Iconic store, seized by Nazis and destroyed by war, rises anew in Berlin

Thu Sep 25, 2014 1:25pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Bethan John

BERLIN (Reuters) - A gigantic German department store, rebuilt in the heart of Berlin on the rubble of a shopping center seized by the Nazis, was opened on Thursday with a ceremony paying tribute to its original Jewish owners.

The near 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) "Mall of Berlin" -- an entire quarter with a glass-covered arcade, 270 shops, a hotel and flats -- marks the spot where the Wertheim store was built in 1896.

When Hitler's Nazis expropriated it in 1937, it was pre-war Europe's most famous shopping center.

"It's really great that, after the war and 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we've finally managed to close the gap where the great Wertheim store once stood," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit told some 10,000 people at the opening ceremony.

"The Leipzig platz square has a historic importance in Berlin. Wertheim stood for quality and innovation and we're looking forward to continuing that tradition."

The mall stands just east of where the Berlin Wall divided the city during the Cold War and just a few dozen meters south of where Hitler had his bunker. The Wertheim store was badly damaged by Allied bombs during World War Two and razed by Communist East Germany in 1956.

It was a wasteland in the no-man's land near the wall until 1989 but the area soon sprang to life after German unification.

One of the world's most famous techno clubs, "Tresor", was opened in 1991 in the only remnant left of the Wertheim store, its giant underground vault. The club closed in 2005.   Continued...

People wait for the opening of the Mall of Berlin shopping centre in Berlin, September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter