city in space - berlin - locations

Autohaus Edgar Winter


The sector border between East and West Berlin was not only a border between two half cities, but also divided two economic systems, under which completely different consumer worlds developed. The function of the retail trade in the GDR was to pass goods produced in a planned economy on to the population at fixed prices. This was carried out essentially by shops belonging to the state trade organisations HO and Centrum, as well as those in consumer cooperatives. The objective was to guar-antee basic provisions by means of a centrally managed production system. Since as goods distri-butors the state sales outlets were not subject to any pressure of competition, little was invested in making them look attractive. They were intended to meet demand, and often enough did not even  manage to do this, let alone awaken consumer desire.  Nevertheless, importance was attached to a colourful world of goods as evidence of the  efficiency of socialism, particularly in the capital city. And thus a prestigious shopping centre emerged on Alexanderplatz in the course of restructuring during the post-war decades. The first  HO department store there, established in the fifties, was followed by Centrum department store (now Kaufhof) and the electrical shop "Haus der Elektrotechnik" in 1969, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. By 1973, housing and shops had appeared, along with an integ-rated market hall on Karl-Liebknecht-Straße and the Rathauspassagen shopping arcade. However, none of these buildings exist in their original state.  Although on the free market of West Berlin numerous shops filled to bursting point had been awakening consumer desire since the early fifties, unemployment was high and purchasing power was limited. This did not change until economic aid from the German government and the Marshall Plan took effect and led the city gradually towards full employment by 1961. Parallel to this development was a growing pleasure in small and larger luxuries to be consumed particularly on Kurfürstendamm and Tauentzienstraße. This was where the KaDeWe department store had opened on two floors back in 1950. The building that had been completely burnt out during the war had been erected again by 1956. The building boom that had seized the centre of West Berlin since the early sixties reached its climax with the Europa-Center, completed in 1965. A shopping mall based on the American model, it was an  attraction for locals and tourists alike.  Busy shopping streets also emerged in districts far from the city centre. And in the middle of today’s rows of façades, there is many a shop in the district centres with a design that consciously defies current trends and invites visitors to go on a brief journey through time back to the West Berlin shopping world of yesteryear.