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Heinrich Heine at Westhafen

Subway station dedicated to Human Rights as seen through the eyes of the German poet and writer Heinrich Heine

24 November 2020
Year :
Location :
Westhafen subway station, Berlin

Westhafen was the railway station where all deportees were sent to nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Ten years after the construction of the Concorde Subway Station in Paris, Inscrire decided to build a similar project in Berlin. The two cities have a heavy and complex common history. It is important to link them conceptually.

In 2000, the German philosopher Barbara Reiter and Parisian artist Françoise Schein initiated the construction of the monumental work at the Westhafen Station in West Berlin. It is an installation dedicated to human rights, seen through the writings of the German poet Heinrich Heine and whose design has integrated the question of loss of identity due to the numerous migrations of populations around the world.

The writer Heinrich Heine lived in France for a long time and emigrated there as a reaction to his country’s anti-Semitic and racist policies. The two protagonists of the project have chosen this beautiful little text by Heine and have written it into the station in German and French.

“Here in France my German name ‘Heinrich’ was translated into ‘Henri’ as soon as I arrived in Paris, and I was obliged to accept this and use the name myself, since the word Henrich’ did not appeal to the French ear, and since the French change everything in the world to suit themselves. They could never get their tongues round the name ‘Henri Heine, either, and most of them call me ‘Monsieur Enri Enn’; many contract this to ‘Enrienne’, and some have called me ‘Monsieur un rien’.”

“Ici, en France, aussitôt a mon arrivée à Paris, on a traduit mon nom allemand de Heinrich en celui d’Henri, je m’y suis accommodé, il l’a bien fallu, et j´ai pris moi-même ce nom, car le mot Heinrich ne convient pas à l’oreille française, et en général les Français disposent toutes les choses du monde à leurs aises. Jamais non plus ils n’ont su prononcer convenablement le nom de Henri Heine, et pour la plupart je m’appelle Monsieur Enri Enn; beaucoup réunissent les deux en un seul, et disent Enrienne, quelques-uns m’appelèrent Monsieur Un Rien.”

“Hier in Frankreich ist mir gleich nach meiner Ankuunft in Paris mein deutscher Name “Heinrich” in “Henri” übersetzt worden, und ich mußte mich darin schicken und auch endlich hierzulande selbst so nennen, da das Wort Heinrich dem französischen Ohr nicht zusagte und überhaupt die Franzosen sich alle Dinge in der Welt recht bequem machen. Auch den Namen “Henri Heine” haben sie nie recht aussprechen können, und bei den meisten heiße ich Mr. Enri Enn; von vielen wird dieses in ein Enrienne zusammengezogen, und einige nannten mit Mr. Un Rien.”

These name variations shaped the design of the entire station. Various names of Heinrich Heine can be found in Westhafen subtitles, and pictures of different faces are attached to these words.

Four images were selected to enhance the design and express the meaning of each of the 30 articles: the freeman, the slave, the bird, and the eye. They respectively represent the freedom of life, the loss of all liberties, the freedom of movement, and the freedom of conscience.

In each article, a word is screen printed in red. All these words form a poem to be read while walking through the station. The font selected for the entire project is Futura, which is a typo created by Bauhaus and is prohibited by the Nazis.

At both ends of the station, are written the last words of the murdered victims in the concentration camps.


Barbara Reiter, philosopher, Berlin
Françoise Schein, artist, Paris
Carole Fontaine, assistant, Paris
Jacques Vansteenkiste, Stib, Brussels
Kramer and Partners, architects, Berlin
Helwig Hassenpflug, Berlin
Heidrun Lammert, Berlin
Alisson Ruda, Berlin


Lukes Meyer, philosopher, Berlin
Peter Steinbach, philosopher, Berlin
Joachim Ramminger, book designer, Berlin
Klaus Wowereit Mayor of the City of Berlin
Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of the city of Paris
Aeroplastics Gallery, Brussels
The Consulate of France in Berlin
Claus Matzner, OAG official, Berlin
Doris von Drathen, art critic, Paris-Berlin
Buchtal, ceramics company, Schwarzenfeld, Bavaria


BVG, Métro de Berlin


Barbara Reiter
Françoise Schein