On This Day | 11 April 1986: Rudi Dutschke is shot

11 April 1968: On this day in Berlin history, at approximately 4.35pm, Rudi Dutschke, figurehead of the student protest movement, was shot 3 times while leaving his home at 140 Kurfürstendamm in West Berlin.

Rudi Dutschke
Rudi Dutschke was shot 3 times

He was on his way to the local pharmacy to fetch some medicine for his 3-month-old son. He was first shot in the cheek which knocked him off his bicycle, and then while on the ground, Dutschke was shot twice more in the head and shoulder.

His attempted assassin was identified as Josef Bachmann, a 23-year-old blue-collar worker originally from Saxony, with ties to an active Neo-Nazi group at the time. After shooting Dutschke, Bachmann fled the scene and attempted to commit suicide in a nearby basement by taking sleeping pills before being captured by the police. Dutschke was brought to the Westend hospital in critical condition but ultimately survived the attack.

Dutschke’s attempted assassination shocked both moderates as well as those would emerge as extremist elements within the student protest movement. An attack on Dutschke, someone who transcended the different groups within the student protest movement, was seen as an attack on them all.

Anger was particularly aimed against the Axel-Springer group who were seen as responsible for Dutschke’s attack. It was believed that the demonization of the student protest movement- being portrayed as terroristic and the Trojan horse of communism, directly lead to his attempted assassination.

Rudi Dutschke's bike, left at the crime scene
Rudi Dutschke’s bike, left at the crime scene | Image by: Polizei Berlin CC BY-SA 4.0

As the spokesman of the SDS (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) and founder of the APO (Außerparlamentarische Opposition), Dutschke- became a particular focus of Springer media attacks and was labelled as “Red Rudi.”

The same night, approximately 2000 protestors descended on the Axel-Springer building on Kochstrasse, near Checkpoint Charlie. The protest soon turned into a riot with some participants throwing cobblestones breaking the windows, while others set Springer delivery trucks on fire with Molotov cocktails.

 

For more context: watch ‘German Terrorism: The 60’s students protest movement and the RAF‘ on YouTube – an online lecture Elizabeth gave fellow BBS members in 2021.

Lizzy Mason

This edition of On This Day in Berlin History was contributed by Berlin Guides Association member, Elizabeth Mason. It’s one of four events she has chosen to remember this month. Keep an eye on our blog to see what else makes the cut.

Six of the Best Films set in Berlin

Best films set in Berlin
Image by Cineberg

Just because you can’t join us in-person doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of the city’s history and culture from home. With that in mind, we asked our members to tell us some of their favourite films set in Berlin.

Though most found it difficult to choose just one, they did not disappoint. Our shortlist includes madcap comedies and oppressive dramas, films set on both sides of the Wall and all over the city (especially the last one!).

Read on for six of the best films set in Berlin, as recommended by Berlin tour guides.

Three Films Set in East Berlin

Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others (2006)


Although he was born outside of East Germany and was only 16 when the Wall fell, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made his directorial debut with this highly authentic and incredibly personal film about Stasi surveillance. The film was applauded internationally, even winning the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Georgia Riungu: “One of my all-time favourite University classes was called ‘Perceptions of National Identity in German Cinema’. That’s when I first saw the utterly gripping Das Leben der Anderen – I was totally blown away!”

Top Secret! (1984)


Action comedy Top Secret! comes from the makers of Airplane. Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is an American rock star who’s been sent to the DDR to perform in a festival. Little does he know the whole event has been organised by the East German government in order to divert attention from a military plot to reunite Germany under their rule…
Nadav Gablinger: “This is the movie of my childhood. It has (almost) no connection to reality, but it has given me many hours of laughter.”

Goodbye, Lenin! (2003)


Wolfgang Becker’s award-winning tragicomedy follows the story of an East German family whose matriarch – a fierce devotee of the Socialist cause – falls into a coma just before the Wall comes down in 1989. She wakes in June 1990 and her son (Daniel Bruehl) is under strict doctor’s orders to protect his mother from any news that might cause fatal shock…
William Mollers:“Ostalgie triggers me emotionally. I always cry.”

Two Films Set in West Berlin

One, Two, Three (1961)


In Billy Wilder’s political comedy, a high-ranking Coca-Cola executive (played by James Cagney) is saddled with the unenviable task of keeping an eye on his boss’s 17-year-old daughter (Pamela Tiffin). Hilarity and disaster ensue in what Variety described as “a fast-paced, high-pitched, hard-hitting, lighthearted farce that packs a considerable wallop.”
Jeremy Minsberg: “It captures a point in West Berlin with humour and love.”

Herr Lehmann / Berlin Blues (2003)


We first meet Kreuzberg bartender, Frank Lehmann, drunk on his way home from work. It’s Autumn 1989 and – though the story is set shortly before the Fall of the Wall – this film isn’t about the seismic historical change that’s coming. It focuses instead on the mood of disaffected young adults at a very particular, oft-forgotten time. For a faithful and humorous portrait of everyday life in SO 36, look no further.
Chiara Baroni “It shows a Berlin which is no longer there, but was still present when I watched it in 2000. Kreuzberg, the Kneipen, the sense of helplessness this city offered in those years. It was like a playground for adults.”

… and a film, set in post-reunification Berlin

Lola Rennt / Run, Lola, Run (1998)


Lola (Franka Potente) has twenty minutes to get her hands on 100,000 Deutschmarks and save her boyfriend’s life (Moritz Bleibtrau). Written and directed by Tom Twyker, this iconic experimental thriller, was a firm favourite at the festivals and has inspired many a pop culture tribute.
Sam Wiszniewski: “It shows Berlin at an interesting historical moment that’s not Third Reich or DDR.”
Finn Ballard: “I have a soft spot for ‘Run, Lola, Run,’ now that I have given a couple of tours of the movie’s locations!”

And there you have it! Six Berlin film recommendations for your next movie night.

Is your favourite among them?

International Tour Guide Day | What makes guiding in Berlin so great?

Today – Sunday 21st February – is International Tour Guide Day. This time last year, our members were out and about, leading some of Berlin’s best guided tours. This year, we’re reflecting on what it is about working as a professional guide in the German capital so special.

Reflecting on International Tour Guide Day
Photo by BBS member, Georgia Riungu

This International Tour Guide Day, we’d love to know: What’s the best thing about being a tour guide in Berlin?

Apart from the validation? Meeting people from everywhere, and occasionally hearing strange personal stories from guests about their own Berlin histories, adding colourful depth to the city‘s history you read in books.
Sam Wiszniewski

Exploring the city on a daily basis, continuing to learn and study its history and meeting new people.
Chiara Baroni

Being outside and meeting people.
William Mollers

Sharing my passion of history and love of the city, and getting to know people, whom I can help, entertain and learn from, and on the off chance – even bond with.
Carlos Meissner

Being a tour guide, every day is different and new. It is exciting to show guests Berlin through my eyes and experiences.
Jeremy Minsberg

As a tour guide I have the privilege of getting an immediate response to my work. If I do a good job/tour (and I do my best to tailor the tour to my audience), I see it right away. People laugh, cry, argue and get involved in the tour.
Nadav Gablinger

To see the recognition and understanding in visitor’s faces when they visit places and experience up-close stories they have read so much about.
Finn Ballard

In a city full of contradictions, there’s always an interesting story to be told. Nothing is “just” the way it is – you can always uncover and expose sides hidden to the eye, and use them when trying to understand our present.
Ben Fisher

“There’s no place like it” is a massive cliché, isn’t it? It’s true though! Berlin is legendary. The history is infamous and the contemporary is fascinating – but it’s complex and there are layers. So taking the time to unpack all that and make it accessible for a guest – through stories and exploration – is incredibly rewarding.
Georgia Riungu

Wondering what to get the guide who that showed you everything this International Tour Guide Day?

A review- even long after your tour- is always a wonderful way to show appreciation.

On This Day | 18 February 1902: Berlin’s first U-Bahn opens

18 February 1902: On this day in Berlin history, the first U-Bahn opens to the public.

Crowded streets, booming industry, and expanding suburbs – Berlin at the turn of the 20th century was a dynamic and modern city. Its population had rapidly increased from half a million in the 1850s to over 2 million by 1900. But rapid expansion came at the cost of easy transport connections, as Berlin’s arteries grew clogged by an increasing number of trams, buses, horses, wagons, and early automobiles.

Berlin's first U-Bahn line connected Zoologischer Garten to Stralauer Tor
One of the first U-Bahn Stations: Bülower Straße, 1903 | scan of postcard

Berlin’s planners looked towards the transport systems of their contemporary cities- London and New York- for potential solutions. Skeptical of an underground tube system like London’s because of the potential to damage their new subterranean sewerage system, the city decided on the New York alternative of a mainly elevated railway.

This first plan would predominantly be the basis for the current U1, connecting Bülowstraße (now the U2) and Warschauer Brücke (today Warschauer Straße). The decision to proceed through these working-class districts first was taken in order to avoid the well-healed areas around Leipziger Straße, whose residents insisted that the disruptive construction would not occur in their backyard.

Berlin's first u-bahn line was known as the Stammstrecke
The so-called “trunk route” | Jcornelius, 2004 CC BY-SA 3.0

German company Siemens began construction on the 10th of September, 1896 and plans were finally agreed for an extension into the richer pastures of West Berlin. Furthermore, the city was confident their sewer system could be protected and an underground extension to Potsdamer Platz was added. The eventual 1902 system, called the “Stammstrecke” (trunk route) was three lines connected through a rail triangle or “Gleisdreieck,” making the total length of the railway 10.1 kilometres.

On the 18th of February, 1902 the first section was opened to the public. The Prussian minister of public works, Karl von Thielen presided over a flock of prominent Berliners eager to take their first trips. The line would forge connections between the West at Zoologischer Garten, to the centre at Potsdamer Platz, all the way to the East at Stralauer Tor (now defunct).

Campbell Bews

This slice of On This Day in Berlin history was written by BBS Member Campbell Bews.

It’s one of four events he has chosen to remember this February. See what else made the cut on our blog.

7 (and a ½ ) Songs about Berlin that we love

We asked our members to share with us their favourite songs about Berlin or by Berliners and they did not disappoint. From classic ballads to the anthem of the German squatter movement, the range of genres is about as diverse as you’d expect of a city like Berlin.

Read on to see if your favourite made our list and to find your newest Ohrworm!

7 (and a ½ ) Songs about Berlin that we love

Marlene Dietrich recorded several songs about Berlin
Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932) by Don English

1. “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin,” Marlene Dietrich
“I still have a suitcase in Berlin.” It happens to many of us.
Jeremy Minsberg

2. “Berlin,” Klaus Hoffmann
This was when Berlin was still divided, it was a different city then. I heard the song when I was still in school, in the late 70s. I had been to Berlin once, and I had fallen in love with it. And I loved the song!
Jo Eckardt

Hildgard Knef's song about Berlin is an ode to its toughness
Hildegard Knef | Koch, Eric / Anefo

3. “Berlin dein Gesicht hat Sommersprossen,”   Hildegard Knef
“Berlin, your face has freckles” is a love-song for this rough city that never gives up.
Yan Katz

 

Ton Schein Sterben's song about a Berlin squat has become an anthem
Cover art for Wenn die Nacht am Tiefsten ist… by Ton Steine Scherben

4. “Rauch-Haus-Song,” Ton Steine Scherben
This is my favourite song about Berlin because it’s the true story of my Lieblingskiez (favourite neighbourhood). It talks about the squat and underground culture that I love, and about one of my still favourite place in Berlin: das Bethanien. It’s very a funny song and became the real hymn of Kreuzberg.
Stéphanie Kieffer

5. “Kreuzberg,” Bloc Party
My favourite song about Berlin reminds me of living in my old Kiez but also the album that it’s from is generally very nostalgic.
Chris Moniz

 

Iggy Pop's hit song is about Berlin trains
Cover art for Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life | RCA

6. “Passenger,” Iggy Pop
I’ve known it since childhood but it was only after moving here that I learned his inspiration for the track was Berlin’s very own S-Bahn! The ride out to Wannsee is the most moving, according to Herr Pop. So give it a listen next time you’re heading out to Potsdam or the Bridge of Spies.
Georgia Riungu

7. “Am Fenster,” City
This song takes me back to my first months in Berlin and to some beautifully interesting conversations with a man grown up in West Berlin who loved playing both West and East Berlin music.
Alazne Artetxe

…and a ½. Oft gefragt,” Annenmaykantereit
Okay not explicitly about Berlin… but they say Berlin in the lyrics!
Susan Grouchy

And you? What are your favourite songs about Berlin or by a Berliner? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

What 2020 taught the Tour Guides

what 2020 taught Berlin tour guides

At the end of a challenging year, BBS members reflect on what 2020 taught them about the city they know so well.

It’s no secret that Berlin has seen its share of upheaval over the years.

For millions of visitors annually, this fascinating history is one of the German capital’s biggest draws. Guests from all across the globe have flocked to Berlin, determined to unlock, explore and understand its complex past. Those  lucky enough to experience the Hauptstadt with a skilled guide invariably leave for home having learned valuable lessons – not just about this city, but from it.

2020 was itself a historic year.

Beyond putting the brakes (quite rightly) on tourism, the global pandemic encouraged us to think differently about- well, almost everything. As tour guides, covid restrictions changed the way we engage with Berlin –  professionally, of course, but on a personal level too.

Ten tour guides tell us what they learned.

 

What did 2020 teach you about Berlin?

That I really don’t have to venture far from home to appreciate most things Berlin has to offer. My block is like a microcosm of the city and from my apartment, you can witness the effects of hard-hitting history, appreciate world-class street art, enjoy dozens of international cuisines and experience wildlife of all varieties.
Georgia Riungu

To appreciate the little things in life and take quiet time for reflection.
Jeremy Minsberg

That the more slowly you walk around, the better you realise how full of ginkgo bilobas this city is. There are so many of them! The female trees’ fruits do stink a little bit, but both female and male trees are so beautiful in Autumn. It’s really something you should not miss out on!
Alazne Artetxe

To appreciate the fantastic historic city I live in (and the free entrance at the German History Museum).
Susan Grouchy

2020 has taught me that Berlin can handle actually going to sleep once in a while.
Chris Moniz

That there are still so many places I need to visit!
Wouter Bernhardt

How special it was that I spent 15 years working as a guide. I know the city in a way that people with “regular jobs” cannot know, because I’m always out and about, whether it’s seeing the sites in Mitte or travelling to pick clients up. I’ll never know another place as intimately as Berlin. These last 12 months I’ve missed all that exploring.
Heather Mae Ellis

I enjoyed even more the fact that Berlin is a green city. What a delight to walk through all these beautiful parks with lakes! And the open-minded/freedom spirit – we are actually allowed to enjoy them, not like in France or other countries where you really have to stay home.
Stéphanie Kieffer

It’s not a bad place to be during a pandemic.
Jo Eckardt

Berlin is great in crisis. Who first comes to Berlin is puzzled by the rough Berliner ways.
But when the going gets tough you’ll always find a helping hand.
Yan Katz

“I’m overwhelmed by the response.’ | BBS Guide’s Remembrance Tour in the Press

BBS Member Ben Fisher’s first virtual tour was recently featured in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

On 8th November 2020, Ben’s remembrance event went ahead as scheduled. In previous years, he’s seen around 300 people sign up for the walking tour, which commemorates one of the most severe attacks on Jewish life Germany has ever seen.

Thanks to Covid-19 restrictions and a little innovation, last November’s tour was unlike any he’d done before. Over 6,000 people from all across the globe have now taken part in the Facebook-hosted experience!

What follows is an English translation of the article, written by Steffi Hentschke and published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Sunday 26th December. Read the original article in full (and in German) here.

***

BBS Member Ben Fisher's virtual tour featured in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Just get us out of here!

Immediate proximity despite great distances: Tour guides lead us through the world online

“When the lockdown forces improvisation: travel guides and tour operators are moving their business online. Not everything can be sold online – but some things that seemed far away before are now within reach.

Ben Fisher is standing on the deserted Kurfürstendamm, leaves are gathering on the footpath. It is 8 November. The sun is shining on this cold Sunday, one day before the anniversary of the Reich Pogrom Night 83 years ago. During the most severe attack on Jewish life in Germany since the Middle Ages, an estimated 1500 Jews were killed and thousands of synagogues burned down. To commemorate the event, Fisher, a 37-year-old Israeli who has lived in Berlin for five years, is offering this special city tour. “I will start directly with the days before the pogroms, and as we walk, I will tell you more about the history of the Jews in Germany,” he says in English, walking off in the direction of the former synagogue on Fasanenstraße. About two hundred people watch him, they are not there, but they are there live.

At the moment, the world can only be discovered from the sofa, and what sounds like a dreary new reality sometimes reveals unexpected possibilities. Interest in Berlin city guide Ben Fisher’s memorial tour has always been high, with up to three hundred participants signing up for it in recent years. But the video of his first virtual tour has meanwhile been seen by almost 6,000 people from the United States, Israel and Brandenburg. The tour does what historians have been calling for for years – a digital form of remembrance culture. Those who follow Fisher on his one-hour tour get to know Berlin from a Jewish perspective and are surprised to discover that even if the virtual trip does not provide any sensory impressions, the knowledge gained arrives on the sofa.

Before Ben Fisher came to Berlin, Germany was the forbidden country for him, as he writes about himself on the website of the Berlin Guides Association. “Today I think the city is the most exciting place ever,” he says in a conversation via Video Call, a few days after the tour. Like his colleagues, he has had to make do without an income for months. But offering city tours online was not an option for him until recently. Only the second lockdown forced him to improvise, and a memorial tour was already planned. “I’m overwhelmed by the response and have to process that first,” says Fisher, thinking about what he can learn from his first attempt. “Maybe it takes the connection with education to get people excited about it. Classic sightseeing, on the other hand, doesn’t work online.””

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If you missed it, you can still access the full tour on Facebook by clicking above.

Visit Ben’s profile to learn more about him and the tours he offers.

“How can I bring Berlin to people?” | BBS Guide’s Virtual Tours Make Headlines

BBS Member Jeremy Minsberg’s virtual tours of Berlin have made the news – not once, but twice!

Jeremy has given private tours in Berlin for decades and decided to pivot to digital tourism in March 2020. Since then, he has “become an event” and now offers a range of customisable tours on a variety of topics – from classic sights, to Third Reich to LGBTQ history.

BBS Member Jeremy Minsberg giving a virtual tour at the Brandenburg Gate
BBS Member Jeremy Minsberg giving a virtual tour at the Brandenburg Gate

“I thought I might try something completely different, and think outside the box. The technology exists to make it possible, so why not tour virtually?”

On 15th December 2020, The Local published ‘A new way to travel’: How one guide is showing off Berlin through virtual tours. In the piece, Berlin-based Tamsin Paternoster wrote about her experience joining a tour of “monuments just twenty minutes away from [her] front door.” The journalist was one of twenty international guests who tuned in for a tour of sights including the Victory Column, Tiergarten and Schloss Bellvue – all via Zoom. Read the full article here.

“I help people stay close together.”

On 24th December 2020 – as the second wave of the coronavirus led to increased restrictions across Europe for the holiday period – Euro News picked up the story. Titled ‘Meet the tour guide who is bringing Berlin to locked down travellers’, Kate Brady’s piece includes clips from one of Jeremy’s popular virtual Berlin city tours – as well as an interview, in which he shares his motivation for going digital. Click here to watch the news clip.

Jeremy Minsberg

Visit Jeremy’s profile to learn more about him and the tours he offers.

Virtual Tours | International Insights

With the pandemic necessarily hampering most people’s travel plans, guides across the globe are turning their hand to virtual tours. We spoke to two tour guides in different corners of the world to find out how they have made the move from in-person to virtual tourism.

In an hour-long conversation, Shira Kleinman and Alessia Nencioni Farias shared their virtual tours insights and experiences with our members. Now we would like to share them with you.

As Shira says, it’s a scary time for guides.

“We’re used to being outside pointing at things

and now suddenly we’re inside pointing at things!”

Of course, there’s far more to great guiding than simply pointing. This is especially true when making the initial pivot to virtual tours. The good news is that you don’t need to be a tech expert to take your tours online.

In this hour-long conversation about how Shira and Alessia made their careers virtual, learn:

  • Some foolproof quick fixes for slow internet connections
  • Why offering virtual tours can take the sting out of cancelled travel plans
  • How you can add layers of atmosphere and a little bit of kitsch to make tours more personal

… and much more!

You’ll also enjoy micro-demos of 4 easy-to-use platforms to host your own virtual tour – whether you’re in lockdown or not.

Shira Kleinman is an educator and licensed tour guide based in Haifa, where she runs Tours with Shira.

Alessia Nencioni Farias is a licensed tour guide in New York City, where she runs Barefoot New York.

If you enjoyed this insider look at tourism in the times of corona,

you might also enjoy our Rick Steves interview.

Rick Steves Interview | BBS meets the US travel guru

This month, it was our great pleasure to interview US travel guru, Rick Steves.

Since COVID-19 has hampered the travel plans of many, those in the industry have been urged to think differently about how and why we do what we do. This has led to some brilliant conversations.

In an hour-long conversation with Berlin Guides Association President, Matt Robinson, and BBS member, Wouter Bernhardt, we discussed travel as a political act and the art of tour guiding.

What’s more, we hear from Rick about his mission to broaden people’s horizons, what it was like to travel in Eastern Europe as an American during the Cold War, and – of course – why Berlin has such a special place in his heart.

Watch the full, unedited Rick Steves interview on our YouTube channel now. Alternatively, you can listen to an edited version of the conversation on The Low Season podcast by Wouter Bernhardt (available wherever you get your podcasts).