By today’s appearance, it’s easy to overlook the bridge at Bornholmer Strasse (also known as Bösebrücke) as an historic landmark. On the night of 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall opened here first, at the Bornholmer Strasse bridge border-crossing between East Berlin and West Berlin.
28 years undone in a matter of hours
The city of Berlin was divided in two between 1961 and 1989 with a physical wall as the physical manifestation of East German (GDR/DDR) policy. Bornholmer Strasse was the northernmost of the seven road border-crossings between West and East Berlin. Only citizens of West Berlin and West Germany (FRG/BRD) could enter East Berlin at this crossing, whereas citizens of East Berlin and East Germany were forbidden from using the crossing into West Berlin.
On 9 November 1989, the East German government announced new travel regulations which were incorrectly stated at a news conference. But once word had gotten out East Berliners could travel “freely” across the “open border” into West Berlin without the onerous process of a travel visa, people gathered at various border crossings, including Bornholmer Strasse at around 8pm. Border guards began letting pedestrians and cars trickle across the border by 930pm. Guards at other road crossings also began letting people through. But hundreds gathered became thousands, and when it became clear no additional support was forthcoming to manage “control” of the border, border guards decided on their own initiative to open the gates wide open at around 1130pm to relieve mounting pressure and appease those who openly demanded free passage. Just after midnight, 20-thousand people had already crossed the Bornholmer Strasse bridge and the inner-German/intra-Berlin border. The Wall was effectively finished without a shot fired that night. All border controls ceased on 1 July 1990 (day of monetary union), and checkpoints were no longer manned on 3 October 1990 (German Reunification Day).
Unveiled on 9 November 2010, a memorial and permanent exhibition occupy the new square, Platz des 9. November 1989, by the northeast corner of the bridge to commemorate that historic evening. Metal strips on the ground highlight events; for example:
2242h (1042pm): “Die Tore in der Mauer stehen weit offen,” Tagesthemen ARD
(“The gates at the Wall are wide open,” reported on West German ARD-TV news-program Tagesthemen.)
2320h (1120pm): “Tor auf! Tor auf! Wir kommen wieder, wir kommen wieder!” Ostberliner. (East Berliners shouting, “Open the gate! We’re coming!”)
2330h (1130pm): “Wir fluten jetzt! Wir machen alles auf!” Stasi-Offizier (“We’re flooded with people! We’re going to open everything!” Stasi officers)
0015h (1205am): “Wahnsinn”, “Irre”, “nicht zu fassen”. 20.000 Menschen haben die Bösebrücke passiert. (Crazy, nuts, unbelievable; 20-thousand people cross the Bösebrücke bridge.)
Bornholmer Strasse station
With its inauguration on 1 October 1935, the Bornholmer Strasse station saw S-Bahn train service from central Berlin north to the outlying towns of Bernau, Oranienburg, and Velten (e.g., 1936). S-Bahn service resumed with reconstruction after the Second World War (e.g., 1951). Because of its proximity to the East-West Berlin border and subsequent construction of the Berlin Wall, Bornholmer Strasse station closed on 13 August 1961, becoming a Geisterbahnhof or “ghost station”. West Berlin’s S-Bahn trains sped through the station without stopping, whereas East German trains traveled on new tracks from late-1961 along the so-called “Ulbricht curve” between barriers near the “ghost station”; see images below. The station reopened 22 December 1990 for West Berlin trains, and a second platform opened the following August to allow train interchange. Today, Bornholmer Strasse station is served by trains on S-Bahn Berlin routes S1, S2, S25, S8, S85, and S9; additional side branches of the S-Bahn Ringbahn from both Gesundbrunnen and Schönhauser Allee stations go to Pankow via Bornholmer Strasse.
Facing south-southwest, S-Bahn Berlin trains at Bornholmer Strasse station with the Fernsehturm at left (HL)
“Present-day relic” (HL for LC)
S-Bahn Bahnhof Bornholmer Strasse, opened 1 October 1935 (HL)
Bösebrücke with tram tracks down the middle, facing west from Prenzlauer Berg side (HL)
Bösebrücke, with Berlin Wall marker on southeast/Prenzlauer Berg side (HL)
Platz des 9. November 1989, Bornholmer Strasse bridge, northeast/Prenzlauer Berg side. The plaque in the stone reads: “An der Brücke ‘Bornholmer Strasse’ öffnete sich in der Nacht vom 9. zum 10. November 1989 erstmals seit dem 13. August 1961 die Mauer. Die Berliner kamen wieder zusammen. Willy Brandt: ‘Berlin wird leben, und die Mauer wird fallen.'” | “For the first time since 1961 August 13, the Wall was opened at Bornholmer Street bridge on the night of 1989 November 9-10. Berliners were reunited again. Willy Brandt said: ‘Berlin will live on, and the Wall will come down.'” (HL)
Platz des 9. November 1989 (HL)
Platz des 9. November 1989 and the memorial, Bornholmer Strasse, facing east (HL)
Platz des 9. November 1989 and the memorial, facing west to Bornholmer Strasse bridge (HL)
Map of the memorial at Platz des 9. November 1989 (HL)
Archival & Historical Images
Berlin Wall and border crossings, by SansCulotte on Wikipedia (CC2). The location of the border crossing between West- and East-Berlin at Bornholmer Strasse/Bosebrücke is indicated by a red rectangle. Only West Berliners and citizens of West Germany were allowed to enter into East Berlin at this crossing.
The filled red circle indicates the present-day location of the Platz des 9. November 1989 memorial at the northeast corner of Bornholmer Strasse bridge. The train station closed after 1961, becoming a “ghost station” (labeled ‘G’). Note the wall (labeled ‘W’) separating West and East Berlin, the absence of vehicular traffic near or around the bridge (labeled ‘B’), and secondary walls and physical obstructions at the border crossing (Grenzübergangsstelle, GÜSt) and bridge from the east side. The overhead image was likely taken by East Berlin/East German security personnel on border patrol. Picture likely from 1980s on an information pillar at the memorial; you can compare the above with similar pictures from the Stasi Mediathek.
Berlin ghost stationsm as grey “no entry” symbols. West-Berlin routes for U-Bahn U6 and U8 and S-Bahn S2 went through East Berlin; trains did not stop at stations inside East Berlin with junction station Friedrichstrasse as the key exception. Bornholmer Strasse station is identified as an open red rectangle. Source: Wikimedia.
West Berlin BVG transport map, dated April 1989, 7 months before the fall of the Wall. Just like Bornholmer Strasse station (labeled with an open red rectangle), “ghost stations” are represented as open squares. Source: berliner-verkehr.de.
Facing north, divided tracks towards Bornholmer Strasse station (left-centre) and bridge. Photo made in 1990 after the fall of the Wall (Wikipedia CC3
Bösebrücke border-crossing on the West Berlin side, 1984 (By popo.uw23
/ Flickr CC1)
Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive), photo on 18 November 1989 by Robert Roeske. My translation of the original picture caption: “About one million East-German citizens visited West Berlin on Saturday (18 Nov 1989). People cleared quickly through border crossing points, as seen here at Bornholmer Strasse. Since 9 November, the East German Ministry of the Interior has granted in excess of 10 million visas for private travel and more than 17500 permits for permanent departure from East Germany.” (Wikimedia CC3
• Former border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse (berlin.de): English – German.
• Damals-Heute (then and now) picture comparison, Chronik der Mauer, in German.
• Die Nacht, in der die Mauer fiel (The night the Wall fell), 30-minute YouTube video in German.
• “Bornholmer Strasse”, 88-minute movie in German about the border guards on the night the Wall fell.
• Kreuzberged provides a concise history of the Bornholmer Strasse bridge (in English).
I made the above pictures labeled “HL” on 8 May 2015. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-ajU.