Haus Vaterland (Fatherland House) was a pleasure palace on the southwest side of Potsdamer Platz in central Berlin. Preceded by Haus Potsdam, a multi-use building including a large cinema and a huge cafe, from 1928 to 1943 it was a large, famous establishment including the largest cafe in the world, a major cinema and numerous theme restaurants, promoted as a showcase of all nations. It was partially destroyed by fire in World War II, reopened in a limited form until 1953, and was finally demolished in 1976.
- 1 History
- 2 Description
- 3 Notes
- 4 References
- 5 Sources
- 6 External links
The six-storey building was designed by Franz Heinrich Schwechten, who was also the architect of the Anhalter Bahnhof and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and constructed between 1911 and 1912 as Haus Potsdam. It was primarily an office building; from 1917 or 1919 until 1927 Universum Film AG or UfA, which owned the site, was headquartered there; but the lower floors contained a 1,196-seat cinema, called the Lichtspieltheater im Piccadillyhaus or the Kammerlichtspiele im Haus Potsdam (Cinematograph in the Piccadilly House, Moving Pictures in Haus Potsdam), and the Café Piccadilly. The building was faced with sandstone and gave the impression of masonry, but had a steel frame and the cinema space was spanned by five girders. At the northern end, facing the square, was a circular pavilion topped by a copper dome rising 35 metres above the pavement, with a row of Attic statues beneath it; this was essentially a recreation of the mausoleum of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great in Ravenna. The cafe entrance was on the bottom two floors of this section. Behind it, a long, narrow section in a simplified Wilhelmine architectural style, with a mansard roof, extended some 100 metres alongside the Potsdamer Bahnhof.
The Café Piccadilly could accommodate some 2,500 guests and was lavishly decorated with wall and ceiling paintings and Sienese marble. Operated by Heinrich Braun, it was an attraction comparable to the Moulin Rouge in Paris, drawing "white collar workers, business people and tourists" by day, "amusement seekers, restaurant and variety patrons and also prostitutes" at night. One of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Street Scenes cycle of paintings, Potsdamer Platz in Berlin (1914), depicts two prostitutes on a traffic island in front of the building and the Potsdamer Bahnhof. After World War I began in 1914, it was renamed to the more patriotic Café Vaterland.[n 1]
Haus Potsdam became less successful during the 1920s, and in 1927 was sold to the Bank für Handel und Grundbesitz, which leased it for ten years to the Kempinski family of restaurateurs. They had an exclusive contract to provide all food and drink and to manage the business, which became their flagship.[n 2] In 1928, the building was reopened as Haus Vaterland, based on an idea by Leo Kronau, who had visited Coney Island in New York and wanted to emulate the international attractions in the amusement parks there and improve on Berlin's own imitation, Lunapark. He persuaded the Kempinski family, who had a 65-year track record of success as restaurateurs in Berlin, to convert Haus Potsdam into a Haus der Nationen (house of nations), and became its first artistic director, arranging entertainment to suit the flavour of each of the gastronomic units.
The architect for the conversion, Carl Stahl-Urach, the architect for Fritz Lang's Doctor Mabuse films,[n 3] modernised the exterior by applying stucco and in particular by wiring the domed section to be illuminated at night as an example of Architecture of the Night (Architektur der Nacht) or Light Architecture (Licht-Architektur) which also emulated Coney Island lighting effects. The lettering around the rotunda was illuminated, and approximately 4,000 bulbs arranged in intersecting arcs on the dome turned on and off to create the illusion of spinning motion. A reporter in Germania applauded the "Babylonian dome" as irrefutable evidence that "here, world-capital life is pulsing." David Clay Large describes it as "a beacon of commercial kitsch". Inside, the cafe was renovated and the building extended and the cinema moved to make room for a new entrance block in the centre of the building; in the rest of the space, restaurants dedicated to different countries and regions of the world were constructed. Each was decorated appropriately with dioramas up to 6 metres deep, panoramas, and lighting effects, and served appropriate food; it was an early example of modern theme dining or experiential gastronomy. While the main shows took place in the ballroom, each theme restaurant also had musicians of the appropriate origins on staff to complete the dining experience, including at least six dance bands.[n 4] A central kitchen occupied the entire top floor, connected to the different dining establishments by pneumatic tubes, through which orders came up, and dumbwaiters, by means of which food was sent down and dirty dishes sent back up; conveyor belts at kitchen level transferred the dishes to be machine washed, dried and stacked. The whole was run on American-influenced principles of industrial efficiency. It published a house magazine called Berolina - Latin for Berlin and most famously embodied in the statue in the Alexanderplatz.
It was an enormous and popular establishment, and like Haus Potsdam before it, is frequently alluded to in both artistic and tourist contexts, for example in Irmgard Keun's 1932 novel Das kunstseidene Mädchen (The Artificial Silk Girl). Its combination of spectacle, variety performances, international dining and cinema was unique. Large sees it as having been "a kind of proto-Disney World". The building could accommodate up to 8,000 people; the 4,454 square metres of theme restaurants had a capacity of 3,500 people and Café Vaterland was the largest in the world; the one millionth guest was recorded in October 1929, barely a year after the opening.
Third Reich and World War II
In the Nazi years, the mix of restaurants was modified and the Jewish Kempinskis had to sell the building for a pittance to "Aryans" and leave the country. A 1936 French film, Les Loups entre eux (English title: The Sequel to Second Bureau), features scenes in Haus Vaterland, including "the Horst Wessel song booming from the loud-speaker". The business continued to host throngs of customers even after Berlin began to suffer heavy bombing by the Allies. In 1943 the building was damaged, particularly in the central section, in the raid on the night of 22 November that destroyed much of the centre of the city. On 2 February 1945 it was bombed out, only the walls left standing.
After the war, Potsdamer Platz was the point where three of the four Allied occupation zones met. The ruined Haus Vaterland was in the Russian sector, but had doors to both the British and the American. In 1947, Café Vaterland was reopened in an acclaimed gesture of will to rebuild the city, and in 1948 the Communist cabaret Frischer Wind was playing there, while because of its position on the sector lines, it was a hotbed of spying, flight from the East, and black marketing in currency and goods.
The building was finally completely burnt out on 17 June 1953, along with Erich Mendelsohn's Columbushaus, during the East German strike and protest. It was then left in ruins, the windows simply being walled up. It was adjacent to the Berlin Wall after its construction in 1961. In 1966 Der Spiegel described the desolation of the Potsdamer Platz during those years, with birch trees growing out of the rubble of what had been the busiest traffic intersection in Europe and kestrels nesting in the ruin of Haus Vaterland and hunting rats which emerged from locked S-Bahn entrances.
In 1972, the Senate of West Berlin bought the building as part of 8.5 hectares of land to build a road, and had it demolished in 1976. The 600 tonnes of iron and steel were sold as scrap. In the mid-1980s artists and members of the alternative culture converted the wasteland, which had been used for dumping and parking, into a caravan colony.
Ironically, when Potsdamer Platz was rebuilt after German reunification, the site of Haus Vaterland was the only parcel on which no entertainment facility was sited, only offices, because it was felt to be too small. The building abutting the square was given a semi-circular façade in homage to the round section of the building which had once stood there.
Haus Vaterland promised die Welt in einem Haus - "the world in one house". Siegfried Kracauer said, "Haus Vaterland includes the entire globe". He also pointed out the contrast between the "exaggerated" New Objectivity in the style of the "immense" lobby and the "luxuriant sentimentality" of the dining establishments as little as one step away. He used this example to argue that the New Objectivity was merely a façade. To Franz Hessel, it was a "perfectly planned city of entertainment" which demonstrated the nascent totalitarianism of "monster Germany". Sydney Clark summed it up in his guide for British tourists as a must-see because it typified Berlin:
I can think of no better way to top off a Berlin night . . . than an hour or two or three in Haus Vaterland. The place is certainly not "high hat," nor is it low hat, but it is of the very essence of Berlin.
The original attractions were:
Kammerlichtspiele im Haus Vaterland
The cinema, from about 1920 renamed UFA-Haus am Potsdamer Platz, was moved and enlarged to 1,415 seats in Stahl-Urach's renovation. The auditorium was strikingly modern, on a circular plan and with vibrant red carpeting and gold-painted wooden trim on the seats. It was one of five Berlin cinemas Sydney Clark recommended to the American tourist in 1933 as worth seeing (the others being the Titania-Palast, the UFA-Palast am Zoo, the Primus-Palast and the Phoebus Palast).
The ballroom, also called the Palmensaal (palm room) was under the dome, and intended as a re-creation of the Garden of Eden. It was decorated with silver palm fronds and sculptures by Josef Thorak, who was to be popular during the Nazi era. Jazzmeister Bill Bartholomew led the house dance band and the "Vaterland-Girls" performed.
A re-creation of a Viennese Heuriger in Grinzing, on the third floor. The menu included Sachertorte prepared from the authentic recipe; the Kempinskis had an exclusive licence to offer it in Berlin. Guests sampled the new wine looking out at the steeple of St. Stephen's cathedral against a starry sky, and a tram with interior lights lit crossed the bridge over the Danube. In the Berliner Tageblatt, the Austrian writer Arnold Höllriegel declared the place to be far more genuine than the real thing.
The Rheinterrasse (Rhine terrace) on the third floor in the circular section of the building, had a diorama to give the illusion of sitting outdoors overlooking the river between Sankt Goar and the Lorelei rock. A troupe of twenty "Rhine maidens" danced between the tables under hoops twined with grape vines. Hourly thunderstorms were created by lighting and sound effects; one American visitor reputedly "beam[ed] like a movie theater façade on Broadway" when told about this. The establishment used the motto:
The Türkisches Café (Turkish cafe), on the fourth floor, had gilded arches and marble floors.
The Löwenbräu, across from the Türkisches Café on the fourth floor, emulated a Bavarian bierkeller and looked out on a painted view of the Zugspitze, behind which diners could watch the sun set. An "original Bavarian band" provided the entertainment.
Wild West Bar
A frontier saloon in the Rocky Mountains, also on the fifth floor. Dancing was to American jazz, and cowboys in full western get-up, some of them black, twirled their lassos. Beautiful chorus girls also performed there. Sidney Bechet played there in the early 1930s, with "The McAllan Blackband", which was led by the Somali-German drummer William 'Willi' Mac Allan, and the "Tom Bill Nigger Band". It was later renamed the Kolonialstube (colonial parlour).
There were no British or French rooms because Kempinski was too patriotic to forgive them for the Treaty of Versailles. In 1930, the Bodega was relocated to make room for two more regional German rooms:
- There is disagreement about the exact new name of the cafe and about when the building was renamed. According to Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany, Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2000, p. 87, Café Piccadilly became Deutsches Café (German Café); according to Werner Hecht, et al., ed., Bertolt Brecht, Werke: grosse kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, Volume 1, Stücke I, [East] Berlin: Aufbau/Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989, ISBN 9783351004026/9783518400616, p. 561 (in German), it became Deutsches Kaffeehaus 'Vaterland' ('Fatherland' German Coffeehouse); according to Mark R. McGee, Berlin: A Visual and Historical Documentation from 1925 to the Present, Woodstock, New York: Overlook, 2002, ISBN 978-1-58567-213-4, p. 136, it became the Deutsches Cafehaus (German Coffeehouse), and he and Zeitz among others state that the entire building was renamed Haus Vaterland in 1914; Hänsel and Schmitt, p. 193, also implies this, saying that the cinema became the Kammerlichtspiele im Haus Vaterland in 1914, and Kreimeier, p. 43, refers to it as "the Fatherland House (formerly the Piccadilly)" in 1919. However, according to Green, the building was Haus Potsdam for 16 years. Also Elfi Pracht, M. Kempinski & Co., Historische Kommission zu Berlin, Berlin: Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung Beuermann, 1994, ISBN 978-3-87584-458-0, p. 72 (in German) dates the renaming of the building to 1 February 1928.
- A history in Der Spiegel, "Kino - das grosse Traumgeschäft: Bei der UfA machte man das so ...", 29 November 1950 (in German) represents it as a direct sale to Kempinski.
- McGee, p. 136, describes him as an entrepreneur.
- Green notes (p. 223, note 40) that Richard Fleischer, the artistic director from 1935 to 1943, told him that the Wild West cowboys were Americans, but most of the other performers were Germans playing parts. Sontheimer also says the "gypsy" violinists were from Neukölln (p. 164).
- Some sources have Im Haus Vaterland ißt man gründlich, hier gewitterts stündlich - In Haus Vaterland one dines thoroughly, here it storms hourly.
- Hans Borgelt, Die UFA - ein Traum: hundert Jahre deutscher Film: Ereignisse und Erlebnisse, Berlin: Ed. q, 1993, ISBN 978-3-86124-178-2, pp. 70, 127 (1917)(in German)
- Klaus Kreimeier, trans. Robert and Rita Kimber, The Ufa Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945, 1996, repr. Berkeley: University of California, 1999, ISBN 978-0-520-22069-0, p. 43 (1919)
- Sylvaine Hänsel and Angelika Schmitt, eds., Kinoarchitektur in Berlin 1895-1995, Berlin: Reimer, 1995, p. 193 (in German)
- Roger Green, "The City and Entertainment: Coney Island and Haus Vaterland", Berlin/New York: Like and Unlike: Essays on Architecture and Art from 1870 to the Present, ed. Josef Paul Kleihues and Christina Rathgeber, New York: Rizzoli, 1993, ISBN 0-8478-1657-5, pp. 210–23, p. 216, and illustrations p. 217.
- Peer Zietz, Franz Heinrich Schwechten: ein Architekt zwischen Historismus und Moderne, Stuttgart: Menges, 1999, p. 51 (in German)
- Otto Sarrazin and Friedrich Schultze, "Der Neubau 'Haus Potsdam' in Berlin", Zentralblatt der Bauverwaltung May 18, 1912, pp. 254–57, p. 254 (in German)
- Zietz, p. 50.
- Photographs Sarrazin and Schultze, p. 259, Plate 16; Green p. 218, Plate 12.
- Franziska Nentwig, ed., Berlin im Licht, Exhibition catalogue, Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, Berlin: G & H, 2008, ISBN 978-3-940939-06-7, p. 177 (in German)
- Knud Wolffram, Tanzdielen und Vergnügungspaläste: Berliner Nachtleben in den dreißiger und vierziger Jahren: von der Friedrichstraße bis Berlin W, vom Moka Efti bis zum Delphi, Reihe Deutsche Vergangenheit 78: Stätten der Geschichte Berlins, Berlin: Hentrich, 1992, ISBN 978-3-89468-047-3, p. 202 (in German)
- Walter Austin, A War Zone Gadabout: Being the Authentic Account of Four Trips to the Fighting Nations during 1914, '15, '16, Boston: Hinkley, 1917, OCLC 1905505, p. 22.
- Martin Ignatius Gaughan, German Art 1907-1937: Modernism and Modernisation, Bern/Oxford: Lang, 2007, ISBN 978-3-03910-900-5, p. 93.
- Rose-Marie and Rainer Hagen, What Great Paintings Say, Volume 2, Cologne/London: Taschen, 2003, ISBN 978-3-8228-1372-0, p. 420.
- Katharina Gerstenberger, Writing the New Berlin: The German Capital in Post-Wall Literature, Studies in German literature, linguistics, and culture, Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2008, ISBN 978-1-57113-381-6, p. 142.
- Eberhard Buchner, Kriegsdokumente, Munich: Albert Langen, 1914, p. 241 (in German)
- Gottfried Korff and Reinhard Rürup, Berlin, Berlin: die Ausstellung zur Geschichte der Stadt, Exhibition catalogue, Berlin: Nicolai, 1987, ISBN 978-3-87584-214-2, p. 412 (in German)
- Jochen Kleining, M. Kempinski & Co.: die "Arisierung" eines Berliner Traditionsunternehmens, M.A. thesis, Humboldt University Berlin, 2007, Hamburg: Diplomica, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8366-6194-2, p. 43 (in German)
- Green, pp. 212, 216.
- Green, pp. 216, 220.
- Green, p. 218.
- Green, p. 218 and note 34, p. 223.
- David Clay Large, Berlin, New York: Basic Books, 2000, ISBN 978-0-465-02646-3, p. 206.
- Wilhelm Klauser, "Vom Pot au Feu zum Processed Food: Das Restaurant als Ort der Moderne", Petra Hagen Hodgson and Rolf Toyka, Der Architekt, der Koch und der gute Geschmack / The Architect, the Cook, and Good Taste, Akademie der Architekten- und Stadtplanerkammer Hessen, New York: Birkhüser/Basel: Springer, 2007, ISBN 978-3-7643-7621-5, pp. 110–19, p. 114 (in German)
- Andreas Muhs and Heinrich Wefing, Der neue Potsdamer Platz: ein Kunststück Stadt, Berlin: be.bra, 1998, ISBN 978-3-930863-42-6, p. 22 (in German)
- Michael Sontheimer, Berlin Berlin: Der Umzug in die Hauptstadt, Hamburg: Spiegel, 1999, ISBN 9783455103953, p. 164 (in German)
- The souvenir programme for the 1928 opening celebration, on Klaus Lindow's site (in German)
- A 1979 article in Cadmos, referring to it as the peak of the early modern movement to entertain the customer with complete experiences of exotica: p. 85 (in French): "Le comble est atteint à Berlin . . . une sorte d'immense bâtisse où sont installés des restaurants de toutes les cuisines et employés des orchestres de toutes les nationalités."
- John Chilton, Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz, London: Macmillan/New York: Oxford University, 1987, ISBN 978-0-333-44386-6, p. 85.
- Green, p. 220.
- Chilton, p. 86.
- Klauser, p. 114, characterises it as "one of the greatest gastronomic sensations of Europe."
- MatHias Bleckman, Harry Piel: ein Kino-Mythos und seine Zeit, Düsseldorf: Filminstitut der Landeshaupstadt Düsseldorf, 1992, ISBN 978-3-929098-01-3, p. 194 (in German)
- Green, pp. 211, 220.
- Pracht, p. 75.
- Review by Graham Greene in The Spectator, 19 March 1937, The Graham Greene Film Reader: Reviews, Essays, Interviews & Film Stories, ed. David Parkinson, 1994, repr. New York: Applause, 1995, ISBN 978-1-55783-188-0, p. 183.
- Hans Saal, "Franzosen spielen Deutschland", Das Neue Tage-Buch 4 (1936) p. 910. (in German)
- Volker Wagner, "Die Nacht, in der die Uhr stehen blieb", Tagesspiegel 22 November 2003 (in German)
- "Heldentum zu hohen Preisen: am entgleisten Pof", Der Spiegel 28 August 1948 (in German)
- Heinrich Goertz, "Frischer Wind im Haus Vaterland 1948 / Erinnerungen", Die Horen: junger Literaturkreis 117–18 (1995) p. 119 (in German)
- "Briefe kamen nie an", Der Spiegel 6 July 1955 (in German)
- "Das Glitzerding", Der Spiegel 3 October 1966 (in German)
- "Anordnung der Alliierten Kommandatura vom 21. Juli 1972", Hans Heinrich Mahnke, ed., Dokumente zur Berlin-Frage Volume 2 1967–1986, Schriften des Forschungsinstituts der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V., Bonn, Reihe Internationale Politik und Wirtschaft 52/II, Munich: Oldenbourg, 1987, ISBN 978-3-486-54311-7, p. 303 (in German)
- Sontheimer, p. 158.
- Frank Roost, Branding Center: Über den Einfluss globaler Markenkonzerne auf die Innenstädte, Wiesbaden: VS, 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-15676-7, pp. 148–49 (in German)
- Green, p. 212.
- Siegfried Kracauer, Die Angestellten: aus dem neuesten Deutschland, Frankfurt: Societäts-Verlag, 1930, OCLC 493852990, (in German), quoted in Info Box: The Catalogue, 2nd ed. Berlin: Nishen, 1998, ISBN 978-3-88940-335-3, p. 205; translated by Quintin Hoare as "The Vaterland encompasses the entire globe", The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany, New York: Verso, 1998, ISBN 978-1-85984-881-4, p. 92.
- Kracauer, p. 92.
- Die Angestellten, p. 96, quoted in Sabine Hake, Topographies of Class: Modern Architecture and Mass Society in Weimar Berlin, Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan, 2008, ISBN 978-0-472-05038-3, p. 163; photograph of the lobby Fig. 4.7, p. 164, from Elisabeth Maria Hajos and Leopold Zahn, Berliner Architektur der Nachkriegszeit, Neue Architektur der Gross-städte, Berlin: Albertus, 1928, OCLC 526834.
- Franz Hessel, Ein Flaneur in Berlin, p. 57, cited in Anke Gleber, The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie, Literature, and Film in Weimar Culture, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University, 1999, ISBN 978-0-691-00238-5, p. 72 and Hake, pp. 53–54.
- Sydney Clark, Germany on £10, Ten pound series 2, London: Nicholson and Watson, 1934, OCLC 3417885, p. 190.
- Sydney Clark, Germany on $50, Fifty dollar series, New York: McBride, 1933, OCLC 4255407, p. 194.
- Green, pp. 212, 218.
- Green, pp. 218, 220.
- "viel echter als selbst in Wien": "Donnerwetter inbegriffen. Berlin wird so amerikanisch", 14 November 1929, cited in Christian Jäger and Erhard H. Schütz, Städtebilder zwischen Literatur und Journalismus: Wien, Berlin und das Feuilleton der Weimarer Republik, Wiesbaden: Deutscher Universitäts-Verlag, 1999, ISBN 978-3-8244-4349-9, p. 153 (in German), and elsewhere.
- Janet Ward, Weimar Surfaces: Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany, Weimar and now 27, Berkeley: University of California, 2001, ISBN 978-0-520-22298-4, p. 181.
- Nentwig, p. 178.
- Peter Lummel, "Erlebnisgastronomie um 1900 – Das „Haus Vaterland“ in Berlin", Herbert May and Andrea Schilz, eds., Gasthäuser: Geschichte und Kultur, Arbeit und Leben auf dem Lande 9, Exhibition catalogue, Museen des Ausstellungsverbundes, Petersberg: Imhof, 2004, 193–206, p. 194 (in German)
- Corinna Engel, Helmut Gold, Rosemarie Wesp, eds., Satt?: kochen - essen - reden, Exhibition catalogue, Museum für Kommunikation Frankfurt, Heidelberg: Braus, 2009, ISBN 978-3-89466-296-7, p. 37 (in German)
- Peter Lummel. "Erlebnisgastronomie um 1900 – Das „Haus Vaterland“ in Berlin". Herbert May and Andrea Schilz, eds. Gasthäuser: Geschichte und Kultur. Arbeit und Leben auf dem Lande 9. Exhibition catalogue, Museen des Ausstellungsverbundes. Petersberg: Imhof, 2004. 193–206.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Haus Vaterland.|
- Haus Vaterland at PotsdamerPlatz.org (in German)
- Haus Vaterland Berlin, documentation by Klaus Lindow, 2006 (in German)
- Haus Vaterland Berlin, documentation by Klaus Lindow, 2007 (in German)
- Cross-section of the ruin showing location of the different restaurants, ballroom and cinema on de.Wikipedia