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The Boros Collection


One of the things I like about Berlin the most is how visible the often violent history of this town was preserved at unexpected corners.

If you walk away from Friedrichstrasse train station via the bridge going over the river and follow the little road north after only a couple hundreds of meters you will suddenly stand in front of a massive piece of concrete located across the corner: You have found the Boros bunker.

This is a wonderful example of how Berlin has dealt with the remaining structures of the 2nd World War and how it got incorporated into the modern city!

It was build during the war as a shelter for passengers of the near-by train station. The stations were a key target during the bombardments and had to be evacuated at every attack. While regular citizens were ordered to hide in the basements (where they often die when the house above them collapsed), the train stations needed structures outside the stations.

In their arrogance and hubris the Nazis had never expected the war to come to Berlin. Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, promised the Berliners that no enemy plane would ever reach the capital, vouching for it with his name!

Even when the Nazis finally agreed to build at least some bunkers close to the train stations in 1942 they were already rather looking into the distant future to the glorious times after the succesful war.

The architect Karl Bonatz planned to use the building as a museum after the war and let himself be inspired by renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

The bunker had a clear symmetric shape and was supposed to hold 2000 people. At the end of war up to 5000 people were squeezed inside.

Build to resist the bunker did survice the war only with minimal damage. The Soviet forces occupied it at the end of the war and the Soviet intelligence service NKWD used it to detain prisoners in the following years.

Eventually the GDR took it over and used it as a warehouse for textiles, breaking in additional entrances, never caring about covering the bullet holes at the facade: As is the case in many building in Berlin you can still see them today!

In the 50's the GDR realized that the bunker could be used for something far more rare and valuable: Bananas & oranges!

In a country cut off from world trade by the iron curtain southern fruits were very hard to get!

The bunker, with its thick walls and its cool temperature inside, was an ideal storage for dried and tropical fruits, keeping the valuable goods safe from decay and thieves alike.

The people in the streets started to call the building the 'banana bunker' and they looked upon it longingly, knowing that for the majority of them its content was out of reach.

But while the head of the country declared that the wall protecting the regime would still stand in 50 and 100 years, the wind of change came back to Berlin, making walls tumble down and people reunite.

After the reunification bananas and oranges became an everyday commodity, easily bought at the supermarket at the corner and the bunker was closed down.

But it wouldn't stay empty for long! The 90's in Berlin were a time of wild experiments and an altervative night-life scene making Berlin the center of Techno culture up until today. Hard beats of techno music were heard in the building, that was fittingly known as 'Bunker'.

But no party lasts forever, the scene had to move on to new projects, halfway drawn by new promises from undiscovered parts of Berlin, halfway pushed by a neighborhood that became more and more posh.

At the beginning of the new millennium the bunker stood empty for some time, waiting for a new purpose, when a man called Christian Boros laid eyes on the building.

Born in Poland, but raised in West-Germany, Christian Boros had made his fortune with advertisement in the era of rapid change. Being fascinated by contemporary art and having the funds to back up his passion he had started to build up a collection from a young age on. But his collection had grown quite big already and he searched for a place able to house it.

He bought the bunker in 2003, renovated and rebuilt it to be a home for his art as well as for himself and his family. Walls were broken in, floors were opened up and a penthouse was added to the top, all finished in 2007

But Christian Boros did not want to keep it all for himself. He wanted to share his passion with others interested in contemporary art. So he decided to open his private collection to the public on the weekends in small, guided tours.

But in limiting the spots he caused long waiting times and people registered month in advance to be able to see the works of Olafur Eliasson, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and many more.

Christian Boros says that he collects art that he does not understand. A feeling that many share, but few admit. This was specially shared by guests in the hotel next door that looked from their hotel room upon this wax figure of a sick man in a hospital bed.

Regularly worried people called the reception asking them to tell the people in the hospital next door that one patient wasn't moving anymore!

But contemporary art does not stand still and the collection grew on and on. By now already the 3rd exhibition from his collection is housed inside the bunker.

Tickets are normally sold out weeks in advance since only up to 300 people can visit it per day!

If you want to visit the Boros Collection during your next visit to Berlin, go to

www.sammlung-boros.de/

to make your reservation. There are guided tours in German and in English from Thursday afternoon to Sunday evening at the price of 15,-€ per person.

Dennis Behnke

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©2020 Berlin private tours by Dennis Behnke

Berlin, Germany