At first glance there’s not much to see here aside from the usual Berliner Tristesse. A gas station, a busy road and a massive construction site. But on closer inspection – the secret of the Chauseestraße unravels. A thin brick line crosses through the street – the memorial of where the Berlin Wall once stood – a familiar sight to most Berlin aficionados. And then you spot the Rabbit. You’ve just stumble across the Kaninchenfeld. At first its just one – but then as the saying goes – they seem to multiply like the proverbial rabbits. As soon as you’ve spotted one, another seems to appear out of nowhere.
The Kaninchenfeld – a field of Rabbits
The Berlin Wall once divided East and West Berlin here, creating a 120 Kilometer strip of no mans land. While it was off-limits to people – the Rabbits found it fair game, digging tunnels from west to east, east to west and merrily populating the green death belt of Berlin.
The Rabbits of the Berlin Wall lead a comfortable life, undisturbed and unaware of the political turmoil surrounding them. At least until the Wall came down. The Rabbits now had to find a new home and adjust to their new surroundings, as the wall that once meant death to the people was their safe haven. The rabbits quickly relocated into the Parks, Bushes and Gardens nearby.
The meaning behind the Kaninchenfeld
The brass Rabbits – better known by its official name “Kaninchenfeld” was a project by the Berliner Artist Karla Sachse, who in 1999 created the installation of 120 Brass Rabbits at the former Inner-German border crossing of the Chausseestraße and Liesenstraße. The idea behind project was that the Rabbits functioned as a projection surface for the people on both sides (East and West) of the Wall. For some because they tenaciously continued to dig their tunnels on and on, and for others because they brazenly ignored the border and its limitations.
The Kaninchenfeld today
120 brass rabbits once populated the Chauseestraße Border crossing – but like their real life counterparts, they are slowly vanishing. Thanks to some careless construction work to the road and sidewalk in 2015, over 40 rabbits have already disappeared. Others adapted, loosing their golden color and turning a dark grey to match the asphalt. Alone the few Kaninchen on the Chauseestraße that survived the construction work have retained their golden color to this day (at least they still did when we first visited them in 2015) thanks to the polishing effects of the car tires.
Sadly as of 2019 even more rabbits have gone missing. The number of rabbits dwindled down from 120 to 80 in 2015, and has dropped to 63 in 2019. Many have gone “missing”, while some were buried underneath a layer of new asphalt. Even the signs which explained the monument have either gone missing or have become unreadable. While the district council has noticed the issue of the slow decay of this Berlin Wall memorial, they have acknowledged that it would be impossible reconstruct the Kaninchenfeld in its original form as they could not install the brass rabbits in parts of the road now.
It was planned that some sort of reconstruction would take place for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the council couldn’t (and wouldn’t) confirm a fixed date for this. The Kaninchenfeld is quite possibly the most subtle – yet one of the most poignant Berlin Wall memorials in Berlin to this day – and thats makes its current state even more tragic. It would be nice if the city would find a solution to this shameful situation and that the Brass rabbits of the Chauseestraße can outlast their real life counterparts.
The Kaninchenfeld – The Brass Rabbits of the Berlin Wall Address
Public Transport: U6 Schwarzkopfstraße