The Governing Mayor visits the Underworld
The governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller (SPD) takes part in Tour M – “Underground to Freedom” – along with employees of the Senate Chancellery. He also takes a look at the visitor tunnel construction site as well as the exposed escape tunnel from 1970/71, and signs the Tour M guest book.
At the end of the tour, the Chairman of the Association, Dietmar Arnold, makes an appeal to introduce November 9th, the day the Wall fell, as an additional public holiday in Berlin. All Berliners could easily identify with it, and after all, this historical event, which many still remember, is a “great moment for mankind”.
Topping out ceremony in the visitors’ tunnel
On the 29th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, the Association celebrates the topping out ceremony of the visitors’ tunnel, which is now over 22 metres long, with the participation of many contemporary witnesses. The photo shows the topping out wreath in vault 3 and the entrance to the construction project.
Information stand and guided tours at the “axis cross”
Over three days, Berlin Underworlds showcased itself on the invitation of Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH with numerous voluntary members at the Soviet memorial in Tiergarten for the Day of German Unity. Berlin is the central host for the nationwide celebrations celebrating overcoming the division of Germany under the motto “Only with you”.
Particularly on the public holiday of October 3rd, there is a great rush of interested visitors despite the stormy weather. A highlight is the guided tours through a road tunnel of the so-called “axis cross”, an advanced construction project from the time of National Socialism. The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller (SPD), also visits the Association’s stand.
Dietmar Arnold receives the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin
Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD) awards Dietmar Arnold and eleven other Berliners the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin for their civic commitment. “Dietmar Arnold was co-founder of the Berlin Underworlds Association in 1997 and, since then, has also served as its chairman. He has rendered remarkable services to the preservation of historical sites in Berlin, especially in connection with the National Socialist era and the Cold War period. Mr. Arnold’s aim is to preserve and protect these places and to make them accessible and understandable to an interested public. To this end, he organises a large number of guided tours at various locations each year,” says the Senate Chancellery’s communication.
Commemorative plaques to escape tunnels inaugurated
In the presence of Gerry Woop (Berlin State Secretary for Europe), Prof. Dr. Axel Klausmeier (Director of the Berlin Wall Foundation), Dr. Christoph Links and several contemporary witnesses, two bronze memorial plaques are inaugurated on Zimmerstrasse between Mitte and Kreuzberg and presented to the public. The first is located in the pavement in front of Zimmerstrasse 54 and commemorates the tunnel escape of an East Berlin family, in which border guard Reinhold Huhn was shot by an escape agent in tragic circumstances.
The second plaque in front of Zimmerstrasse 8-9 commemorates the escape of three young East Berliners who, with a lot of luck, managed to escape via a tunnel they dug themselves in January 1972.
Both commemorative plaques are part of the project “The Escape Tunnels on Zimmerstrasse”, which was also funded by the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.
Picture: from left to right: Dr. Christoph Links, Dietmar Arnold, Rudolf Müller, Prof. Dr. Axel Klausmeier, Gerry Woop
In the yard of the former AEG factories on Voltastrasse, the second and third handcars are delivered. The Association intends to make one of the historic tracks on the factory premises passable again, in several construction phases, as far as Humboldthain S-Bahn station.
The track will later be integrated into Tour A – “The AEG Tunnel” (Tour in German only).
Monument Open Day
This year, Berlin Underworlds also took part in the Monument Open Day. A total of eleven tours are offered in four different locations with 205 participants.
In addition to proven locations such as the Reich Air Protection School and the Heckeshorn high-rise bunker, the Friesenstraße air-raid tunnel sample gallery and the Museum in the Old Waterworks, a new object can also be visited: at the GSG-Gewerbehof Wattstrasse / corner of Voltastrasse, the cellars of a former slaughterhouse, the last remaining relic of the former stock cattle market and slaughterhouse, will be opened to the public for the first time during the Monument Open Day.
Second book on the “Escape Tunnels on Zimmerstrasse” delivered
After the book “Der Tunnel am Checkpoint Charlie - Eine spektakuläre Flucht 1972” (The Tunnel at Checkpoint Charlie – A Spectacular Escape, 1972) was published at the end of July, the latest publication by the Edition Berliner Unterwelten will be delivered by Ch. Links Verlag on August 27th:
“Kein Licht am Ende des Tunnels - Berlin 1962 – Die tragische Flucht einer Familie” by Dietmar Arnold and Rudolf Müller tells of the tragic escape of a family in June 1962. They just wanted to be a family, like millions of other people. They wanted to be together, like everybody else. Between this desire and the reality stood the Berlin Wall. Overcoming it was impossible. However, Rudolf Müller didn’t give up and dug a tunnel under the Wall. The supposedly safe way. Suddenly a border guard appeared, not expected, but real. He raised his gun and pointed it at the family. Rudolf Müller could see no other way out and fired before the guard did. A young man, border guard Reinhold Huhn, was dead.
The book traces the life of Rudolf Müller and his experiences: June 17th, 1953, imprisonment by the Stasi, in GDR prison, then working in West Berlin, the building of the Wall on August 13th, 1961 and the separation from his family. On the other side, the fate of another young man. Everyone becomes a victim of the German division. Previously unpublished documents by the border troops, the police and the GDR state security forces show how sloppy the investigations were, how truths were twisted.
Both publications were funded by the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.
Long Night of the Museums 2018 in the Alten Wasserwerk (Old Waterworks)
In mild summer weather, 224 (2017 - 169) Berliners and visitors to Berlin take advantage of one of the last opportunities to experience the guided tours and supporting programme of Berlin Underworlds at the Old Waterworks in Friedrichshagen. Highlights include musical performances in the machine room, guided tours through the slow sand filter cellars, information on the habitat of the bats on Lake Müggelsee and short tours of the exhibition and listed buildings.
Escape tunnel found
During the construction of a visitor tunnel on Bernauer Strasse, we come across the historic escape tunnel from 1970/71, as expected.
The escape tunnel obviously collapsed in the area of the visitors’ tunnel a long time ago but is still preserved further to the left and right.
The construction project is being overseen by the archaeological office ABD-Dressler, which is investigating the escape tunnel and working out a security concept with Berlin Underworlds.
New model in the “Myth of Germania – Vision and Crime” exhibition
For a clear size comparison between the “Great Hall” planned by Hitler and Speer and buildings existing today such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag or the Berlin television tower, the model maker Manfred Jonas has faithfully reproduced the above-mentioned buildings as well as the never built “Great Hall” on a scale of 1:500. On August 1st, the models will be displayed in the exhibition “Myth of Germania - Vision and Crime” and can be viewed from now on. In addition, two new display boards and an aerial photograph of the “North-South axis, 1945” are added to the exhibition and the lighting situation is optimised.
New book delivered
The book “The Tunnel at Checkpoint Charlie – a spectacular escape, 1972” tell the authentic love story between a 19-year-old teenage boy from East Berlin and a girl of the same age from the West side of the city. To get to her, he tries to dig a tunnel to West Berlin from a cellar near the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing at Christmas 1971. His friend and his older brother help him. The courageous refugees of yesteryear first told the authors, in detail, the background and exact circumstances of their spectacular tunnel escape. Formerly secret State Security investigation reports as well as unique historical photos make the book an important contemporary historical document.
New exhibit in the “Underworlds Museum”
A new exhibit is delivered by Krügel Logistics. It is the shell of a US 1,000-pound aircraft bomb from the Second World War. Ready for dropping, it weighed about 450 kilograms, was about 1.8 metres long including the tail unit and had a diameter of almost 0.5 metres. It had two detonators. The special thing about our specimen is that it has two different pick-up devices and could be dropped by both American and British aircraft. We would like to thank the Berlin State Criminal Police Office for the permanent loan. In the future, the exhibit can be seen as part of our Tour 1 – “Dark Worlds”, during which we also deal with the dangerous legacies of the Second World War on Berlin soil.
Humpday Party in the “Visitors’ Tunnel”
We’re halfway there! On June 8th, about 80 members, construction workers, friends and supporters of the Association’s Humpday celebrate at our “Visitors' Tunnel” construction site. The tunnel, the last third of which is to intersect with a historic escape tunnel dating back to 1970/71, and which can be visited as part of our Tour M – “Underground to Freedom”, is now just over 17 metres long. So far, a total of 96 m³ of rubble (weighing around 144 tonnes) has been removed from the tunnel in 32 containers of 3 m³ each. 260 reinforced concrete segments were used (resulting in 65 closed frames, weighing around 49 tonnes) as well as 19 pallets of ready-mixed concrete in bags (weighing around 23 tonnes). The special challenge at this construction site is the difficult access situation. The transport of construction materials as well as the removal of rubble is mostly manual work.
The opening of the “visitors’ tunnel” is planned for November 2018.
“International Day of the Museums” 2018
Once again, Berlin Underworlds is participating in the “International Day of the Museums”, which this year has the motto “Network Museum: New Paths, New Visitors”. Once again, very interested visitors take part in the special tour “A Park through the Ages” in Volkspark Humboldthain and join us on a search for traces of times past.
Information stand at the Museum Festival in Karlshorst
Berlin Underworlds is represented with an information stand at the Museum Festival of the German-Russian Museum in Berlin-Karlshorst. Every year, the Museum Festival commemorates the end of the Second World War in Europe.
Successful Easter Weekend
Never before could we welcome so many visitors at an Easter weekend as in 2018. We would like to thank all visitors for their interest, and all colleagues engaged in our tours and exhibitions for their commitment.
Annual census in the bats’ winter quarters
The annual census in the bats’ winter quarters in the Humboldthain flak tower by employees of the commissioned office for landscape ecology, “MYOTIS”, produced a satisfactory result. Bats of the species “greater mouse-eared”, “Daubenton’s bat” and “Natterer’s bat” are encountered. The winter rest period is valid until the end of March, which is why the Humboldthain Flak Tower is only accessible for guided tours again from April.
Construction work on the visitors’ tunnel
During voluntary construction work, the participating members of the Association each remove three cubic metres of marl (4.5 tons each) from the historic brewery cellars at a depth of 8.5 metres into a container on the street, thus supporting the construction of the visitor tunnel. Many thanks to all those involved.
Lake water pumping station placed under monumental protection
The State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments announces that, with effect from January 24th, 2018, the lake water pumping station built in 1986-88 be added to the list of protected monuments as part of the overall Friedrichshagen waterworks system. This means that the most modern building in the Altes Wasserwerk museum is now also a listed building. The lake water pumping station with a capacity of 2,500 m3/h was to serve as a reserve water pumping station in order to be able to meet the drinking water demand, which had risen sharply due to the construction of large housing estates in Marzahn, Hellersdorf and Hohenschönhausen, even under extreme conditions, e.g. in midsummer. After reunification, the water demand dropped considerably, so that the pumping station was only kept as a reserve for a few years. The pumping station, whose technical installations are completely preserved and operational, marked the technical end of the Friedrichshagen waterworks, which has since been closed down. It has been a listed building since 1979. The water pumping station can be visited as part of our Tour W – “Water for Berlin” (only in German).
Historical lighting back in operation
This Saturday, the doors of the new exhibition spaces in the former underground toilet at Gesundbrunnen will open for the third time in a row. To this end, the old entrance lighting was repaired and now guides visitors safely downstairs. With the help of many display boards and selected exhibits, the multi-facetted history of the north-south tunnel of the S-Bahn is presented under Behmstrasse in cooperation with the Berlin S-Bahn Museum. The exhibition will be open to the public throughout 2018, always on the last Saturday of the month, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“11th Historical Trade Fair, 2018”
At this year’s historical fair in Suhl, which was held under the title “The discreet charm of the dictatorship? Threats to Democracy Past and Present” organised by the “Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung” – Federal Foundation for Reappraisal, a total of 50 projects in the field of historical-political education will be presented. In the section “Division and Border”, Dietmar Arnold will speak about the Association’s most important project this year - “Construction of a visitors’ tunnel that intersects with a historical escape tunnel from 1971”. In addition, in 2018, the Foundation is also funding two new publication projects by Edition Berlin Underworlds, which focus on escape tunnels on Zimmerstrasse between Mitte and Kreuzberg.
“Great Hall” completed
For our permanent exhibition “Myth of Germania - Vision and Crime”, the model maker Manfred Jonas is currently building various detailed models of famous Berlin buildings for a size comparison with the “Great Hall” planned by Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer. The model of the “Great Hall” has already been completed. Through a transparent part of the dome, the interior, which has been reconstructed in detail, is also visible. The model will be displayed as part of the exhibition from summer 2018.
Conference: “Historical cellars: discover - explore – educate”
We follow the invitation of the “Bund für Heimat und Umwelt in Deutschland” (BHU) to Mittweida in Saxony. In the context of lectures on various strategies for preservation, education, and (re)use of historical cellars, the chairman of the board, Dietmar Arnold, will also give a lecture on “Cellars as places of escape from the GDR”. We can make new contacts and get inspiration.
Over the course of time, cellars have had various functions – storing and cooling food, as burial sites, or as places of protection in the form of bunkers or air-raid shelters. The original uses of these historical cellars are rarely considered today. As a result, necessary maintenance measures for the preservation of these endangered cultural assets are often lacking.
Review – the year 2017 in numbers
In 2017, for the first time in our 20-year history, we had fewer visitors than in the previous year, which is due to the fact that we reduced our capacity for group tours in summer 2017. Nevertheless, in 2017, over 300,000 people visited Berlin Underworlds Association guided tours and exhibitions.
Our educational seminars were again almost completely booked out in 2017 with around 540 participants.
Our Facebook page recorded 15,290 “likes” at the turn of the year, an increase of 45% (!) on the previous year. Our website, which was relaunched at the beginning of June, was accessed around 1.7 million times between the relaunch and the end of the year.
At the turn of 2017/2018, the Association has 511 members.
We would like to thank all guests, partners, friends and sponsors who visited, recommended and supported us last year. We wish you a healthy, successful and peaceful 2018.