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From 1961 until 1989, the Berlin Wall divided the city in two: into East Berlin and West Berlin. There were a few border points where people could cross from the one side to the other. The checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse station was in the heart of Berlin. Here, hundreds of travellers crossed the border each day by train or city rapid railway (S-Bahn). And it was here, in front of the small departures hall with its high windows and flat roof, that East Germans said goodbye to their relatives from the West. You went into the hall in order to re-enter West Berlin. It was the scene of many a painful farewell. Often people didn’t know if they would ever see each other again and tears flowed freely. It truly was the Tränenpalst (Palace of Tears).

Our exhibition “Site of German Division” at this historical site shows how the division of Germany and the construction of the Berlin Wall came about. It also explains how the customs and passport checkpoint functioned at the Tränenpalast and outlines the surveillance system in place at the Friedrichstrasse border crossing.

In the Tränenpalast itself, visitors can experience the checkpoint procedures and actually walk through the original passport control booth. The exhibition focusses on the personal stories of various individuals who lived through the ordeals of divided Germany. Contemporary witnesses describe in interviews how they escaped from Communist East Germany and how they kept in contact with their families on the other side by sending letters or parcels. They also narrate how they smuggled documents and secret photographs across the border or protested against the travel ban in Communist East Germany. On 9 November 1989, the Wall fell in Berlin. Why did it all happen so suddenly? What then happened to Communist East Germany? What were people’s experiences back then? Now, a full 25 years after German Reunification, you can find out all about such things – at the Tränenpalast.

During the 15th Festival of Lights there was a special video presentation on the topic “30 Years of the Fall of the Wall”, which could be watched free of charge in the exhibition.