Mohrenstraße renamed Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Straße

A push by the SPD and Greens leads to unexpectedly swift action in eliminating the racist street name without citizen input.

Time to go. 
Time to go. Photo: Imago Images

Berlin-Mohrenstraße in Mitte will be renamed Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Straße, district officials decided late Thursday, circumventing planned discussions on the controversial street name.

The suprise renaming followed an application by the local SPD and Green parties to start the renaming process "without delay". 

"According to the current view of democracy, the name's racist core is oppressive and damages Berlin's international image," the two parties said in pushing for swift action.

The name has been controversial for some time as Mohren is the German word for Moors, a term once used to refer to people from North Africa. The word is seen as derogatory in Germany and the renaming received fresh impetus amid the summer's international Black Lives Matter protests.

The street was first named in the early 18th century as Berlin expanded and its history is lost in a handful of stories, some more believable than others, according to the Berlin Postkolonial association's historian Christian Kopp. It's likely linked to the city's colonial history as well as slaves that were brought to the city. 

Philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo is the first African to have studied at a German university. A statue commemorates him at Halle-Wittenberg University and he did his doctoral work at the school's predecessor.  

Berlin transport authority BVG led the way in July by proposing to rename the adjacent u-bahn station Glinkastraße  after the Russian composer. That move, however, highlighted the perils of names since critics quickly pointed out the composer's antisemitic leanings.