Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

September 2013

Camp in Papestraße (ENM-003882)

Camp in Papestraße
There are only a few left in the city – many of the buildings are no longer there. Refugee camps for people arriving from the GDR, which formed a part of the West Berlin cityscape up until the 1960s, are today often gone and forgotten.

After the closure of the inner-German border in 1952, the flow of refugees became concentrated in West Berlin. This was a challenge for the city. There was little available housing, so local authorities looked for other options. Old factories and empty barracks, warehouses and bunkers were converted and used as temporary emergency housing. Aid organizations working with refugees had a lot to deal with – they had to rebuild and furnish these buildings for their new function. As this photograph from the camp in Papestraße shows, the buildings' character could rarely be changed, despite efforts to do so. The photo shows that this camp, like many others, did not offer the refugees comfortable lodging. Before 1945 the building was part of a barracks and housed the SA Military Police.

Our Object of the Month for September is an example of the camps for GDR refugees - of which there were up to 80 in use before the Berlin Wall was built. The existence and history of these buildings is little known today.