Although peacefully situated by the lake Templiner in the south-west of Berlin, ending up at the former Potsdam Hbf (Hbf = Hauptbahnhof = Central/main Station) gives an almost shocking flashback of the days of the Cold War and the divided city of Berlin. Back in the early 1950s, the newly formed DDR - German Democratic Republic experienced a vast drain of its citizens through Western Berlin. It soon became apparent that this fact could no longer be ignored and the plans for the Berlin Wall started to take shape. The problem that the rail lines that all terminated in the center of the city was solved by the construction of an outer railway ring that connected all lines. More than 100 km of new track was built around Berlin during the 1950s and in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was completed, a giant transformation of the rail lines was put in place and the possibilities to escape were gone.
The new station of Potsdam was built in two levels to allow passengers to switch between the main ring in the upper level and the connecting line in the level below. The architecture straightly follows the standard Deutsche Reichbahn design so typical of the DDR of that vintage. When walking on the empty and overgrown platforms, it’s fascinating to think about the fact how many Eastern German families who must have been standing here to switch trains in order to avoid the decadent Western city center.
With the reunification of Germany and the fall of the wall in 1989, the fate of the station was set and the role of the ring changed as the trains were led into the central stations of Berlin rather than passing via the ring. After a few years, Potsdam Hauptbahnhof was moved back to where it used to be and the DDR station changed name to Potsdam Pirschheide. Since some ten years ago, only freights pass on the outer ring in that section which means that the meaning of the junction station is gone. The station building probably waits for its final fate, although I guess that is far from non-controversial to demolish such a typical sign of the DDR of that time.
Although I perfectly remember the time of the divided Berlin it really strikes me how quickly one adapts to a changing reality and how difficult it suddenly is to recall that feeling of how it must have been back then. Trying to preserve these unique historical buildings and sites are of course out of question, but I really wonder how this important time in history will be made visible to the generations to come. Or will it just be forgotten and be passed to the shadows?