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State of Berlin
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Coat of arms Map of Germany showing Berlin
Map of Berlin in Germany
Basic Information
Area: 891.69 km²
Population: 3,386,319 (July 2004)
Population density: 3800 residents/km²
Elevation: 34 m above sea level
Postal codes: 10001-14199
Area code: 030
Latitude and Longitude: 52° 31′ north,
13° 24′ east
License plate prefix: B
Organisation: 12 Bezirke (boroughs),
90 Stadtteile (districts)
ISO 3166-2: DE-BE
Mayor: Klaus Wowereit (SPD)
Governing political parties: SPD and PDS
Seat distribution in
the State Parliament
(141 seats total):
SPD 44
CDU 35
PDS 33
FDP 15
B90/Grüne 14
last election: October 21, 2001
next election: 2006
Parliamentary representation
Votes in the Bundesrat: 4

Berlin (pronounced: , German [bɛɐˈliːn]) is the capital of Germany and its largest city, with 3,387,404 inhabitants (as of September 2004); down from 4.5 million before World War II. It is also the second-largest city in the European Union after London. From 1949 to 1990 it was divided into East Berlin and West Berlin.

Berlin is located on the rivers Spree and Havel in the northeast of Germany. It is enclosed by the German state (Bundesland) of Brandenburg, and constitutes a state of its own.


Political Berlin

The state

Berlin used to be part of Brandenburg province of Prussia but was incorporated into Greater Berlin in 1920. Since the day of the German reunification, October 3, 1990, it is one of the three city states, together with Hamburg and Bremen that form the present 16 German Bundesländer.

Berlin is governed by the Senat of Berlin which consists of the Regierender Bürgermeister (governing mayor) and up to 8 senators, holding ministerial portfolios. The governing mayor is mayor of the city and representative of the Bundesland (state) at the same time. Presently, this office is held by Klaus Wowereit (SPD); for earlier mayors, see the list of Mayors of Berlin.

The city and state parliament is called the Abgeordnetenhaus or House of Representatives. The current Senat consists of a coalition of the social democrat SPD and the socialist PDS.

The boroughs

Berlin is subdivided into 12 boroughs, called Bezirke, which have been merged from the previously existing 23 boroughs, effective since January 1, 2001.

For a map and a list of the old and new borough names, see Boroughs of Berlin.

Each Borough is governed by a so called Bezirksamt consisting of five Stadträte (town councillors) and a mayor. The Bezirksamt is elected by the district-parliament, the so called Bezirksverordnetenversammlung. Though the Boroughs of Berlin are not independent municipalities, the political power of the district-parliaments is fairly minimal and dependent on the Senat of Berlin.

The district mayors form the council of mayors, called Rat der Bürgermeister under leadership of the Regierende Bürgermeister (governing mayor) to advise the Senat.


see also: History of Berlin

Early settlements

At about 720 two Slavic tribes settled in the Berlin region. The Heveller settled at the river Havel with their central settlement in Brennabor which later has become the town of Brandenburg. Close to the river Spree in todays borough of Berlin Köpenick the Sprewanen were found.

The Heveller founded another place at the river Havel in about 750. This seems to be the closest settlement to the area which is today known as Berlin and was called Spandow (todays Spandau). Spandau and Köpenick, which had been protected with barriers around 825, had been the major settlements and later towns in the area until the early 11th century.

Berlin and Cölln

Berlin itself is one of Europe's younger cities, with its origin in the 12th century. The city developed out of two settlements, Berlin and Cölln, on both sides of the river Spree, in today's borough Mitte. Cölln is first mentioned on October 28th, 1237 in documents; Berlin in 1244. Unfortunately, the great town center fire of 1830 damaged most written records of those early days.

Both cities formed a trade union in 1307, and participated in the Hanse. Their urban development took place in parallel for 400 years, until Cölln and Berlin were finally unified under the name of Berlin in 1709, including the suburbs Friedrichswerder , Dorotheenstadt , and Friedrichstadt .

Not much is left of these ancient communities, although some remainders can be seen in the Nikolaiviertel near the Rotes Rathaus, and the Klosterkirche , close to today's Alexanderplatz.

Urban development between the 15th and 17th century

The first City Palace was built on the embankment of the river Spree from 1443 to 1451. At that time Berlin-Cölln numbered about 8,000 inhabitants. In 1576, the bubonic plague killed about 4,000 people in the city.

During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Berlin's population shrank from 10,000 to 6,000.

In 1640 Frederick William took regency in the principality of Brandenburg. During his government Berlin reached 20,000 inhabitants and became significant among the cities in Central Europe for the first time.

A boulevard with six rows of trees was laid down between the park Tiergarten and the Palace in 1647. The boulevard is called Unter den Linden.

Some years later (from 1674 on), the Dorotheenstadt was constructed in a bow of the river Spree northwest of the Spreeinsel (Spree Island), where the Palace was situated. From 1688 on the Friedrichstadt was built and settled.


In January 18 1701, Frederick III was crowned King Frederick I in Prussia and made Berlin the capital of the new kingdom of Prussia.

In 1709, Berlin-Cölln was joined together with 'Friedrichswerder', the 'Dorotheenstadt' and 'Friedrichstadt' under the name of Berlin, with 60,000 inhabitants.

Weimar Republic and the Third Reich

The overall impression one gets when visiting Berlin today is one of great discontinuity, visibly reflecting the many ruptures of Germany's difficult history in the 20th century. Although it was the residence of the Prussian kings, Berlin's population did not greatly expand until the 19th century, mainly after becoming the capital of the German Empire in 1871. It remained Germany's capital during the Weimar Republic and under the Nazis' Third Reich. During this period, Adolf Hitler had great plans to transform Berlin, because he thought that Berlin was one of the ugliest cities in the world, and he hated it. (Berlin was and is a center of left-wing political activity in Germany, and its residents largely opposed the Nazis' rise to power.) Therefore he and his architect Albert Speer made enormous plans for the new Berlin, the so-called Welthauptstadt Germania.

On the site of todays Parliamentary offices (Paul-Löbe-Haus) adjacent to the Reichstag, Speer planned to construct The Great Hall, 250 meters high and seven times broader than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and with an enormous dome. It was planned to be large enough to hold 170,000 people, and the sweat and heat produced by those people was predicted to be able to generate clouds and rain inside the dome. From The Great Hall, a southbound avenue was planned, the Avenue of Victory, 23 meters wide and 5.6 km long. At the other end you would have had the new railway station and next to it Tempelhof Airport. Additionally, halfway down the avenue there would have been a huge arch 117 meters high, and so large that the Arc de Triomphe in Paris would fit inside it. It was projected to be a monument commemorating those fallen during World War I and World War II. The project was to finish in 1950, and Berlin was to be re-named "Germania" on that occasion. But the construction never started, as Hitler decided it would be madness to start such a project during a war. Hitler also thought the Allied airstrikes very practical, mostly because it made demolishing the old Berlin so much cheaper.

Today only a few structures bear witness to the large-scale plans of Germania. Hermann Göring's Reichsluftfahrtministerium (National Ministry of Aviation), Tempelhof International Airport, Olympiastadion, and a series of streetlights on the East-West Axis on Kaiserdamm and Straße der 17 Juni are all that remain. Hitler's Reich Chancellory was demolished by Soviet occupation authorities, red marble from the Chancellory was used to renovate the adjacent war damaged subway station U-Bahnhof Mohrenstraße and the remaining rubble was used in the construction of Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park in Berlin.

The divided city

By the end of the Second World War, up to 70% of Berlin had been destroyed by concerted Allied air raids and street fighting. The so called "Stunde Null" marked a new beginning for the city. Greater Berlin was divided into four sectors by the Allies under the London Protocol of 1944: one each for

The Soviet victors of the Battle of Berlin immediately occupied all of Berlin. They handed the American, British and French sectors (later known as West Berlin) to the American and British Forces in July, 1945; the French occupied their sector a little later. The Soviets used the time from May 1945 to July 1945 to dismantle industry, transport and other facilities in West Berlin, including removing railway tracks as reparations for German war damage in the Soviet Union. This practice also continued in East Berlin and the Soviet occupation zone after 1945.

Berlin's unique situation as a city half controlled by Western forces in the middle of the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany made it a natural focal point in the Cold War. Though the city was initially governed by a Four Power Allied Control Council with a leadership that rotated monthly, the Soviets withdrew from the council as East-West relations deteriorated and began governing their sector independently. The council continued to govern West Berlin, with the same rotating leadership policy, though now only amongst France, Great Britain, and the United States.

The Berlin Blockade

In response to Allied efforts to fuse the American, French, and British sectors of western Germany into a federal state, American refusal to grant the Soviets war reparations from industrial areas of western Germany, and to a currency reform undertaken by the western powers without Soviet approval, the Soviets blocked ground access to West Berlin on June 26, 1948, in what became known as the "Berlin Blockade". The Western Allies undertook a massive logistical effort to supply the western sectors of the city through the Berlin Airlift, known by the West Berliners as "die Luftbrücke" (The Air-Bridge). The blockade lasted almost an entire year, ending when the Soviets once again allowed ground access to West Berlin on May 11, 1949.

East Berlin became the capital of East Germany when the country was formed from the Soviet Occupation Zone in October 1949. West Germany, formed on 23 May 1949 from the American, British and French Zones, had its capital in Bonn.

The June 17th Uprising

Construction workers building the showpiece Stalin-Allee in East Berlin went on strike on June 16, 1953, to demand a reduction in recent work-quota increases. They called for a general strike the next day, June 17; the general strike and protest marches turned into rioting and spread throughout East Germany. The uprising had to be suppressed by Soviet troops after the East German police failed to quell the unrest. The continuation of Unter den Linden on the western side of the Brandenburg Gate was renamed Straße des 17. Juni in honor of the uprising, and June 17th was proclaimed a national holiday in West Germany. See Uprising of 1953 in East Germany.

The Wall

On August 13, 1961, the Berlin Wall was constructed, physically separating West Berlin from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany, as a response to massive numbers of East German citizens fleeing into West Berlin as a way to escape to the west.

Student Movement

In the sixties, West Berlin became one of the centers of the German student movement. West Berlin was especially popular with young German left wing radicals, as young men living in West Berlin were exempted from the obligatory military service required in West Germany proper; the Kreuzberg district became especially well known for its high concentration of young radicals.

The Wall afforded unique opportunities for social gatherings. The physical wall was set some distance behind the actual sector border, up to several meters behind in some places. The West Berlin police were not legally allowed to enter the space between the border and the wall, as it was technically in East Berlin and outside their jurisdiction; many people took the opportunity to throw loud parties in this space, with the West Berlin authorities powerless to intervene.

As many businesses did not want to operate in West Berlin due to its physical and economic isolation from the outside, the West German government subsidized any businesses that did operate in West Berlin.


The Berlin Wall was breached on November 9, 1989. By the time of German reunification on 3 October 1990, the Wall had been almost completely demolished, with only small sections remaining. The German Parliament, the Bundestag, voted in June 1991 to move the German capital back from Bonn to Berlin. Berlin once more became the capital of a unified Germany. Ministries and Government Offices moved back from Bonn to Berlin in /1999.

Tourist attractions

Even though Berlin does have a number of impressive buildings from earlier centuries, the city's appearance today is mainly shaped by the key role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. Each of the national governments which had their seat in Berlin — the 1871 German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, East Germany, and now the reunified Germany — initiated ambitious construction programs, each with its own distinctive character. Berlin was devastated by bombing raids during World War II, and many of the old buildings that escaped the bombs were eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s in both West and East. Much of this destruction was caused by overambitious architecture programs, especially in order to build new residential or business quarters and main roads. It would not be an exaggeration to say that no other city in the world offers Berlin's unusual mix of architecture, especially 20th century architecture. The city's tense and unique recent history has left it with a distinctive array of sights.

Not much is left of the actual Berlin Wall. The East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain near the Oberbaumbrücke over the Spree preserves a portion of the Wall. By looking at the architecture it is still possible to tell if one is in the former eastern or western part of the city. In the eastern part, many Plattenbauten can be found, reminders of Eastern Bloc ambitions to create complete residential areas with fixed ratios of shops, kindergartens and schools. Another difference between former east and west is in the design of little red and green men on pedestrian crossing lights (Ampelmännchen in German); the eastern versions received an opt-out during the standardisation of road traffic signs after re-unification, and survived to become a popular icon in tourist products.

Historical sights in the city centre

 (June 2003)
Brandenburg Gate (June 2003)
 (Summer 2000)
Reichstag (Summer 2000)

Cold War and sightseeing in the former East Berlin

  • The Palast der Republik, the old East German parliament building. It is seen by some as ugly, former East Berliners remember with affection restaurants, shops, clubs, and the concerts that took place there in the 1980s. Although it has some significance as a historical tourist attraction, the German Parliament voted for its demolition, which will commence in 2005. The Palast der Republik is built on the site of the Berlin City Palace, which was demolished in 1950 by the Communists. The Palace Square was renamed Marx-Engels-Platz at the same time.
  • The Fernsehturm, the TV tower, the highest building in the city at 368 m (1207 ft), and the second largest structure in Europe (after Moscow's Ostankino Tower). The Fernsehturm is easily visible throughout most of the central districts of Berlin.
  • Alexanderplatz, formerly East Berlin's major shopping center, and home to the Centrum-Warenhaus, which was the DDR's department store. It is now a thoroughly Westernized shopping center.
  • East Side Gallery a memorial for freedom based on the last parts of the Berlin Wall
  • Rotes Rathaus(the Red City Hall), historic town hall famous for its distinctive red-brick architecture
  • Rathaus Schöneberg with John-F.-Kennedy-Platz, whence John F. Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner!" speech.
  • Checkpoint Charlie, remains and a museum about one of the crossing points (albeit restricted to Allied forces) in the Berlin Wall. The museum, which is a private venture, exhibits interesting material about people who devised ingenious plans to leave the East, but is controversial in the city for its propagandistic Cold War didactics and publicity stunts that many consider tasteless.

Sights of modern Berlin

  • Potsdamer Platz, an entire quarter built from scratch after 1995. The historic Potsdamer Platz was not rebuilt as it was divided by the Wall. A must-see for people who like modern city planning.
  • Hackescher Markt , Spandauer Vorstadt and Scheunenviertel, the home to fashionable culture, with countless small clothing shops, clubs, bars, and galleries. This includes the New Synagogue area in Oranienburger Straße (originally built in the 1860s in Moorish style with a large golden dome, and reconstructed in 1993), and the Hackesche Höfe , a conglomeration of several buildings around several courtyards, nicely reconstructed after 1996. This area was a centre of Jewish culture up until the 1930s.

Panoramic viewing points

  • Berliner Funkturm— the only observation tower in the world which stands on insulators. Its open air observation deck is popular for photography.
  • Berlin Television Tower [1] — 368 metre high television tower, built in 1969 close to Alexanderplatz. The entire city can be viewed from its 204-metre high observation platform.
  • Grunewaldturm [2] — this 59-metre high historic tower stands on a hill in the Grunewald forest close to the Wannsee lake.
  • Französischer Dom [3] — located on Gendarmenmarkt in the very heart of the city, the platform of the cathedral offers unique views.
  • Bierpinsel — Literally "Beer Stick". 1970s style tower in the Berlin Borough of Steglitz with a café and bar at the top giving views over southwestern Berlin.
  • Restaurant of Forum Hotel Berlin
  • Berliner Dom [4]Protestant cathedral situated next to the Lustgarten , with a circular observation platform around the dome.
  • Bell tower at the Olympic Stadium [5] — part of the Reichssportfeld complex, the tower offers a view of the Olympic Stadium and also of the Waldbühne , an open-air stage.
  • Siegessäule [6] — the monument at the Großer Stern situated in the middle of the Tiergarten Park where it was relocated in 1938–39 from its previous position in front of the Reichstag.
  • Müggelturm — A tower giving panoramic views over the Müggelsee lake.

Further interesting structures (not accessible to public)

Famous streets and boulevards

  • Unter den Linden is the street that heads east from the Brandenburg Gate. Many Classical buildings line the street. Part of Humboldt University is located there.
  • Friedrichstraße, Berlin's legendary street of the "Golden Twenties" which combines the tradition of the last century with modern architecture of today's Berlin.
  • Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm), with the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church), which lies right at the top end of Kurfürstendamm, on Breitscheidplatz (underground station Kurfürstendamm). The church was bombed out in World War II and its ruins have been preserved in their damaged state. Also nearby is the Zoologischer Garten, a zoo with a large number of species.
  • The Straße des 17. Juni connects the Brandenburg Gate in the East and Ernst-Reuter-Platz in the West, commemorating the uprisings in East Berlin of June 17, 1953. It features the golden Siegessäule (Statue of Victory), which used to stand in front of the Reichstag.
  • The Karl-Marx-Allee (formerly Stalinalle), a boulevard lined by monumental landmark buildings designed in the Socialist Classicism of the Stalin era. It is located in Friedrichshain and Mitte.

Education and science


Universities of applied sciences


  • Zoologischer Garten Berlin, Berlin's eldest zoo located in the city center.
  • Tierpark Friedrichsfelde , founded by the GDR in a historic castle park in eastern Berlin.

The Arts and Culture

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 many buildings in the Former city center of East Berlin (today the district Mitte) were renovated. Many had not been rebuilt since World War II. Illegally occupied by young people, they had become a fertile ground for all sorts of underground and counter-culture gatherings. It also was home to many nightclubs, including Tacheles, Techno clubs Tresor, WMF, Ufo and E-Werk.

The art scene in Berlin is extremely rich and is home to hundreds of art galleries. The city is host to the annual internation art fair Art Forum. Berlin also offers one of the most diverse and vibrant nightlife scenes in Europe. Most Berliners take great pride in their city's reputation as one of the most socially progressive cities on the continent.

Berlin's annual Carnival of Cultures , a multi-ethnic street parade, and Chistopher Street Day celebrations, Central Europe's largest gay-lesbian pride event, are openly supported by the city's government.*[19]**[20].

Despite the city's high unemployment levels, a significant number of young Germans and artists continue to settle in the city, and Berlin has established itself as the premeire center of youth and pop culture in Europe.

Signs of this expanding role were the 2003 announcement that the annual Popkomm, Europe's largest music industry convention, would move to Berlin after 15 years in Cologne. Shortly thereafter, German MTV also decided to move its headquarters and main studios from Munich to Berlin. Universal Music opened its European headquarters on the banks of the River Spree in an area known as the mediaspree.


Berlin was the centre of the German Film Industry until 1945. There are many films that were set in or portray the special "Berlin-Atmosphere" from different eras, among them are:-


  • Museum for Post and Telecommunication
  • Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery), one of the last buildings by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Old National Gallery (Old National Gallery), 19th-century painting and sculpture[22]
  • Jewish Museum Berlin
  • Hamburger Bahnhof (Museum for the Present - Berlin)
  • Museum of European Cultures
  • Berlin State Gallery [23]
  • Bauhaus Museum [24]
  • Broehan Museum [25]
  • Deutsche Guggenheim Museum [26]
  • German Film Museum [27]
  • Kaethe Kollwitz Museum [28]
  • Museum of European Cultures [29]
  • Vitra Design Museum [30]
  • The Berggruen Collection (Picasso and his Age) [31]
  • Berlin Picture Gallery (Gemaeldegalerie) [32]
  • F.C. Flick Collection [33]
  • Museum of Natural History [34]
  • German Museum of Technology [35]
  • Museum of Medical History [36]
  • Berlin Wall Documentation Center [37]
  • Prussian Palaces and Gardens in Berlin [38]


Opera houses

Dance clubs


Public transport

Wikimedia Commons has more media related to:
Berlin S-Bahn
  • U-Bahn, Metro subway system
  • S-Bahn, mostly overground urban railway system
  • Straßenbahn, a tram system mainly located in eastern Berlin
  • Bus,
  • Passenger Ferry
  • All means of public transport, U- & S- Bahn, Trams, Buses and Ferries can be accessed with the same ticket.
  • A map of the current Public Transport Network (BVG)

Railway Termini

Berlin was pre-1945 the hub of the central European railway network. World War Two and the political division of Germany had very negative effects on Berlins railway network, today only one pre-1945 Terminal, Berlin-Ostbahnhof , remains in service. In the early 1950s, Railway services were diverted away from the Termini situated in West Berlin by the East German government in an effort to isolate West Berlin. The stations became disused and were demolished during the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Anhalter Bahnhof
  • Stettiner Bahnhof
  • Görlitzer Bahnhof
  • Potsdamer Bahnhof
  • Lehrter Bahnhof



  • Westhafen (Westport) - largest port in Berlin with an area of 173,000 square meters; transshipment of grain, pieced and heavy goods.
  • Südhafen (Southport) - an area of about 103,000 m² for transshipment of pieced and heavy goods.
  • Osthafen (Eastport) - the area of 57,500 m² is still in use, but partly under urban redevelopment
  • Hafen Neukölln (Port Neukölln) - with only 19,000 m² the smalest port; transshipment of building materials.

Power Supply

The power supply of Berlin has some specialities. In 2. To feed World War II it was planned to feed the grid of Berlin over a HVDC-underground cable from the power station Dessau. With the construction of this facility was begun in 1943, but it could not go anymore into enterprise (Elbe-Project).

During the time of the division the power grid of former West Berlin was cut off from the power grid of the surrounding countryside. The current supply had to take place by thermal power stations situated in the town (power station Reuter, power station Wilmersdorf ,etc.). For buffering the load peaks accumulators were installed at the 80ies in some of these power stations, which were connected by static invertors with the power grid and were loaded during times of low power consumption and unload during times of high consumption. In 1993 the power connections to the surrounding country, which were interrupted completely in 1951 were restored again. In the western districts of Berlin nearly all power lines are implemented as ground cables, only a 380kV and a 110kV-line, which run from the power station Reuter to the urban motorway, are implemented as overhead line. In Berlin the longest cable for three phase current with a voltage of 380kV, the 380kV-crossing Berlin runs. It might be the most expensive power line in Germany.


Berlin hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Berlin will participate in hosting the FIFA Football World Cup in Germany in 2006.

Berlin will be hosting the 2009 athletics world championships.

Berlin is home to football team Hertha BSC Berlin, a high-flying team in the Bundesliga.


"Berlin ist arm, aber sexy." ("Berlin is poor, but sexy.")
(Klaus Wowereit, Governing Mayor, in a television interview, 2004)

" Ich bin ein Berliner."
(John F. Kennedy, President of the USA, 1963 while visiting Berlin)

"Ihr Völker der Welt ... schaut auf diese Stadt!" ("Peoples of the world ... look at this city!")
(Ernst Reuter , Governing Mayor, during the Berlin blockade, 1948)

"Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin" ("I still keep a suitcase in Berlin")
(Marlene Dietrich, actress and singer born 1901 in Berlin-Schöneberg)

External links

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