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Kreuzberg before punk: Berlin photos from the 1960s

Today, Kreuzberg has a reputation as left-wing punk capital, but it wasn't always this way. Join us on a photographic tour through one of Berlin's most famous neighbourhoods in the 1960s.

Children playing in Admiralstraße

Children in Admiralstraße, 1969. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

Many people were moving to Kreuzberg at this time – artists took over run-down tenements and set up studios and galleries, and many Turkish families moved in as well. Some Berliners disdainfully called the district “Little Istanbul”.

Secondhand sale on Bergmannstraße

Junk shop in Kreuzberg, 1969. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

Bergmannstrasse is a bustling street that features many small shops, boutiques, second-hand shops, bars, restaurants and snack bars with specialities from all over the world. There’s even a späti with booze-free booze now.

Papier Reimer and John Glet on Mehringdamm

Mehringdamm, 1968. Photo: Imago/Gerhard Leber

Some businesses in Berlin have been around for over 100 years; think hardware stores, bakeries and libraries. The John Glet shop for quality workwear and the stationery shop Reimer were already on Mehringdamm in the 1960s and can still be found there today.

Houseboats on the Landwehr Canal

Houseboats on the Landwehr Canal, 1967. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

Communal living was all the rage in the 1960s, and people in Kreuzberg were trying out shared flats and squatting. Houseboats on the Landwehr Canal were a good way to combine urban living with wilderness and a nomadic attitude towards life.

Viktoriapark and Kreuzberg

Großbeerenstraße with a view of Viktoriapark, 1961. Photo: Imago/Gerhard Leber

Viktoriapark features a mountain idyll right in the middle of the city – there’s even a waterfall! If you clamber to the top of the hill, you find a beautiful view of Berlin.

Children’s shop in SO36

A perfumery and children’s shop on Admiralstraße, 1969. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

Kreuzbergers were ahead of the game when it came to raising children. Instead of sending their offspring to regular kindergartens, parent initiatives created independently-run alternatives called kinderladen (literally ‘children’s shop’). They were colourful, small, relaxed, and usually housed in former shop premises – hence the name.

Kottbusser Tor

Construction site at Kottbusser Tor, 1969. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

The Senate had a lot planned for Kreuzberg at the end of the 1960s. New housing developments and roadways were intended to give the run-down working-class district a makeover (push out the squatters, Turks and punks). Construction work on the Neues Kreuzberger Zentrum building block, with its famous bridge over Adalbertstraße, began in 1969, but the iconic piece of architecture was completed in the 1970s.

Axel Springer publishing house and Shell petrol station

Axel Springer high-rise and Shell petrol station, around 1966. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

Berlin’s newspaper district was on the border of Kreuzberg and Mitte for a long time, but after the war, this area went quiet. However, the mighty Springer skyscraper was the scene for protests after the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke on April 11th, 1968.

Kreuzberg backyards

Children playing in a Kreuzberg backyard, 1969. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

The backyards in Berlin are a hidden part of the city – small oases of peace behind houses. Kreuzberg had some charming communal backyards where everyone got together and children would play.

Vacant lot at Anhalter Bahnhof

The Anhalter Bahnhof around 1968. Photo: Imago/Gerhard Leber

Askanischer Platz’s long-distance railway station played an important role in Berlin’s development into a modern metropolis. From 1939, Anhalter Bahnhof was connected to Berlin’s S-Bahn network, but near the end of the war, the huge complex was destroyed during the Battle of Berlin. After the division of the city the site was abandoned.

Wagenburg behind Mariannenplatz

Wagenburg in Kreuzberg, 1969. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

Trailer parks were another one of the new social developments in Kreuzberg, along with houseboats and children’s shops. Urban nomads converted their trailers into minimalist dwellings around Mariannenplatz.

Wall at Bethaniendamm

The Wall next to residential buildings, 1965. Photo: Imago/Serienlicht

On the West Berlin side of the Wall, artists immortalised themselves through their art, and the children from the neighbourhood enjoyed playing ball games in the low-traffic zones. The Wall was a part of everyday life.

Interested in Berlin’s history? Check out our list of vanished buildings, (or the list of mostly vanished department stores). How about a photo series of buildings in 1945 and now? Maybe you’re after something a little more tangible: did you know that you can still see damage from World War II in some areas? Want to know what it was like to live in the DDR? There are plenty of museums that will teach you about the Stasi.

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