A Klappenschrank was a piece of equipment in the early days of the telephone, that was used to connect two subscribers with each other.

It was operated by a Fräulein vom Amt and was effectively a board made up of holes – one hole per line, covered with a small cap.  The caps would flap to show that someone wanted to make a phone call, and often a light bulb would show that a line was still in use.  Two holes would be connected by a wire to establish the call between the two parties.

They stopped being used on the telephone network in the western German states in 1966, and in the GDR in 1987.

To hear a simple explanation and a short discussion in German, listen to the podcast:

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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by All Things German and A Brit Abroad. A Brit Abroad said: Today's German Word Explained – the "Klappenschrank" http://tinyurl.com/klappenschrank […]

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