Tuesday, 1 Mai 1945

Potsdamer Platz: Waiting in the S-Bahn tunnel

In the days from April 28 to May 2, 1945, chaotic scenes take place in the north-south tunnel of the Berlin S-Bahn, between Friedrichstraße and Anhalter Bahnhof.  During the last days of the war, thousands of Berliners had sought shelter in underground S-Bahn and U-Bahn tunnels from the ongoing fighting and air raids. So did numerous forced laborers, such as the Jewish forced laborer Walter Frankenstein or the French forced laborer Marcel Elola. Trains have not been running here for a long time and some of them served as makeshift hospitals. People crowded the platforms of the stations.

From Saturday, April 28, 1945, hundreds of people were also in the Anhalter Bahnhof. Catastrophic conditions prevailed. On May 1, at 9 o'clock in the morning, an SS guard appears and begins to drive people through the tunnel towards Potsdamer Platz.

A woman from Berlin reports: "When we reached the Potsdamer Platz station, the train [of people] had already thinned out. In the dark we stumbled further over the sleepers. Many fell and broke their arms and legs. They remained lying there helplessly. For a long time we could still hear their desperate cries... Then an SS man shouted: 'Foreigners, step out to the right. A shiver went down our spines. Some of the foreigners we tore into our ranks. The others stayed behind. The sound of gunfire that then echoed behind us gave us enough information about the fate of those left behind."

At the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station, the group is driven into the underground tunnel in the direction of Stettiner Bahnhof (now Nordbahnhof). There they chase the people onto the street. The Berlin woman further reports that "the artillery fire was roaring at full strength. I staggered forward as if stunned. Hundreds of us were blown to pieces... It didn't want to be night, the burning sky over Berlin was so blood-red.

On May 2, 1945, a powerful detonation destroys the ceiling of the tunnel under the center of Berlin, exactly at the point where the S-Bahn passes under the Landwehrkanal. At the Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station, the water also overflowed the U-Bahn tunnels and flooded large parts of the Berlin tunnel system. It is estimated that between 800 [sic] and 15,000 people died. Among them probably also numerous forced laborers.

(Report by an unknown Berliner in the Berliner Zeitung of June 11, 1945, "Wettlauf mit dem Tod", sources: "Die Befreiung Berlins 1945. Eine Dokumentation, DVW, Berlin 1975, p. 135f. and article by Sven Felix Kellerhoff, Welt-Online of May 2, 2015)