PANKOW (Prenzlauer Berg, Weissensee)
PRENZLAUER BERG is the name of the suburb standing on a slight
rise north of the old city walls. When the city expanded from
the middle of the 19th century, the farmland and windmills outside
of the city were swiftly surrounded by dwellings for factory workers.
In a later building phase, the Wedding style barrack like blocks
with their 6 successive courtyards were replaced with more modern
2-roomed flats intended to reduce the probability of insurrection
encouraged by cramming too many workers in tight quarters.
Prenzlauer Berg, or Prenzlberg, to its inhabitants, boasts beautiful
19th century 5 storey terraces, but, owing to the shortage of
building materials in the DDR, they were left sometimes semi-derelict
after the war, and as the suburb declined, it attracted an interesting
mix of students, disaffected artists and became the focus for
resistance to the East Berlin government in the 1980s, with meetings
of the extra-parliamentary opposition taking place in churches
like the Gethsemane Church.
first urban public water system in Germany was introduced here
in 1855, on Windmill Hill. The initial tower was replaced in 1875
by the current water tower, which was subsequently used by the
SS to torture German resistance fighters, and is now converted
into flats, set in a children's playground. Across the road, in
Rykestrasse, is the Berlin orthodox synagogue (1902), gutted but
not completely destroyed on Kristallnacht - the night when the
SA burned Jewish property throughout Germany. On the corner nearby,
Russian and Jewish restaurants can be found. Further west, Kollwitzplatz,
named after the sculptress, is the centre of the ongoing Yuppification
of the suburb - a pleasant square, ringed by open air restaurants
like the Guglhof, and cafes.
To the north, Husemannstrasse is an interesting example of the
East Berlin government's belated attempt to restore some of the
Elsewhere in the suburb, renovation is proceeding at lightning
speed. It is however still characteristic to find streets where
totally dilapidated houses lie next to immaculately restored buildings
with ornate balconies and stucco facing. This mix is echoed in
the population of the area - professionals, students, many younger
visitors from abroad, as well as older original residents.
Another swiftly developing area is around Helmholzplatz, originally
the site of a Dutch-German building company that provided bricks
and tiles for the expanding city, now adorned with open air cafes
on every corner.
was from the earliest days equipped with the necessary resources
to sustain its working population. Several breweries graced its
heights - one of which, the enormous renamed Kulturbrauerei (Culture
Brewery) is now an Arts Centre with multiplex cinema, ice rink
in winter, several bars and clubs, a Russian theatre and Bavarian
Beer gardens, like the Prater on Kastanienallee, supplied entertainment
as well as alcohol and were famous holiday excursion destinations
for those Berliners who lived in the centre, and still attract
the crowds in the summer.
The western side of the suburb runs along Schönhauser Allee,
and here can be found a Jewish cemetery founded in 1827. From
the earliest days the funeral processions were forbidden to enter
from the main road since this was the route taken by the Rulers
to their palace in Niederschönhausen. In 1944 resistance fighters
were discovered hidden in the cemetery cisterns and hung from
the trees in the graveyard.
Further in towards the centre, Senefelderplatz celebrates the
inventor of lithography - a white carrera marble statue of him
stands in the park triangle formed by the intersection of Schönhauser
Allee and Kollwitzstrasse.
PANKOW, to the north of Prenzlauer Berg, takes its name from
the little river Panke, which flows through Pankow Park, on into
Wedding, and finally into the river Spree. The original village
grew up around the Schloss Niederschönhausen (1704), and as the
southern suburb of Prenzlauer Berg expanded along the Schönhauser
Allee, it became more closely linked to Berlin, finally incorporated
The baroque Schloss, originally home to Elisabeth Christine,
the estranged wife of Frederick the Great, features a ballroom,
ornate stairwells and marble gallery in rococo style. In the summer
months the palace hosts public musical recitals. The surrounding
Park, laid out in the French manner, runs on either side of the
Panke and has an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
From 1949 to '59 the palace was the seat of Wilhelm Pieck, President
of the new East German State, and subsequently a guesthouse for
important visitors to the regime. Gorbatchev stayed here when
attending the 40th anniversary celebrations of the DDR - the occasion
when he delivered the famous warning that history doesn't forgive
those who react too late.
The concentration of State functions in the suburb turned the
area of huge villas south of the park into a Who's Who of DDR
functionaries - diplomats, artists and writers who had the blessing
of the State, and other assorted Bonze (bigwigs). To the west
of the suburb is a smaller park, the Bürgerpark, with lakes, teahouses
and sports facilities.
Other buildings of historical interest include Pankow's parish
church, redesigned by Schinkel, the expressionist Mary Magdalene
Church from the 1930s, and the Carl von Ossietzky High School,
Berlin's most imposing example of early 20th century school architecture
with its castle-like towers and stepped red brick gables.
The Soviet War Memorial in the Schönholzer Heide park is dominated
by a 33.5 metre high obelisk overlooking a bronze statue of a
mother grieving over her dead son. WEISSENSEE takes its name from
the small lake round which the original village grew up. The surrounding
park has an open air stage, a swimming area, and, to the north,
a cycle track, scene of some of the first pop concerts permitted
by the East Berlin authorities.
The Jewish cemetery on Herbert-Baum-Strasse was the last Jewish
graveyard to be established in Berlin (1880), preceded by that
in Schönhauser Allee which had become full. It is the biggest
in Germany; desecrated during the Third Reich but restored under
the Communists, its central feature is a circle of stoneblocks
each bearing the name of one of the Extermination Camps. Here
lie, under headstones and monuments designed by architects like
Gropius, some of the famous Jewish personalities that gave Berlin
much of its colour - Kempinski (the hotel chain), Tietz and Jandorf
(the stores Hertie and KaDeWe), Garbaty (cigarette manufacturer)
and the publishers, Mosse and Fischer.
In the southern section of the cemetery is a further memorial
to the dead of the First World War.
Pankow is served by the U2, S-Bahn and many trams.
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