Photo Flick 1989 Nr. 3: Oberbaumbrücke


Co-written with sister column   bhc-logo-newest1

The third Photo Flick in connection with the Revolution 1989 is basically a throwback to 2010 and it takes us to the Oberbaumbrücke, which spans the River Spree on the east side of Berlin, between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Built in 1896 under the direction of Otto Stahn, the bridge is one of Berlin’s key landmarks because of its gothic design. It’s a key crossing for subways (U-bahn) and car traffic. But it was one of the key symbols of division during the Cold War. From 1961 until the Fall of the Wall in November 1989, the concrete wall went right through the roadway portion of the bridge, and even though the structure was badly damaged and a truss span was built for U-bahn traffic, that track was barricaded shut, thus almost effectively halting passage to West-Berlin except through the border controls on the Kreuzberg side of the bridge.  Shortly after the Wall fell, the bridge was rebuilt, piece by piece to resemble its original form before World War II.

View of the Oberbaumbrücke from the TV Tower. The East Side Gallery is on the left side of the Spree. 

Regardless of whether it can be seen along the river or even from the TV-Tower from a sniper’s view, looking at the bridge today, almost nothing is left of the Wall that cut the bridge (and Berlin) into half. Much of the area that used to be heavily patrolled with tanks, watch towers and guards have been heavily built with modern buildings with businesses, large and small, occupying the area. One of them buildings houses Universal Music Company, part of the Universal Studios consortium based in the States.

Yet it doesn’t mean the relicts have disappeared altogether. Two important points of interest still exist and should be visited while in Berlin. The first one is the East Side Gallery, a 1300 meter (4300 foot) section of the Berlin Wall that features open air art; the sections created by over 100 artists both before and after 1989. The stretch is on the Friedrichshain side of the former Wall, stretching from the bridge to Ostbahnhof Railway Station. It was renovated recently (in 2010) and is open to the public. A watch tower is included as part of the exhibit, just as much as one at the bridge itself, which was sitting empty at the time of the photo but has most likely been removed.

The former Watch Tower on the Friedrichshain side of the bridge. 

The Oberbaumbrücke is a symbol of architecture that has withstood the test of time and the history that includes years of division. For architects, artists and bridge lovers, it’s a work of art. For educators, it is a classic example of how it became a “Borders to Bridges” story in light of going from a divided Germany and Europe into a united one. For the rest, it’s a symbol of Berlin and how it brings people together from all aspects of life. It’s definitely one worth visiting.


More on the bridge’s history can be found here:

Information on the East Side Gallery and its paintings can be found here:

It’s part of the Tour Guide on the Bridges of Berlin, which you can click here:


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Photo Flick: 1989 Part 2


This next Photo Flick in connection with the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall takes us to the Drei-Freistaaten-Stein.  Here is where the states of Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia meet. The marker is legendary for this is the exact location of previous kingdoms and countries. The original marker was placed here in 1840, marking the boundaries of the following Kingdoms: Saxony (KS), Bavaria (KB) and Reuss (FR). The agreements with KS and KB was made on 13 August, 1840 and with FR on 23 October, 1854.  While the Kingdoms were folded into the German Republic under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck in 1871, the boundaries were divided again after World War II, with Thuringia and Saxony going to the Soviet Union and thus becoming part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Bavaria went to the US and it eventually became part of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany).  From 1949 until the Fall of the Wall in November 1989, this area became part of the Death Strip, with armed guards patrolling both Germanys with the East German guards trying to keep people from fleeing to Bavaria. One can see the markings of what was the border when walking to the monument after parking  at the site between Grobau (Saxony) and Münchenreuth (Bavaria). What used to be barbed wire fences, ditches, watch towers and concrete paths has now become a green strip of land, aproximately 500 meters wide. The concrete  paths where tanks and jeeps used to drive on has become part of the hiking trail that runs along the former border. And even though the ditches still exist, they are being covered with trees and other vegetation.


And of the marker?

It still exists but in a different form. A new marker and picnic area was created and opened to the public in November 2007. The initiative was spearheaded by the State of Thuringia and supported by the other two states. There, a marker duplicating the one from 1840 was created and placed in the middle of a concrete triangle panel which spans a ditch but points at the direction of each of the three states. Each side, representing a state, has a bench and refuse can.  What surrounds the three state corner nowadays are windmills and cornfields, plus some wind as the area is on higher elevations near the Fichtel Mountains.  It’s a quiet place to reflect on the past and present, but also provides a great view of the entire Vogtland Region.


More on the history of the marker can be found here.


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TÜV: Review Exercise

An example of a steam Boiler exploding Prior to the introduction of TÜV. Photo courtesy of Bayerischen Dampfkessel-Revisionsvereins and available via wikiCommons

This Review exercise is in connection with an article written in 2015 about the TÜV, an organization responsible for the inspection of cars, machines and appliances to ensure their functionality and consumer safety. Before doing the quiz, please look at the text in General by clicking here:


  1. What does TÜV stand for and how can it be translated into English?



T/F: Read the following statements and determine whether they are true or false. If false, write in the correct answer in the right column.

Statement True or False Correct Statement
Lightning struck the car of the 58-year old woman once, causing a fire.
A police officer pulled her out of the car before it exploded.
TÜV was created in Mannheim.
There are only five TÜV offices in Germany.
The largest TÜV office in Germany is located in Flensburg.
TÜV has three segments: Certification, Mobility and Industry
Your car must be inspected by TÜV three months after purchase.
You cannot operate your car if you don’t have a TÜV certificate.
A person can pay a hefty fine and receive a Flensburg point if flaws in the car are not fixed.
There is a European guide to functioning cars and devices in addition to the TÜV


  • Multiple Choice/ Fill in the Blanks:


  • TÜV was established in _______ in response to the high number of boiler accidents in central and western Germany



  1. 1865          b. 1866            c. 1867                        d. 1868            e. 1869


  • There are _A._ TÜV offices in Germany including: ______B._________



  1. three                 b. four             c. five              d. six               e. 43


  1. Thuringia and Saarland
  2. Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein/Hamburg
  3. Berlin and TÜV-West
  4. South and North
  5. a & d


  • What parts of the car are NOT inspected by TÜV?


  1. body                 b. lights                              c. license plate           d. tires            e. steering


  • If the car is not inspected after eight months, how much does the car owner have to pay?


  • a. 60 Euros     b. 80 Euros      c. 75 Euros                  d. 90 Euros      e. 120 Euros


  • Which vehicle does NOT require a TÜV inspection (but should)?


  • a. Smart car               b. Combi         c. bicycle         d. motorcycle             e. truck


  • Which country has stringent requirements for bikes?


  • a. Switzerland            b. Denmark                       c. France         d. England       e. USA


  • Which country requires you to have insurance for your bike (in Germany, it’s voluntary)


  • a. Czech Republic       b. Switzerland             c. Sweden       d. Iceland        e. EU


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Photo Flick: 1989 Part 1

Author’s note: As Germany celebrates its 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall and its subsequent reunification, the Flensburg Files will be doing some coverage of the event and how Germany has changed in the past 30 years. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks and months ahead.

We’re going to begin with this Photo Flick and the region Bavaria and Saxony. This photo was taken in July of this year at the train station in Gutenfürst near the border. Today’s station is just an ordinary stop for all local trains between Plauen (Saxony) and Hof (Bavaria). It’s completely deserted and with only a few passengers boarding and disembarking daily, it will not be long until the station is taken off the rail network owned by the German Railways, Deutsche Bahn.

It’s hard to believe that this was the exact same train station that used to serve as a transit station between East and West Germany, 30 years ago. At this time, travellers wishing to leave East Germany through Saxony and Thuringia had to pass through this station in order to enter the west in Bavaria. Even when they tried to escape through Hungary and the Czech Republic during the summer of 1989, an agreement was made between the two governments and that of East Germany, which was ruled under Erich Honecker at that time, to allow the East Germans to leave their home for West Germany. The majority had to pass through this train station, in overcrowded trains, then travel through the country before reaching either West Berlin or the other West German states of Hesse, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein.

When the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November, 1989 and the borders dividing Germany opened two days later, East Germans left the country in droves, with large numbers passing through this station in overcrowded trains, in order to reach Hof and receive their 100 Marks in Begrüßungsgeld (EN: Welcome Money).

It was afterwards that the transit station lost its usefulness as a station that stopped all trains that were crossing the border between East and West Germany, with police officers checking the passports and travel documents of every passenger wishing to enter or leave East Germany, taking them off the train for questioning and possibly imprisoning them temporarily, withholding western goods destined for the East for families to enjoy.

The station started off as a train stop when the Magistral Railway Route opened in 1851. It became a train station with the construction of the station building in 1905 with only one track. It survived unscathed through two World Wars, but the expansion into a transit station happened beginning in 1947, which included an additional track, guard towers and lighting to ensure no one escapes over the border, even though the station was only a kilometer away from it. The white buildings where offices, holding cells, customs and the like all came in the 1970s. This included the building of the observation bridge overlooking the two tracks.

Gutenfürst Station in 2010 with the Observation Bridge. Photo taken in 2010 for wikiCommons by Straktur

Today, as seen in the picture at the beginning of the article, the buildings still stand albeit empty, but the bridge is gone. It was removed in 2012 to make way for the electrification of the line from Zwickau to Hof. There are now three tracks, including the original one where trains from Erfurter Bahn and Vogtlandbahn stop daily.  But it’s hard to imagine that this small and rather insignificant train station had a major purpose so many years ago. Unbelieveable that tens of thousands of people would have to pass through in order to cross the border 30 years ago, but now trains can pass through without being stopped because of border controls and search warrants.

And only a handful of people can board the train and get off at this very quiet and desolate train station……


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The Magistral Route is a rail line that connects Nuremberg with Dresden with the line splitting at Steinpleis and a branch goes to Leipzig. Construction started in 1848 and lasted 25 years. The line serves regional trains today, but plans are in the making for InterCity trains to be reintroduced after the last ICE-train passed through in 2002 and the InterRegioExpress train in 2010. The start time depends on how long the electrification process will last. Currently the line from Hof to Dresden via Zwickau and Chemnitz as well as the Leipzig branch are electrified. The last segment to Nuremberg via Bayreuth is expected to be completed by 2025.

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Berlin Writes History in Soccer

The Stadium Altere Försterei, where FC Union Berlin plays at home. Photo taken by Christian Liebscher via wiki-Commons 

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FC Union Berlin advances to the German Bundesliga for the first time ever after ousting VFB Stuttgart in the Relegation Round.

BERLIN- In the end, only the strongest survived. The strongest in terms of nerves but also in coherency. The strongest is the one that makes history. This was done last night with FC Union Berlin. After a 2-2 draw against VFB Stuttgart, who had been sitting in 16th place during almost the entire 2018/19 Bundesliga season, all the iron men could have done is put the iron curtain in place- literally in front of goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz  and let Stuttgart fire their shots- to the left, to the right and right into the goalie’s hands. And while the offense was on autopilot, a 0-0 tie was enough for Berlin to make history.

For the first time ever FC Union will play in the premier league this upcoming season, competing with the likes of Bayern Munich- fresh off its seventh consecutive title but poised to lose its top two players in Frank Ribery and Ariel Robben- the Robbery Duo- similar to the Killer Bs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in American football before Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left the team after the 2018/19 season and its lone B- the quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. It will be facing other teams with multiple years of experience and armed with deep pockets for 1st class players, such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bremen. And while Freiburg, Cologne and Augsburg may be push-overs, like it was with Hamburg SV during its time in the second tier (winning 2-0 and tying 2-2), Union Berlin will have two rivalries to contend with:

  1. Inner-City Rivalry: FC Union Berlin will have to contend with Hertha BSC Berlin, which has been in the premier league for all but two seasons since 1997. While FC Union Berlin has had many soccer rivalries in the German capital, even during the Cold War era, this one will be the battle of the iron fists that will attract tens of thousands, and whose victories will be very close. While FC Union lost a close one 2-1 on 3rd September, 2012, the two teams finished tied at 2-2 on 11 February, 2013, the last time the two played. When the rivalry continues this upcoming season, it will be the first inner-city derby in the Bundesliga since the 2010/11 season with Hamburg vs St. Pauli.
  2. East German Rivalry: Apart from its western city rival, FC Union will have to contend with Leipzig. But not the Leipzig that many soccer historians are accustomed to. While Union and VfB Leipzig’s rivalry attracted thousands of fans during the 1980s and 90s, the Leipzig they will be facing is one that will have a new (and fiery) head coach and a talented group that is regrouping after losing the 2019 German Cup to Munich and finished third in the regular season- meaning RB Leipzig. Even they have played three games, FC Union has yet to beat Leipzig, having lost two and tied one- but all in 2015 and 2016.

FC Union Berlin will be the sixth East German team to be in the top league in almost three decades- the others were Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, VfB Leipzig (now FC Lok), Energie Cottbus and Hertha. It is the 56th team in history to reach the top tier. And after years of toil and disappointment, the team has entered chartered waters bound to make history. The team has the largest fan club in German soccer and its culture is implanted in Berlin soccer, with a stadium that has hosted soccer games, Christmas events and concerts and crowds that come to enjoy the game and not rampage it, like in some cities. This was noticeable with last night’s relegation game with Stuttgart- it ended in celebration and with no incidences! One could blame Stuttgart for its shortcomings, which will land them in the second league for the first time in three seasons, but the timing of FC Union Berlin’s rise to the top could not have come at a better time. All it needed was unity and the team got it.

And should this unity continue in the upcoming Bundesliga season, then FC Union Berlin will be making even more history as it climbs in the rankings at the expense of those who have been there for years. Seven years ago, one wondered whether professional soccer will return to the east. With first Leipzig and now Berlin, that question has been answered.


Congratulations to FC Union Berlin on making it to the big leagues! 🙂

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FC Union Berlin won the relegation based on the “Goal Away from Home” rule. This means the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie. In this case, Berlin won against Stuttgart based on that rule by a score of 2-0 because of the 2-2 draw in Stuttgart. 

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From the Attic: Bonn- the Birthplace of the German Constitution 1949


BONN- On this day 70 years ago, the German Constitution was ratified, thus ushering in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It was the first democratic government since the Weimar Republic, which was created in 1919 but lasted only 14 years. It also brought in its first chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who until 1998, became the longest tenured chancellor in modern German history, having served from 1949 until his resignation in 1963. Bonn was its capital until 1994, when it was moved to Berlin, five years after East and West Germany reunited. Since 1999, all federal Offices and the German parliament are conducted in Berlin.

While Germany has some Milestones to celebrate, it is interesting to see how the West German government ratified the Constitution, which still remains in use and is discussed to this day (See the previous article on it here.). Two “Exemplars” on its ratification can be found in this article below; the first produced by the British channel Pathé, the other in German by Zeitzeuge Portal, which includes interviews with historians and political scientists in German. In either case, they are both interesting to see the reaction to the creation of West Germany from local and outsider perspectives.

Enjoy! 🙂

Pathé (UK):


Zeitzeuge Portal:


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Germany at 70: The Constitution


May 23rd, 2019. On this day 70 years ago, the West German government, together with the western allies of the US, France and Great Britain ratified the German Consititution, a set of basic laws that are binding and foster equality, freedom of speech and Democracy. The basic laws were the basis for establishing a democratic state, the first since the Weimar Republic of 1919. And unlike the Republic, which was dissolved with the rise of Adolf Hitler, who ushered in the era of Naziism 14 years later, the German Constitution has become the solid rock, one of the examples of how Democracy works even to this day, despite going through the hardships in the sense of politics, society and the economy.  This was even adapted by the former East German government in 1990 as part of the plan to reunify the country.

While there are booklets in many languages that have the Basic Law of Germany, there are some questions that are still open as to how it works in comparison to those in other countries, the US included. This documentary, produced by a bunch of American scholars, gives you an in-depth coverage and discussion to the laws that exist. Albeit Long, one can skip to some of the laws discussed or just simply play it in ist entirety. For those wishing to live in Germany in the future, even temporary, this is rather useful.

Enjoy the documentary! 🙂


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