The East German State Railway in West-Berlin

Author & Director:
Burghard Ciesla | Daniel Ast | Juergen Ast

Commissioning Editor:
Jens Stubenrauch


Daniel Ast

astfilm productions | RBB | funded with means of the Federal Foundation for the reappraise of the SED-Dictatorship

One of the strangest stories in German-German history is the story of the East-German so called "Deutsche Reichsbahn" in West-Berlin. Even during the Cold War, the necessary timetables for the traffic on the tracks through the west of the city, they were scheduled in the East. The nationally owned company "Deutsche Reichsbahn", was in the name of the Allied Forces the one to be in charge of the railroad traffic in Berlin. Thousands of employees, over 300 kilometers of tracks and a web of Buildings and Stations belonged to the only socialistic enterprise in West-Berlin. All set up with Activists, Brigades, Party Leaders, Plans, pictures of Marx and Thaelmann on the walls at the stations in West-Berlin and waving GDR-Flags on October 7th, the National Holiday of the German Democratic Republic.

The East-German state railway became a symbol of the struggle between the East and the West, a communist bastion in West-Berlin. The ongoing dispute over the "delicate business" did last throughout the Cold War. Also the former heart of the Berlin railway system, the commuter train, was to be in charge of the GDR Ministry of Traffic. Daily, hundreds of thousands West-Berliners traveled with their "S-Bahn". Until August 1961.

After the Wall was build, the West started a boycott. "No more western money for the barbed wire of Ulbricht!". In consequence the "S-Bahn" became some kind of "Ghost-Train-System" and the financial loss for the GDR was immense. But the GDR didn't give up easily it's "Foreign Branch of Socialism". Only after many years of negotiations, the transfer to the BVG, the West-Berlin traffic company, was realized.

The "Deutsche Reichsbahn", for it's employees it was like a "Family-Business". For most people in West-Berlin, it was nothing more than a blot. Most workers came from West-Berlin and many regarded them as a kind of "Fifth-Brigade" of the SED, the Socialistic Unity Party of the GDR. Interviews with former employees, Members of the senate and staff of the GDR Ministry of Traffic, they all recall the decisive moments and grant a in-depth look at unknown facts, in a world full of borderline cases between the East and the West.