Tränenpalast – Border Crossing – East Germany

The Tränenpalast (English: “Palace of Tears”) is the Berlin colloquialism for the former border crossing at Berlin Friedrichstraße station, where East Germans said goodbye to visitors going back to West Germany. From 1962 to 1989 it was the border crossing for travellers by S-bahn, U-bahn and train between East and West Germany. It was used only for westbound border crossings, with separate checkpoints for West Berliners, West Germans, foreigners, diplomats, transit travellers and East Germans.

The term Tränenpalast derives from the tearful goodbyes that took place in front of the building, where western visitors had to say farewell to East Germans that were not permitted to travel to West Berlin.

Although the Berlin Friedrichstraße station was located entirely in the Soviet sector of Berlin, because of the Berlin Wall some S-bahn and U-bahn lines were accessible only from West Berlin. West Berlin travellers could use the station to transfer between those lines, or to cross into East Germany. The Tränenpalast was built after the volume of traffic and the constraints of the lower level of the main building made it necessary to expand.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the building was used as a nightclub and stage until 2006. It has been a listed building since 2003, a unique symbol of the diverse fates of people on both sides of the border during the German separation. Whether arriving in or leaving East Berlin, travellers came to expect harsh, stressful encounters with border guards. Friends and families never knew if they would see each other again.

In 2008 the Tränenpalast was included in the expanded federal memorial site concept. On 15 September 2011, the Stiftung Haus der Geschichte opened a permanent exhibition to remind visitors of the consequences and daily restrictions due to the German separation. On 550 square metres, original artefacts, documents, photographs and audio and video recordings show the experiences at the checkpoint and give an overview of the reunification process.

It was opened by Chancellor Merkel on 14 September 2011. In the first two weeks more than 30,000 people visited Tränenpalast; entrance is free.

I visited Tränenpalast in 2012 and can give you herewith an glimpse of the exhibition. If you are in Berlin I highly recommend to visit this place. The  exhibitions displays also the East German passport of Wolf Biermann, German singer-songwriter and former East German dissident. He is perhaps best known for the 1968 song “Ermutigung” and his expatriation from East Germany in 1976.

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