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L.I.S.A. Redaktion | 09/11/2019 | 981 Views | 4 | Movies by the Gerda Henkel Foundation |

Invisible Berlin

The Island of West Berlin | Episode 3

1 July 1953 is a significant date in Berlin’s infrastructure history. On that day an unusual summit of Cold War collaboration took place on the Späth bridge that connected East and West Berlin. The directors of the water utilities from both sides of the city met at this border point over the Teltow Canal to negotiate supplies of water from East to West – just a few weeks after the suppression of a civilian uprising in East Berlin. High levels of water use had proven a huge challenge for the city even before the war. It had also raised questions about where to put all the wastewater. Should it be irrigated on sewage farms to use the nutrients it contained? If not, how many sewage treatment plants would be needed? These kinds of questions, relating to electricity and gas as well as water and sanitation, became all the more potent after the political division of the city, especially for the ‘island’ of West Berlin. The guiding principle here: autarky. The historian Dr. Timothy Moss has discovered in the archives how self-sufficiency of utility services was envisaged and whether it could be implemented.



Audio stream of the video

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The Project
This project interprets Berlin’s twentieth-century history through the lens of its infrastructure systems. It will analyse archival and published material to reveal how the policies, plans and practices surrounding the design, provision and use of the city’s energy and water/wastewater services changed (or did not change) in response to the regime diversity experienced between 1920 and the present. Exploring how infrastructure systems – generally renowned for their path dependence – were affected by five political regimes (encompassing the Weimar Republic, Nazi dictatorship, socialist East Berlin, capitalist West Berlin and the reunified city) will reveal attributes of socio-technical change hidden in other cities by the patina of familiarity. Using Berlin as an exemplar, knowledge will be generated on what infrastructures can tell us about a city’s history, in terms of how it was envisioned, structured, governed and used, and what these legacies mean for urban transitions today.



Project management
Dr Timothy Moss

Stephan Zengerle

Martin Pogac

Martin Pogac

Series created by 
Gisela Graichen and Peter Prestel

All episodes
Invisible Berlin
Episode 1
Greater Berlin and Hitler's Water Plans
Episode 2
The Island of West Berlin
Episode 3
Socialist Symbolism
Episode 4
Berlin's Got Gas
Episode 5
Old and New Worlds of Infrastructure
Episode 6
The General Interview with Dr Timothy Moss
Episode 7


by Werner Praus-Zacharias | 28.08.2019 | 19:18
Ich bekomme nach dem Download zwei verschiedene Tonspuren zum Hören. Wie kann das sein. Ich weiß nicht, was ich ändern könnte.


by Georgios Chatzoudis | 28.08.2019 | 19:30
Sehr geehrter Herr Praus-Zacharias,
ich habe gerade auch das Video zum Test heruntergeladen - mobil über ein Smartphone. Das heruntergeladene Video ist bei mir intakt - nur ein Ton. Insofern bin ich gerade ratlos, wo bzw. was bei Ihnen genau die Ursache des Problems ist. Vielleicht versuchen Sie den Download noch einmal über ein alternatives Gerät.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Georgios Chatzoudis


by John Shepherd | 19.11.2019 | 20:34
I have come very late in tears to an interest in all aspects of Berlin history and life but have virtually no German language. This may seem an impertinence but the more your material is translated into English the more it builds interest and understanding.


by Judith Wonke | 20.11.2019 | 09:48
Dear Mr. Shepherd,
thanks for your comment - we are happy to hear that you are interested in our videos! Just like Invisible Berlin (engl. version:, all other Movies by the Gerda Henkel Foundation are available in English and German. ( Feel free to have a look!
Best, Judith Wonke

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