German Monopoly

As part of my current studio 'The Street', we went on a field-trip to Berlin. Given the theme of the studio, some research on the streets of the city was in order. An investigation of German Monopoly seemed one obvious place to look for clues. The story turned out to be much more complex than one might imagine and offers several fascinating insights into the city.

The game of Monopoly was first produced in the USA in 1935. A German edition based on the streets of Berlin was issued in 1936. It was only available briefly however. Some claim that the game was quickly banned by the Nazis for being too capitalist and contrary to the aims of National Socialism. Others say it was simply expensive and unpopular and so was quietly withdrawn. Either way, of the original production of 5,000, few were sold and those that remained in the factory were lost during bombing in WW2. Naturally, this rare first edition is now highly sought after by collectors.

By the time the game was reintroduced to Germany in the 1950's, the country had of course been divided and Berlin was no longer the capital of West Germany. The new German edition was therefore not based on any specific city and instead used generic street names.

The streets and railway stations in the original 1936 'Berlin' edition were as follows (in sequence):

Hutten Straße - Turmstraße - Lehrter Bahnhof - Chaussee Straße - Invaliden Straße - Alt Moabit - Schönhauser Allee - Elektrizitäts Werk - Prenzlauer Allee - Neue König Straße - Bahnhof Alexanderplatz - Alexander Straße - Landsberger Straße - Große Frankfurter Straße - Köpenicker Straße - Warschauer Straße - Wiener Straße - Görlitzer Bahnhof - Oranien Straße - Gitschiner Straße - Wasser Werk - Belle Alliance Straße - Friedrich Straße - Leipziger Straße - Unter den Linden - Potsdamer Bahnhof - Grunewald - Insel Schwanenwerder.

If you plot these streets on a map it becomes apparent, that unlike English Monopoly, the streets connect together geographically and describe a route around the city spiralling inwards, which would make a very interesting walking tour. It starts on Hutton Str (with Behren's AEG building) and moves around in a clockwise circuit until you reach the central axis of Unter Den Linden (and Gehry's DZ Bank), stopping off at the appropriate stations on the way.

For those familiar with the English game, things then vary from what one might expect. The equivalents of Park Lane and Mayfair are not up-market streets in the heart of the city, but desirable escapes in the countryside at some distance to the south-west of the city, presumably accessed by train from Potsdamer Bahnhof. Grunewald (trans. Greenwood) is a small settlement Berlin at the edge of the forest and Insel Schwanenwerder (trans. Swan Island) lies on a lake in the forest, near Potsdam. These choices for the premier locations are entirely consistent with the importance of nature and specifically the forest within German mythology.

Insel Schwanenwerder has an additional resonance in that it was an exclusive residential development largely occupied by wealthy Jewish industrialists in the early part of the twentieth century. In the 1930s it began to attract the attention of the Nazis. Within a short period, the existing inhabitants were pushed out and many of the senior Nazis obtained properties and building plots there, including Goebbels, Speer and even Hitler himself.

With the end of WW2 and the creation of a divided city, a number of the street names were been changed (sometimes several times!) to suit the shifting political allegiances. The map below plots the position of the original streets and stations (Insel Schwanenwerder is off the map, further to the south-west).

If you overlay the position of the Berlin Wall, four of these streets were destined to be divided and three of the stations were made redundant (Görlitzer Bahnhof is now a park) or significantly disrupted by being adjacent to it. Appropriately, the rich and poor extremes (dark blue and brown) both ended up in the capitalist west.

A hidden political history of the twentieth century in a board game!

The location of the Monopoly streets and stations (source: Google Maps)


Monopoly Lexicon - specialist website for Monopoly collectors.

D J D Smith (2008) - 'Only in Berlin', Christian Brandstätter Verlag.