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Mitropa is a catering company best known for having managed sleeping and dining cars of different German railways for most of the 20th century. Since its reorganization in 2002, the company only provides stationary food services for rail and road customers. The name Mitropa is a derivative of "Mitteleuropa" (German, for Central Europe). The railway carriages displayed a distinct burgundy-red livery with the Mitropa logo.
The company was founded during World War I on 24 November 1916, as Mitteleuropäische Schlafwagen- und Speisewagen Aktiengesellschaft. Its founders included different railway companies in German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, who discontinued the service provided by the enemy-owned Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL). After the war, CIWL was able to take over most routes in Central Europe outside of Germany, while Mitropa maintained most of its routes within Germany as well as routes to the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The company prospered between the wars and managed about 750 coaches by 1940, however never came close to the size of CIWL.
After World War II and the division of Germany, Mitropa AG became the catering company for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the national railway of East Germany. Mitropa AG was one of the very few stock companies that remained in existence during the Communist era in East Germany. The Western section of Mitropa split off and named itself Deutsche Schlafwagen- und Speisewagengesellschaft (DSG) to manage the sleeping and dining coaches of the Deutsche Bundesbahn in the Federal Republic of Germany.
After the reunification of Germany in October 1990, both Mitropa and DSG continued to operate in their respective areas of Germany until 1 January 1994, when the Reichsbahn and Bundesbahn were merged to form Deutsche Bahn AG. Mitropa and DSG were also merged under the Mitropa logo. This was one of the very few instances, and the most prominent, in which a West German company was "taken over" by an East German one, as Mitropa was the surviving entity after the merger.
The new Mitropa initially catered to travellers on rail, road, and water and provided services at railway stations. As expenses could not be met, in 1999/2000, the on-board ship catering business was sold to Scandlines. On 1 July 2002, the traditional core business of railway catering was handed over to DB Reise & Touristik AG, a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn.
In 2004 the remainder of Mitropa was sold to the Compass Group and Mitropa AG became Mitropa GmbH. It operates food services at railway stations and Autobahn service stations. Sleeper-coaches on Deutsche Bahn trains are managed by CityNightLine.
In the movie Enemy at the Gates, Major Erwin König is shown in a plush Mitropa dining car en route to Stalingrad when he notices on the opposite track returning Mitropa couchette cars full of wounded soldiers.
In the movie Europa by Lars von Trier, a company called Zentropa runs the railway network in which the story unfolds; the company is based on Mitropa, according to the director's commentary on the DVD.
In the movie Goodbye Lenin the lead character, Alex Kerner (Daniel Brühl), instructs his co-worker and friend Denis Domaschke (Florian Lukas) to lie about his employment and claim that he is a food purchaser for a Mitropa restaurant.
In the seventh episode of the movie Seventeen Moments of Spring, the logos of the company are visible, when the General, Stirlitz's travel companion walks through the railroad station.
"Friends of Mitropa" (Freunde der Mitropa) was founded on 28 November 1996.
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