Spring again – Berlin`s Kurfürstendamm in one minute

In retrospect, Kurfürstendamm contrasts numerous ugly aspects of German history. Even the ridiculing and contraction of its name to “Ku’damm” (comparable to “cow trail” in English) suggests never to have respect for pompous and authoritarian rulers or gentlemen riders – in this case the Prussian prince-electors and kings of the 16th century. The latter had a corduroy road built through the swampy area that led to their hunting grounds in Grunewald forest.

Otto von Bismarck, founder and chancellor of the German Empire, and an admirer of the Champs Elysées in Paris, initiated the modern development of Kurfürstendamm in 1873. The “Iron Chancellor” would not have dreamed that one day starving artists, or even smoking women in men’s clothes would be dancing around in his boulevard. The mere thought of the great critics of Prussian subservience, the spiritual fathers of democratic Germany – such as Kurt Tucholsky, Erich Mühsam or Friedrich Naumann – enjoying the cafes and theaters along his boulevard would have made the chancellor go red-hot.

It is true that with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and its surrounding edifices, the ruling Hohenzollern dynasty had successfully created a group of buildings in Romanesque Revival, i.e. medieval style. Yet Kurfürstendamm, Berlin’s window to western, free-spirited Europe was marked by the liberal und Jewish bourgeoisie that settled along the boulevard in the following decades.

No wonder then that Kurfürstendamm was also a thorn in the sides of the Nazis. The jews and the critical intelligentsia were murdered or expelled. Resistance fighters were degraded as “Kurfürstendamm figures”. And the fact that this boulevard of “traitors to the fatherland” did not feature in Hitler`s gigantic plans to build the „World Capital Germania“ goes without saying.

Instead of megalomania and Germania, rubble and ashes followed. Only every sixth building on Kurfürstendamm more or less survived  the bombing of the Allied aircraft squadrons in World War II. This reflects in disparate and temporary gap fillers until this day.

And yet, Kurfürstendamm quickly came back to life. It soon became the “shop window of the West”, which takes us to its latest historical contrast function. The red, i.e. the communist Prussians, who now ruled the eastern part of the divided city,  built the Berlin Wall and gave firing orders to prevent their people from escaping to the boulevard of wealth, to the boulevard of zest for life in freedom. So in the very first night, when the Wall finally came down after 28 years, these people celebrated – there could be no question where: on Kurfürstendamm of course.

In short, this former corduroy road did a good job at beating its way through the swamps of German history. Respect.