Plattenbau, “Torn Asunder”

What happens when a million and a half people leave a city? Detroit is learning this, New Orleans learned some about this a few years back, and twenty years ago Berlin wrote the book.

Actually, twenty years ago, when the wall fell, Berlin wrote the last chapter in its 60 year story of losing citizens. And that’s just last century’s book.

Yes, the highwater-mark year of 1939 (only as far as population and nazis) Berlin claimed more than 4.3 million inhabitance…one million more than even today call the city home. 

After WW II shaved nearly two million off, the Cold War saw the population creep slowly back…but then, a reported 1,5 million (mostly Easterners) hit the road in the years following the fall of the wall. Apparently, some people don’t being locked in.

Luckily for Berlin (at least, Berlin’s tax coffers), in the same few years, almost the same number moved to the city (from the West.)  The “Wessis” invaded in search of cheap rent and cool, and the “Ossis” ran as far as they could away from the place.

So with not quite 3,5 million today, Berlin is still smaller than it was in 1993 and much smaller than it was before the 20th Century began (statistics render this poorly in that “Old Berlin” annexed several smaller cities in 1925, becoming “Greater Berlin” and thus more than doubling its old population, but, really…not.)

So two big problems. If capitalism is going to work here…having supply way out strip demand is not going to help. Second problem is that the newcomers don’t dig Plattenbau.

So while many are renovated and made pretty with bright paint as I have been chronicling, a large number of the old GDR Plattenbau buildings have been already, or are being torn down. What about all the old neighborhoods, the fabric for so many families who lived there, you cry?

Welcome to capitalism. You asked for it.

After all, the bourgeoisie now has its hands on the property, and as even Marx warned, “The bourgeoisie(…) has pitilessly torn asunder all the many-colored feudal bonds (in this case, many colored Plattenbau) which united men to their “natural superiours,” and has left no other tie twixt man and man but naked self-interest and callous cash payment.”

The guy nailed all the questions…he was just a bit short on answers.

Counting on the fact that the masses surely find such things interesting, I have prepared a wee slide show of what that looks like.

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About Andrew Flohr-Spence

Something about the sound and the word. Was a singer/bassist for five years, a German major for five, an English teacher in Germany for another five, then a journalism major in Denver for 5 more, and now I'm back in Berlin (for a while, I intend).
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2 Responses to Plattenbau, “Torn Asunder”

  1. bisset says:

    Yeahhhhh man! Go get some delicious abandonments…I know there’s also a former NATO radar/listening station at the top of the Teufelsberg, as well as a sanatorium complex farther out of the city…Beelitz, I think.

    You’re right though, Berlin has been dealing with population loss far longer than the rust belt has, and certainly in more drastic shifts, both in a numbers sense as well a historical one. Maybe Detroit Murda City should take a page from the Berliners’ playbook.

    • Love Teufelsberg…haven’t been back yet this time. Some guy set up a tour of it on weekends though, so it’s been in numerous papers lately, probably leading it to be overrun with people:( I found a place on Monday that will blow your mind! A several block neighborhood (dozen Plattenbau, kindergarten, community houses) completely empty…just waiting for the eventual wrecking ball, but for now full of graffiti, kids and wild rats. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me, the one time…I am going back soon.

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