I have a good view from my balcony. To the right, a cemetary. Opposite, “Berlin’s largest sun-tanning centre”. And to the left, I can see Hermannplatz, dominated by a Karstadt department store.
It’s hard to picture this slightly shabby shop as the last remnant of a doomed icon of Weimar modernism. But that’s exactly what it is. Opened in 1929, it was one of the largest shopping centres of the world, and a Berlin-wide attraction for more than sheer size. There was a huge roof-garden, and what must have been some very garish night-time illuminations.
It survived the Depression, the 30s and the war, only to be destroyed by the Waffen-SS in 1945 to stop it falling under Soviet control. Sections have been rebuilt over the intervening decades, but it’s hard to imagine this — or anything else in Neukölln — ever recreating the grandiose over-optimism of 1929.