In Berlin, Gleis 17 (railroad platform 17) means more than a transportation site.
It’s where part of the Final Solution began.
The first deportations of Jews from the capital of the Third Reich started 70 years ago last week on Track 17 of the Berlin Grunewald station, with 1,000 people bound for the Lodz ghetto in Poland. The date was commemorated with a ceremony in which Holocaust survivors, leaders of the current Jewish community and German politicians took part.
Many of the participants lay down white roses in memory of the victims. The sign behind the rose, above, reads, “Deutsche Bahn, Railway Facility, Passage Not Permitted.”
In 1933, when the Nazis came to power in Germany, 160,000 Jews lived in Berlin, the country’s largest Jewish community; following large-scale emigration, the figure dropped to 80,000 by 1939; deportations continued between 1941 and 1943, by which time thousands of Jews lived in the city in hiding, and Berlin was declared Judenrein (cleansed of Jews).
Today, the city’s Jewish population is estimated at 120,000, many of them émigrés from the former Soviet Union.