Rathaus Schoneberg and Rudolph Wilde park
Rathaus Schoneberg and Rudolph Wilde park seem a bit dull when you first visit it. A lot of elderly people are crossing the streets with their walkers. But don’t be put of by grey hair, the environment of Rathaus Schoneberg and Rudolph Wilde park has a very interesting typical Berlin history. John F. Kennedy, the president of the United States held his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech here. And student Benno Ohnesorg demonstrated here against the Persian shah. His death, later that day during demonstrations in the vicinity of Deutschen Oper, triggered a lot of (radical) student uprisings.
Vivid history at Rathaus Schoneberg and Rudolph Wilde park
It’s not difficult to imagine how appalled people must have been when the Berlin Wall was erected. The people in West Berlin felt trapped and alone. Politicians didn’t really know how to respond to the erection of the Berlin Wall. The western leaders were all against the Berlin Wall, but no one dared to speak out or take action against it because they didn’t want to trigger the Russians.
One exception was the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. When he came to Berlin in 1963 he held his famous ‘Ich ben ein Berliner’ speech at Rathaus Schoneberg. The people living in West Berlin clapped till their hands were red after hearing his consoling words. By saying he was a Berliner too, he stressed he felt the pain people had to deal with by being cut of from their friends and loved ones, in a divided city.
Demonstrations at Rathaus Schoneberg
After his speech, it didn’t become quiet politically at Rathaus Schoneberg. In 1967 people protested against the visit of the Persian shah. One of them was the West Berlin student Benno Ohnesorg. He was not that politically involved, but he was not in favor of the shah visiting Berlin. He and his wife Christa, like many other Berlin students, wanted freedom for the students in Teheran as well. That’s why he went to the demonstration at Rathaus Schoneberg. It wasn’t a peaceful demonstration. Supporters of the shah brought wood and clubs to beat the demonstrators till they bled. The Berlin police men didn’t do anything to stop it from happening.
Demonstrations at Deutschen Oper
All the more reason to demonstrate again, the same evening, when the shah and his wife visited the Deutschen Oper. Benno Ohnesorg went to. It became violent again, and Ohnesorg had bad luck. The shah supporters hit the demonstrators again, and police men were blocking streets. The demonstrators panicked and rumours quickly spread one of the demonstrators injured a police man with a knife. The police men became nervous because of those rumors and hit the demonstrators too. The demonstrators tried to flee, but since they were hit on both sides and the police blocked the way, there was no room to get away. Everyone was on edge. Ohnesorg was one of these people, trapped. Three police men tried to arrest him and hit him. Some people state that Ohnesorg cried: ‘please, please, don’t shoot’ before he was shot by a police man, wearing civil clothes: Karl-Heinz Kurras (who later turned out to be a Stasi-spy).
Benno Ohnesorg died on his way to the hospital. His death triggered a lot of student demonstrations. The students felt the way Ohnesorg died and people were attacked by the police was not an unfortunate event. They had to deal with violent police men and other authorities more often and they were fed up with that. Terrorist orginisations were inspired by his death too, such as 2. Juni Bewegung (named after the day Ohnesorg was shot) and the Rote Armee Fraktion, who killed and abducted important politicians and rich business men because they were against the way society was functioning. They wanted a more critical approach towards the nazi-past, democracy and capitalism and to achieve that they were keen to use violence.
When you walk past the Rathaus Schoneberg remember, this is were it all started in Berlin. Now, it looks all quite, with golden deer, stone tritons, grass, classic fountains and ponds with quacking ducks. But you never know what all those joggers and elderly ladies are up to…