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  • Berlin in 1973: A year captured on camera


Berlin in 1973: A year captured on camera

Berlin has changed a lot since 1973 - take a trip back in time with historical photos from 50 years ago.

Planufer in West Berlin. Photo: IMAGO/Gerhard Leber

It’s Berlin, 1973. Kreuzberg is yet to be introduced to punk, squatting and anarchism. Alexanderplatz is the sparkling gem of East Berlin and at the Olympic Stadium over in West Berlin, the home team lose a nail-biter to Brazil (1-0). In 1973, Berlin saw some historic events, as well as its fair share of bad hair and bellbottoms.

Alexanderplatz Shines

Alexanderplatz, 1973. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

While much of the former grandeur of East Berlin languished under GDR rule, Alexanderplatz flourished in the 1970s. It seems like the promises of socialism came true here, if only for a moment. The colourful mosaics on the facades, the brightly lit shops, the Centrum department store, the futuristic TV tower and the new symbol of the square, the world clock, all stood for a future-oriented society.

Empty Streets in Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg 36, Manteuffelstrasse, 1973. Photo: Imago/Gerhard Leber

Of all of Berlin’s regions, perhaps Kreuzberg has changed the most. Today, Manteuffelstrasse is one of the busiest streets in the neighbourhood. The traffic and honking is constant, the pubs and bars on the corner of Skalitzer Straße are always full and people are bustling about everywhere. It’s hard to believe that the near-empty street in the photo could be the same place.

World Festival for Youth and Students

DGR band WIR in Berlin, 1973. Photo: IMAGO/Gueffroy

The World Festival of Youth and Students was an annual festival for young people organised by the communist authorities and in 1973, Berlin played host. Strangely, it seems that the soundtrack to the communist propaganda and parades that year was – disco? Marx envisioned communism slowly enveloping the world, but maybe Abba and the Bee Gees were the only thing capable of true world domination.

Germany falls to Brazil

The sold-out Olympic Stadium before the Germany/Brazil match in June, 1973. Photo: Imago/Horstmüller

On June 16, 1973, the German men’s national team played in the sold-out Olympic Stadium against the reigning world champions – Brazil. Although the era of Beckenbauer and co. was about set the tone in world football from 1974 on, the guests were the clear favourites in this 1973 friendly match. The game ended 1-0 for Brazil, with the goal being scored by attacking midfielder Dirceu in the 74th minute.

Paddling Pool on Karl-Marx-Allee

Children play in the paddling pool between the high-rise buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee, Summer 1973. Photo: Imago/Gueffroy

This photograph seems almost surreal today. The massive paddling pool amongst the high-rises and plattenbau of Karl-Marx-Allee is an example of a well-developed system of urban recreation that seems lost, but the image also evokes a sense of dystopia – ultimately, it shows a world that we can’t imagine existing today. For residents of East Berlin, the pool was surely a welcome respite from the hot summer days for parents and kids alike.

The Palace of the Republic Under Construction

Excavation for the Palace of the Republic at night. Photo: Imago/PEMAX

This ambitious Palace of the Republic – at once both maligned and praised for its bold modern architecture – had a rather short-lived existence, as the building joined the list of famous demolished structures in 2008. The opulent “palace” served as the seat of the People’s Chamber in the GDR, and was popularly nicknamed “Erich’s Lamp Shop” because of the intensely lit interiors.

The Wall and the Brandenburg Gate

View of the Wall and the Brandenburg Gate, 1973. Photo: Imago/Frank Sorge

It’s hard to believe that what is today the most visited tourist attraction in Berlin was once relegated to the outskirts of both East and West Berlin. The legendary structure was located right on the border between the West and East, and as the wall was built, the gate ended up in the “death strip” and was therefore not available to visitors on either side of the wall.

Incident at the Wall

Repairing the Berlin Wall. Photo: Imago/Zuma/Keystone

In July of 1973, several segments of the Berlin Wall were damaged by angry West Berlin citizens after learning of reports that East German border guards had shot at three refugees. The damage was quickly repaired, which this photo shows. The construction workers were watched carefully by border agents.

Brezhnev Visits Berlin

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev visits East Berlin. Photo: Imago/V. Musaelyan, V.Sobolev/Itar-Tass

In 1973, Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev visited Berlin to great fanfare, as this shot of a packed Karl-Marx-Allee shows. Brezhnev’s May visit to Berlin allowed him to meet with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic, Willi Stoph and the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the SED, Erich Honecker. Old white men with absurdly long titles were a big deal in 1973.

Leipziger Strasse

East Berlin 1973: Woman with a stroller on Leipziger Strasse. Photo: Imago/K. frill

K. Krause was an East Berlin photographer with an eye for the beauty of the ordinary. He photographed everyday life in the city, attempting to capture the mundane and ephemeral in Berlin. This striking image shows a young mother on a ghostly, abandoned Leipziger Strasse. In the background on the right-hand-side, you can see the famous Großgaststätte Ahornblatt, a large restaurant opened in 1973 for the Ministry of Building in the GDR.

Roland the Elephant Seal

A star in the Berlin Zoo: Roland the elephant seal. Photo: Imago/Zuma/Keystone

Watching the seal feeding has always been a highlight of a visit to the Berlin Zoo. Fun fact: the Berlin Zoo kept many elephant seals over the years, but they were all named Roland, including this guy in 1973.