The Berlin wall - looking towards Stresemannstraße, 1981

You know those days when you go looking for one thing and end up finding something completely different? I had one of those the other day and ended up as the owner of a collection of colour 35mm slides shot in Berlin in the early 1980s (summer 1981 as far as I can tell, assuming they're all from the same date).

This is actually a fairly commonly photographed view, looking from Potsdamer Platz down along Stresemannstraße:

Looking across the wall to Stresemannstraße, 1981

There was an observation point on the western side that allowed tourists to look over the wall and across the death strip to East Berlin on the other side - as the unknown photographer did here. Having had a bit of a look around on the internet, it looks like he wasn't the only one to take a picture from this vantage point!

You can see the anti-tank defences running parallel with the wall. The death strip was particularly wide at Potsdamer Platz; the buildings around what had once been one of Berlin's busiest traffic intersections had been reduced almost completely to ruins during World War II and were mostly demolished. On the eastern side, this provided the guards with an uninterrupted view of the border area.

Though the quality gets a bit gnarly when magnified, there are still some interesting details visible:

A zoomed in view of the watchtower at Erna Berger Straße

Remember the watchtower at Erna-Berger-Straße? This is it in its natural habitat! You can see (if you peer through the film grain a bit...) how the tower is outside of the death strip, looking over the area on the eastern side of the wall, as I mentioned in the November 2009 post.

It also gives you a view of the east side 'Hinterlandmauer' as well as some of the lighting used to illuminate both the death strip and the area beyond the Hinterlandmauer at night.

At first glance, it looks like there are no people in the picture, but of course this is East Berlin - there's always someone watching from somewhere:

Border guards in the death strip

These two border guards have obviously come out of their guard post for a bit of a look around. It looks like the one on the left might be looking at the photographer (it wasn't unknown for guards to get a camera out themselves and photograph western photographers, but it doesn't look like he's holding a camera here), while the one on the right might be holding a gun. Even with the benefit of the full resolution scan, it's not too easy to make out much!

This also gives you a closer look at the anti-tank defences, which are a kind of 'Czech Hedgehog' made by clamping three lengths of iron together.

There's something more on the building at Stresemannstraße 128 - 130:

A lookout post on top of Stresemannstraße 128 - 130

A lookout post has been built on top of the building, accompanied by a large searchlight. Later, this was replaced by a tall watchtower close to where the guards' post is in this picture. The Hinterlandmauer below was also replaced with a more substantial segmented wall like that on the western side.

The building was built between 1913 and 1916 as an extension to the Prussian ministry for agriculture, estates and forests (Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Domänen und Forsten). As the line of the Hinterlandmauer cut right across the front of the building, all the windows and doors on the bottom floor frontage were walled off, with access only via the back.

It is now being refurbished and extended and will soon house the Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (federal ministry for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety). The segments of Hinterlandmauer, which were left remaining on the corner of Erna-Berger-Straße until recently, will apparently be put back in place (inside the building) once work is complete. There's an interesting picture gallery on the BMU's website (text in German).

There are plenty more treasures amongst these slides, so expect to see more here in the future!

Potsdamer Platz (U2)
Potsdamer Platz (S1, S2, S25)
The Berlin Wall (no longer standing!)
Potsdamer Platz
10785 Berlin


Hello !
Concerning the photo taken at Potsdamerplatz , Stresemannstrasse , I did one myself in spring 1982 and I can confim you , from the grafitis on the wall , that your photo was taken before.

Thanks for the comment, Jean-Christophe, that's very useful information!

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