Parting tears. This is what the partition of Germany meant for many Berliners and their personal stories can be found in the Tränenpalast.
Exiting the GDR. Checking in in the hall at Friedrichstraße railway station. Luggage and passport control. It sounds so rational and bureaucratic but means much more: leaving friends and family, tearful goodbyes – which is how the Tränenpalast acquired its nickname.
Immediately after the construction of the Berlin Wall, the GDR erected the check-in hall at Friedrichstraße railway station in 1962. It was used for passengers crossing from East to West Berlin. The glass and steel pavilion was very much in keeping with the architecture of the era.
Only passengers who wished to travel to West Berlin on the S-Bahn or U-Bahn could access the Tränenpalast. Policemen checked passports and visas, customs officers checked luggage and finally passports were checked thoroughly once more before onward travel was permitted.
Border Experiences. Everyday Living in Partitioned Germany
The “Border Experiences. Everyday Living in Partitioned Germany” exhibition has documented the fates of travellers in the Tränenpalast since 2011. Interviews with witnesses, biographies and 570 original artefacts bring the history from 1962 to 1990 to life. Where customs officers once searched luggage, there are now empty suitcases with mementos of the travellers. The feeling in the narrow passageway for passport control is oppressive. A large number of signs have been preserved and show the instructions given at the border crossing point. The exhibition has had more than 1 million visitors since its opening.
Border clearance in a prestigious building
The building is prestigious, deliberately designed in an impressive modern style, hiding its function as a strictly guarded check-in hall with border troops. Screens shield the eyes of passers-by. The infrastructure of the interior of the building is well-planned, with the route to the East appearing light and, by contrast, the route to the West being dark. In the station, a jumble of signs show the way. The routes taken by East and West Germans and overseas travellers are strictly separated. These days, on entering the building, you will first see the grand staircase in the bright hall. Visit the restored inspection rooms to experience the oppressive atmosphere.
Information for families
The “Your Papers Please” trial allows teenagers between 14 and 17 to work their own way through the exhibition. A tour of the exhibition and opening a “West package” is suitable for small children. This allows children to learn about life in the GDR and relations between the two German states in a playful manner.
Information for schools
School groups can book a one-hour tour of the exhibition that is specially tailored to the knowledge levels and ages of the pupils. Entrance and tour are free of charge.
Reach the Tränenpalast via S-Bahn lines S1, S2, S5, S7, S25 and S75 and the U-Bahn U6, alighting at Friedrichstraße train station. Entrance is free and public tours on Friday and Saturday are available with prior reservation.
Find further information here