The origin of the name Moabit is disputed. Arguably it can be traced back to the first inhabitants of the area, the Huguenots, in the time of King Frederick William I of Prussia. These French refugees named their new residence by analogy to the Biblical description of the Israelites in the country of Moab, where they stayed before being allowed to enter Canaan. Other possible origins include the French "terre maudit"" (cursed land), the Slavic "moch" (moor) or a worn off pronunciation of the German (Berlin dialect) "Moorjebiet" (swamp area).
The industrialization of Moabit started in 1820 when, with the financial support of court counsellor Baillif, a simple bridge was built to connect the island to the Berlin mainland. The bridge was followed by factories, a power plant, the Berlin-Spandau Canal, the Westhafen port and the Hamburger Bahnhof train station. This resulted in an exponential growth of the population, facilitating the spreading of a smallpox epidemic. In consequence, Berlin's city council, exhorted by Rudolf Virchow built a second hospital (after the Charité), the Krankenhaus Moabit in 1872. In the 1880s, Robert Koch worked here on the sterilization of surgical instruments and the isolation of the tuberculosis bacterium. A teaching hospital from 1920 on, the Krankenhaus Moabit employed notable physicians like the Nobel Laureate Werner Forssmann, Lydia Rabinowitsch-Kempner and the resistance fighter Georg Groscurth. The facility was finally closed in 2001.
A first prison, the Zellengefängnis (Cell Prison) on Lehrter Straße was built between 1842 and 1849 by order of King Frederick William IV of Prussia according to the "separate system" of Pentonville Prison. In 1878 Max Hödel, who had shot at Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany, was beheaded here. Political activists like Karl Radek, Erich Mühsam and Musa Cälil were arrested in Moabit, Wilhelm Voigt, "Hauptmann von Köpenick" and the writer Wolfgang Borchert served their jail sentence in the prison. After the July 20 plot it was used as a detention centre by the Gestapo, which in the night of April 22/23, 1945 murdered 16 inmates, amongst them Klaus Bonhoeffer, Rüdiger Schleicher and Albrecht Haushofer, who wrote the "Moabit Sonnets" during his arrest. The prison was closed in 1955 and demolished, though its walls can still be seen north of the Hauptbahnhof enclosing a remembrance park laid out in 2006. The vast building of the Criminal Court on Turmstraße was erected in 1906.
Large parts of Moabit are traditional working-class residential areas. Some areas were known for their political activity during the Nazi era, such as the "red Beusselkiez" or the neighbouring "Rostock Kiez". After Hitler was appointed chancellor in 1933 they were considered Communist resistance cells.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Moabit's location has changed from a border district of West Berlin to a central district in the reunited city. Due to its proximity to the new Government District, many new buildings have been built there, such as for example the Federal Ministry of the Interior Bundesministerium des Innern.
Near the border to Mitte the former S-Bahn station Lehrter Stadtbahnhof was demolished to make space for the new central station Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Europe's largest two level railway station, where the east-west and the north-south railway axis meet. Nearby is one of Germany's oldest train station buildings, the neoclassical Hamburger Bahnhof, built in 1847, which was closed in 1884 and since 1996 houses one of the Berlin State Museums for contemporary art.
Exile in the Fatherland: Martin Niemöller's Letters from Moabit Prison (Martin Niemöller: Briefe Aus Der Gefangenschaft Moabit)
Jan 01, 2002; EXILE IN THE FATHERLAND: MARTIN NIEMÖLLER'S LETTERS FROM Moabit PRISON (Martin Niemöller: Briefe aus der Gefangenschaft...