Berlin is such a historic city that I would be remiss if I didn’t write about the significant historical places I have had the privilege to visit. Track 17 or Gleis 17 is a small and quiet but powerful memorial of the the deportation of Jews in Berlin to concentration camps, found in the lush green upscale neighborhood of Grunewald, where we had our very first meeting for WIB‘s First Steps in Berlin Group. We met at the Grunewald S Bahn Station. Though the group usually deals with practical information about Berlin to help diplo-spouses new to the city settle in, I really appreciated that they showed us this memorial because it is definitely something worth visiting if you are in the Grunewald neighbourhood.
The Berlin Grunewald S-Bahn station. The S-Bahn is the suburban commuter rail while the U-Bahn is the subway system in Berlin and is mostly underground.
It was nice to meet other diplo-ladies who were “newly” arrived in Berlin.
Memorial by Karol Broniatowski erected by the Federal Land of Berlin in 1991
Walking to the Gleis 17 (Track 17) from the station, we passed by this concrete block with hollowed out human silhouettes (representing the journey leading up to the rail tracks for deportation) created by Polish artist Karol Broniatowski. I found it a bit spooky and think it definitely set the sombre mood for the memorial.
Gleis 17 Grunewald Railway Station Memorial
Walking to the train tracks the sky was so blue and the day was so beautiful, it seems hard to believe what happened here in 1941 – 1942.
From here the majority of over 50 000 Jewish Berliners were deported into the ghettos of Warsaw and Riga and into the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Terezín.
The reunified railways of East and West Germany or Deutsche Bahn AG decided to put up a central memorial to commemorate the deportations handled by the Deutsche Reichsbahn during the Nazi regime, in hopes that the crimes and victims will not be forgotten as well as a warning to future generations.
The design from architect team Hirsch, Lorch and Wandel, were chosen via a competition among a select few architectural firms and among the jury who voted on the winner was the Chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. It is made of 186 pcs of steel casted with the dates of transport, number of deportees, point of departure and destination. They are arranged in chronological order next to the railway platform edge. The remaining part of the railway goes nowhere, as a symbol that no more trains will ever depart from this platform.
“7.12.1943 / 55 Juden (jews) / Berlin -…”
One end goes into the vegetation.
And the other looks like it goes into the open sky.I felt really solemn walking up and down the walkway looking at the dates and number of people deported.
The memorial is simple yet so beautiful. The overall design evoked deep feelings to those who walk beside the Deutsche Reichsbahn railroad tracks that witnessed such a terrible time in humankind’s history.
I’d like to thank Christine, Youzhen and Christel for organizing the Grunewald tour so well. I will be posting photos of the other places we visited in Grunewald soon.
- Track !7 Memorial – Deautschebahn
- Where the trains’ destination was Auschwitz – Berlin Locals
- Grunewald Train Station – A Teachers Guide to the Holocaust
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Track 17 Memorial – Grunewald
- Open to the public for free
- Can be reached from Berlin Grunewald S-Bahn station.
- Landmark: when you get off the station, look for this pub on the right of a road. Opposite is the concrete wall memorial on the left. Walk up the road in between and soon you will see the Gleis 17/Track 17 Memorial.
Remember today, Yom haShoah, farewell from Grunewald to Helena, Lucy and the rest of my family who either perished in the awaiting cattle trucks or in the Riga Ghetto