Judengang – Berlin, Germany - Atlas Obscura

Judengang

Once a path for Jewish funeral processions, this unassuming alleyway is rich in local lore. 

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In Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district, a grassy alleyway leads from Kollwitzplatz Square to the Schönhauser Allee Cemetery, a Jewish burial ground that was founded in 1827. Known as the Judengang, or “Path of the Jews,” the walkway has a storied history.

During his reign as King of Prussia, from 1797-1840, Friedrich Wilhelm III would often travel between the royal residence in urban Berlin and Niederschöhausen Palace in the Pankow district. The king and his entourage would cause a spectacle as they strolled down Schönhauser Allee. But when the new cemetery was established, the Prussian monarch began to encounter delays as street traffic—including the royal retinue—was halted for funeral processions. 

Annoyed at the obstruction and not wanting to witness the pitiful state of the mourners, Friedrich Wilhelm III ordered that an alternative pathway into the cemetery be constructed. This new alleyway, which was located along the southern perimeter of the cemetery and ran parallel to Kollwitzstraße, ensured that the king would not be inconvenienced by encountering the Jewish bereaved.

This, at least, is the story of how the Judengang came to be, though the truth of the story is not known for sure. Regardless of how it came into being, the narrow walkway was established the same year as the Schönhauser Allee Jewish Cemetery, and eventually became the path by which funeral processions would enter the graveyard. By the 1840s, the Judengang also doubled as a leisure space for nearby residents. Locals would tend gardens along the pathway and decorate plots with lanterns and furniture, making the alley a popular social area during summer evenings.

By the late 19th century, the Schönhauser Allee Cemetery had fallen into disuse with the founding of the Weißensee Jewish Cemetery, and the Judengang ceased to serve its original function as a designated funerary path. In Berlin, residents of the apartments along Kollwitzstraße once again began using the alleyway as a communal gardening area.

In 2003, when the nearby cemetery was restored, the Berlin city government cleared the Judengang and turned it into a garden monument and a semi-private walkway. There are gates at either entrance to the Judengang, but the main entrance on Knaackstraße is demarcated by Stars of David. Although the alley is only accessible to the public via guided tours, you may catch a glimpse of the Judengang through the gate.

Know Before You Go

The Judengang is only accessible via guided tour.