Berlin’s Ghost Stations

Before it was divided into East and West, Berlin had a large underground train system that covered the entire city. Like everything else, this too was divided by the wall and some train lines ended up exclusively in the East or the West, while some ended up in both – so a train could start in West Berlin, cut through a section below East Belin, and then be under West Berlin again.

West Berlin subway map from 1979
East Berlin Subway Map with all West Berlin stations removed.

The trains thst started in West Berlin were not allowed to stop at the stations in the East, they would slow down and roll through the eerily empty station and then speed up again. Often these stations were patrolled by East German Guards. Interestingly, the trains were allowed to operate in this manner, and not completely stopped, because the trains were owned by and were a good source of revenue for the East German regime. These stations were marked on West Berlin’s subway maps simply as “Banhofe, auf denen die Zuge nicht halten” – the train does not stop at this station.

The stations came to be known as Ghost Stations – they were dimly lit and completely empty, and saw no human activity for decades. After the wall fell, these stations appeared to be frozen in time with 30 year old posters still hanging on the walls.

One of the stations Friedrichstrasse was completely in East Berlin but was used by West Berliners to change trains and go from one patform to the next. It was used as a border crossing and this was also where the West Berliners who came to meet relatives in the East came in and left from – as a result the station withnessed many tears and heartbreaks.

All evidence of the past has been removed after reunification, and it is difficult to imagine that the bustling stations of today are the same ghost stations of yesterday.

(Source: YouTube Video, Atlas Obscura, and berlin.de).

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