• Berlin
  • It all comes tumbling down: 11 historic demolitions in Berlin


It all comes tumbling down: 11 historic demolitions in Berlin

Call in the demolition team! For better or worse, here are 11 historical examples of Berlin buildings that went out with a bang.

The demolition of the gasometer in Dimitroffstraße, Prenzlauer Berg in 1984. Photo: Gerd Danigel/ddr-fotograf.de/CC BY-SA 4.0

Berlin Palace

Demolition of the Berlin Palace, 1951. Photo: Winter

Originally built in the 15th century, the Baroque-style palace was once the main residence for Prussian Kings. After being heavily damaged by WWII bombing, the East German Communist Party had the structure demolished. In 1973, they replaced the Berlin Palace with the much-loved Palace of the Republic, which was itself then controversially demolished in 1990 after toxic asbestos was discovered. Today the Humboldt Forum (which includes a reconstruction of the original Prussian palace) stands in this highly contested spot.

Friedrichshain Bunker

The busted bunker in Friedrichshain, 1946. Photo: Imago/Erich Andres/United Archives

The Große Bunkerberg, also known as Mont Klamott, is at 78 metres the highest elevation in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. It’s a man-made hill built from the rubble of two flak towers (anti-aircraft gun defences) in Friedrichshain that were blown up shortly after the war. Today the hill stands in the heart of the Volkspark Friedrichshain. The neighbouring Kleiner Bunkerberg was made with the remains of the Feuerleitturm (another concrete blockhouse which stored valuable paintings from Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie during WWII).

Church of Reconciliation

Demolition Church of Reconciliation in Berlin, January 1985. Photo: Imago/Günter Schneider

This Protestant church stood at Bernauer Straße 4 in Mitte from 1892 to 1985. Located right on the border between Wedding and Mitte, it became trapped the French and Soviet sectors when Berlin was divided. After the Wall was built in August 1961, the church, which de facto stood on the death strip, was closed. Border guards sometimes used it as a watchtower until, in January 1985, the GDR government had the building demolished. On 9 November 2000 Chapel of Reconciliation was built in its place as part of the Berlin Wall Memorial.

Post office at Ostbahnhof

Remains of the old post office at Berlin’s Ostbahnhof, 2004. Photo: Imago/Götz Schleser

As late as the 2000s, a huge gaping wasteland was all that remained around Ostbahnhof. The only sign of life in the area came from an old administrative building across from the station, where the legendary Club Maria am Ostbahnhof was throwing weekend-long raves. Around the corner in a former freight station you could find party-goers at Ostgut, the precursor to Berlin’s legendary Berghain. In 2004, the defunct Ostbahnhof post office was demolished, clearing the way for the rapid transformation of the Spree’s banks. 

Heizkraftwerk on the Teltow Canal

The demo of the Heizkraftwerk on the Teltow canal in Rudow, 2007. Photo: Imago/Bernd Friedel

The old Heizkraftwerk (combination heat and power plant) in Rudow was set to be demolished in 2007. The plant was responsible for heating the surrounding area, as well as the infamous Plattenbau housing estate Gropiusstadt since 1962. At first, the idea was to dismantle the structure piece by piece, selling off salvageable sections to Chinese developers. But the potential buyers backed out and it was not until 2010 that the power plant was finally fully demolished and the rubble disposed of.


Remains of the Deutschlandhalle awaiting removal, January 2012. Photo: Imago/Rech

Built for the 1936 Olympics, the Deutschlandhalle could hold up to 16,000 people and was the go-to venue for sporting events, entertainment and Nazi propaganda parades. It was largely destroyed during WWII, but reconstructed and reopened towards the end of the 1950s. After serving as a top concert venue for legends like Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Who, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, the structure was eventually demolished in 2011.

Britz transmission mast

Demolition of the Britz transmission tower, 2015. Photo: Imago/Bernd Friedel

A piece of Berlin radio history ended when the Britz transmission mast came down. In 1946, the broadcasting facility in Britz was set up. First used by RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) and then taken over by Deutschlandradio Kultur and Deutschlandfunk in the 1990s. Changes in broadcasting technology, especially the switch to digital frequencies, made the old transmission masts obsolete. The tallest transmission mast, at 160 metres, was blown up on 18 July 2015.

Dimitroffstraße gasholder

The demolition of the gasholder in Dimitroffstraße, Prenzlauer Berg in 1984. Photo: Gerd Danigel/ddr-fotograf.de/CC BY-SA 4.0

The 1980s was certainly a time of change in East Berlin. The old gas containers, some of which dated back to the 19th century, were no longer needed. But Berliners had become attached to the striking industrial monuments and founded the citizens’ initiative “Gasometer nicht sprengt man” (You can’t blow up gasometers). Sadly, the GDR city administrators were indifferent and, on 28 July 1984, the gas containers on Dimitroffstraße (now called Danziger Straße) was blown up. Filming and photographing the demo was not allowed, but some sneaky amateur shots were still taken.

Anhalter Bahnhof

View over the ruins of Anhalter Bahnhof, 1952. Photo: Imago/Frank Sorge

Opened as a long-distance railway station in 1841, Anhalter Bahnhoff was once one of the most important transport hubs in the Prussian metropolis. Directly connected to Potsdamer Platz, the station played an important role in Berlin’s development into a modern metropolis. After its near-destruction during WWII, Anhalter Bahnhoff found itself obsolete in a newly divided Berlin. Today, the old station’s portico stands as a memorial to the original structure.

Zoo Bunker

The zoo bunker being blown up, 1947. Photo: Bundesarchiv/ Bild 183 S 76934

Six enormous flak towers were intended to protect Berlin from enemy air raids during the Second World War. The Nazis had the huge structures built in the Volksparks Friedrichshain, Humboldthain, Hasenheide and Tiergarten. The Zoo bunker at Tiergarten was blown up in the late 1940s in a spectacular dust-filled event.

Bellevue Tower at Potsdamer Platz

Bellevue Tower on Potsdamer Platz, 1993. Photo: Imago/Detlev Konnerth

With the division of Berlin, the once-bustling Potsdamer Platz became a wasteland with only a few buildings remaining. One such building was the Bellevue Tower, which had served as a hotel and student residence. After the fall of the Wall it soon became clear that Potsdamer Platz would not remain a wasteland for much longer. Companies like Sony, Daimler and Deutsche Bahn planned to base their offices there, as well as a casino, luxury hotels, a film theatre and shopping centre (starting to sound like the Potsdamer Platz we all know and hate?).

A master plan for the area was developed and the old Bellevue Tower just no longer fitted in, so in October 1993 the high-rise building was demolished.

Want some more Berlin photo throwbacks? Have a look at these images of Kreuzbergs in the 1960s. And see how the city was rebuilt after WWII.