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Hugo-Preuß-Brücke (1928–1945)

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Erich Heckel, Berliner Hafen, 1927 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

“It seems almost impossible to bring a structure of this kind, intended solely for traffic, into complete harmony with its surroundings […]. As is the way in cities everywhere, the new will not always get along well with the old.”

Excerpt from the magazine Bauwelt, 1928

The Humboldthafen basin was excavated in the mid-nineteenth century during the construction of the Berlin-Spandau Ship Canal. Several railway stations were built next to it, including the Lehrter Bahnhof and the Hamburger Bahnhof (now the Hauptbahnhof and the Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart), which turned the harbour into a busy shipping hub for various goods and commodities. On the northern bank of the Spreebogen, the harbour entrance is spanned by a bridge, which has been rebuilt several times over the years.

Spreebogen am Humboldthafen, 1925, photo: Bruno Romey, Landesarchiv Berlin, F Rep. 290 (09) No. II12857

When the second, decorative Alsenbrücke was badly damaged by shunting cargo ships, it was replaced by an iron suspension bridge in the mid-1920s. It was named after the Jewish left-liberal politician Hugo Preuß, co-author of the Weimar Constitution. Erich Heckel, who frequently painted bridges and harbours, captured its construction in a watercolour in 1927.

In the foreground are the loaded cargo ships, in the background the elegant, imperial-era residential buildings of the Alsenviertel. During the National Socialist period, the bridge was renamed and subsequently destroyed during the Second World War. It was only when the harbour area was being redeveloped after the fall of the Berlin Wall that the bridge was reinstated in its current form and returned to being named after Preuß.

Valentina Bay

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