunewald” in 1884 when the old Grunewald station began its new life as “Halensee” station. Grunewald station and its tracks were incorporated into Berlin’s S-Bahn train network in 1928.
Many companies including the Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Imperial Rail) were actively complicit in the machinery of mass murder during Nazi rule. After reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, the two separate railways also merged to form Deutsche Bahn in 1994, and calls arose for the new company to acknowledge its dark past. To mark the Reichbahn’s collaboration in deporting people to camps and their deaths, present-day Deutsche Bahn AG established a memorial at track 17. Inaugurated in 1998 the memorial was designed and built by architects Hirsch, Lorch, and Wandel who were very mindful of the 1991 Karol Broniatowski memorial near the station’s entrance.
Along track 17, metal plates have been inserted, one for every transport train which took Berlin’s Jews to their deaths. Each plate includes the transport date, the number of people deported, and the transport’s destination. The first train of record departed Grunewald on 1941 October 18 when 1251 Jews were deported to Łódź. Another plate marks the last train of record (so far) leaving Grunewald on 1945 March 27 when 18 Jews were deported to Theresienstadt; blank plates leave room for additional commemorations with new uncovered information. More than 50-thousand Jews from Berlin were deported from this station alone. The first set of trains went to concentration-camps in eastern Europe, but by the end of 1942, trains were directed to Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt.
The vegetation that’s been left to grow around the track over the years is a visible symbol and an unspoken promise to all: that no train will leave track 17 ever again.
• Deutsche Bahn, track 17 memorial: in English | auf Deutsch
• Memorial Museums, in English
• “In the field of stelae” (Holocaust memorial in central Berlin), in English
• Memorial to Sinti and Roma Murdered by Nazis, in English
• Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough, city-state of Berlin, in German
• Berlin city portal, in German
S-Bahn station Grunewald is about 20 minutes from Berlin central station with the S-Bahn S7 train, direction (Richtung) Potsdam. Open to the elements and free of charge, the memorial is accessed either from the underground passage inside the station or from the street ramp outside; follow the signs for “Mahnmal Gleis 17” (Memorial at track 17).
I made all photos above on 7 December 2015 with a Canon EOS6D mark1. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7vx.
11 Responses to “Berlin Grunewald: no train will ever leave track 17 again”
I didn’t know about this memorial at all! I need to go there next time I am in the area
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Hi, Timo. You’re not alone in not knowing about this memorial. The station is a little bit out of the way (“nicht im Zentrum”) and I’d go so far as to say that it doesn’t get as much press as the big Holocaustdenkmal (Stelefeld) between Postdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor. Next time you’re back in Berlin, Grunewald station is worth visiting.
It surely looks like something which should be know better in general public
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I agree. I am grateful for the knowledge that this haunted embarkation station existed but so sorry that I did not know when I last visited Berlin. We are being rocked by white Nationalism in the States, thanks to the orange-haired Hitler’s (Trump’s) legacy. We need to be vigilant, speak up, and attempt to educate/disarm (literally) the uneducated and xenophobic/racist masses in the U.S. May these Holocaust victims’ memories be a blessing to those families and friends who lost them to this campaign of cruelty and murder.
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Danita, thank you for visiting and for your comment. I hope you’ll return to Berlin soon to visit not only the memorial at Grunewald station, but also other Holocaust memorials throughout the capital city.
[…] City’s oldest Jewish cemetery • Grunewald train station, track 17 • Memorial to murdered Jews in Europe • Memorial to murdered Sinti and […]
I had no idea about this! This will definitely be on my list of things to see when I make it to Berlin one of these days. Thank you so much!
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Hi, Becky. I’m pleased you now know about this poignant memorial in outer Berlin. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I hope you visit Berlin and Grunewald station soon.
[…] no trains will ever leave again. More than 50-thousand Jews from Berlin were deported from this Grunewald station alone. Photo: 7 Dec […]
Could there be a connection between this Grunewald and the Grunewald Convent established by Fr. Francis de Sales Brunner, a missionary of the Society of the Precious Blood? This convent was in Mercer County, Ohio, 60 miles north of Dayton, Ohio. Sisters of the Precious Blood lived on the farm there for years before it was sold. The sisters who were buried there were moved to the cemetery at the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, Ohio. My brother-in-law, Raymond Flaute and his wife, my sister Rita, lived in the convent house for years before selling it. I knew, of course, about a place called Grunewald in Germany, but this is the first time I heard of it as a place where Jews were deported to be put to death, if indeed this is the same Grunewald.
Hello, Dr. Ranley. The reasons how Franz Brunner arrived in the United States at the time around Bismarck’s “Kulturkampf” against the Catholic Church are likely no accident. I’m not aware of a direct connection of the Ohio convent to Berlin Grunewald. You likely know that the German noun “Grunewald” is a compound word which is literally “green forest.” The word itself is generic and applicable to all sorts of places in German-speaking lands. Specifically, that “Grunewald” is the name for a vast forested area in the western reaches of Berlin would be self-evident to Berliners. Thank you for your comment and for stopping by!