Ghost town Kreuzberg

Muskauer Str. 1973

Dino De Laurentiis and I had agreed that the film [The Serpent’s Egg (Ingmar Bergman, USA/BRD 1977] was to be made in Germany, a sensible decision as it is set in Berlin in the 1920s. I went to Berlin to look for locations, but could not find nothing except a part of the city close to the Wall, called Kreuzberg, a ghost town where nothing had been repaired since the war. The façades were still pockmarked from grenades and spraying bullets. The ruins of bombed buildings had been removed, but there were empty sites like open infected sores between the grey blocks. The signs above the shops were in foreign language. Not a single native German lives in this part of what had once been a proud capital. Someone once said that a dwelling can be a dangerous weapon and I suddenly understood the point of this remark. The buildings were overflowing with people children playing on the courtyards, the garbage stinking in the heat. The streets were badly maintained, the asphalt inadequately patched.

I am sure some authority supervises this cancerous tumour on the wealthy back of West Berlin. It probably has exactly what is required in the way social institutions and safety arrangements, so that no one will come to any harm and thus embarrass the German conscience and the scarcely concealed racial hatred. In plain language they say: anyhow the bastards are better off here than wherever they come from. Young junkies hang around Berlin Zoo, occasionally dispersed by some organized swoop. I have never before witnessed such blatant physical and spiritual misery. The Germans simply don’t see it, or they are angry and say there ought to be camps. Nevertheless, the thinking behind Kreuzberg is as simple as it is cynical. If the enemy on the other side of the Wall wants to come in, he must first shoot his way through a barrier of non-German bodies.

Ingmar Bergman, The Magic Lantern. An Autobiography, 104f