Surrounded by the forest, we stood on the deserted train platform on a warm and quiet Friday afternoon. A few yards away people were enjoying their afternoon coffees and beers. We were at the gateway to one of Berlin’s most vast and inviting recreational areas, an idyllic spot that is also the former gateway to transports bound eastward: to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Lodz and Riga.
More than 50,000 Berlin Jews were deported to ghettos and concentration camps between October 1941 and February 1945, a majority from the Grunewald station. 186 metal grates line both sides of the platform, one for each transport stamped with the date, destination and number of Jews who were deported. Step by step we walked through the Deutsche Reichsbahn daily record of human cargo moved from Point A to Point B. The metal slabs tell the story of a nightmare that took place in a fairy tale setting. The Grunewald station is still a stop on the S7 line of the S-Bahn, but the only traffic on Gleis 17 is from those who come to pay their respects.