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Berlin metro station to be renamed after pushback over racist term

  • July 03, 2020

A Berlin underground rail station called Mohrenstraße (Moor Street) will be renamed, the city’s public transit authority (BVG) announced on Friday.

The move comes as a greater discussion about racism in Germany has unfolded in the wake of global protests, in reaction to the death of African-American George Floyd while under police custody in the US.

Organizations supporting the rights of Africans, Afro-Germans and groups that grapple with the legacy of Germany’s colonial past have long demanded the renaming of the street. They object to the presence of word “Moor,” which they say is a derogatory term with no place in today’s multicultural Germany.

“Out of understanding and respect for the at times controversial debate about the street name, the BVG has now decided not to use it any longer for naming the underground station,” the BVG said.

“As a cosmopolitan company and one of the largest employers in the capital, the BVG rejects any form of racism or other discrimination,” the BVG added.

Change to take several weeks

BVG has renamed it Glinkastraße, a street which honors Russian composer Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857) and which is located at the intersection of the station, complying with the rules that a station must be named after its location.

A BVG spokeswoman, speaking to local newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, declined to say how much the renaming would cost, but added that the change will take place over the course of several weeks. 

Read more: Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima logos: How Germany dealt with a similar problem

The first thing to change will be the sign, but changes will also have to be made to timetables and the BVG internal systems. 

The station was opened in 1908 and has already undergone several name changes. From 1908 to 1950 it was known as Kaiserhof, then it changed to Thälmannplatz (1950-1986) and Otto-Grotewohl-Straße (1986-1991). The name Mohrenstraße was added in 1991. 

Both the street and the station are located in the central Berlin neighborhood of Mitte. The district is now set to decide on whether or not to rename the street altogether. But this might take longer, as Mitte residents have sought to take part in the discussions.

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