October 24, 2010 at 11:20 pm | Posted in Art, Germany, History | Leave a comment










Night-time view of Stresemannstraße in July 1932, showing the Haus Vaterland. The Hotel Fürstenhof is in the left foreground while the brightly illuminated building in the distance is Europahaus, opposite the Anhalter Bahnhof.

Potsdamer Platz: Haus Vaterland

The period between both World Wars was the most important period of Potsdamer Platz.

It was the busiest traffic junction in Europe. In 1924 traffic lights were placed at Potsdamer Platz, the first in Europe.

This marks the the starts of the liveliest period at Potsdamer Platz, until the destruction in early1945. Directly situated on the Platz were 3 hotels (2 after 1930) and the Potsdamer Bahnhof (mainline railway station). Many tramlines crossed the Platz, as well as the U-bahn and, from 1939, the S-bahn. Adjacent was the Leipziger Platz with the Wertheim Department store.

On the far side of the Potsdamer Trainstation was the Haus Vaterland, an amusement center.

Haus Vaterland

In Stresemannstraße, and parallelling the Potsdamer Bahnhof on its eastern side, was another great magnet for shoppers and tourists alike – a huge multi-national-themed eating establishment: the Haus Vaterland. Designed by architect Franz Heinrich Schwechten (1841–1924), who was also responsible for the Anhalter Bahnhof and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, it was erected in 1911-12 as the Haus Potsdam. 93 m in length and with a dome rising 35 m above the pavement at the north (Stresemannstraße) end, it contained the world’s largest restaurant – the 2,500-seat Café Piccadilly, plus a 1,200-seat theatre and numerous offices.

These included (from 1917–27), the headquarters of Universum Film AG (aka UFA or Ufa), Germany‘s biggest film company.

On 16 August 1914, less than three weeks after the start of World War I, the Café Piccadilly was given a new name – the more patriotic-sounding Café Vaterland.

However, in 1927-8 the architect and entrepreneur Carl Stahl-Urach (1879–1933), transformed the whole building into a gastronomic fantasy land, financed and further elaborated upon by new owners the Kempinski organisation.

It reopened on 31 August 1928 as the Haus Vaterland, offering “The World in One House,” and could now hold up to 8,000 guests at a time. The Café Vaterland had remained largely untouched, but the 1,200-seat theatre was now a 1,400-seat cinema. The rest of the building had been turned into a large number of theme restaurants, all served from a central kitchen containing the largest gas-fuelled cooking plant in Europe.

These included: Rheinterrasse, Löwenbräu (Bavarian beer restaurant), Grinzing (Viennese café and wine bar), Bodega (Spanish winery), Csarda (Hungarian), Wild West Bar (aka the Arizona Bar) (American), Osteria (Italian), Kombüse (Bremen drinking den – literally “galley”), Rübchen (Teltow, named after the well-known turnip dish Teltower Rübchen, made with turnips grown locally in the small town of Teltow just outside Berlin), plus a Turkish cafe and Japanese tearoom; additionally there was a large ballroom. Up to eight orchestras and dance bands regularly performed in different parts of the building, plus a host of singers, dancers and other entertainers. It should be pointed out here though that not all of these attractions existed simultaneously, owing to changes in those countries that Germany was or was not allied to, in the volatile years leading up to and during World War II, a good example being the closure of the Wild West Bar following America’s entry into the war as an enemy of Germany.

About halfway through Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972) there is an abrupt cut from revellers in the restaurant of Berlin’s hotel Kempinski to a corpse lying in a street.

Police constables stand around and there are Communist party placards. A KPD flag flutters in a breeze. A couple of paraplegic war veterans look on. a trail of red leads from the head of the bundle. Either the figure was shot in the head at close range, or his head was smashed against a pavement stone and the corpse dragged across the street. After the hotel, with its lively characters manically posturing and guffawing, the street scene is strangely inert and silent. It is as though the figures are posing for a photograph, …

However, in 1927-8 the architect and entrepreneur Carl Stahl-Urach (1879–1933), transformed the whole building into a gastronomic fantasy land, financed and further elaborated upon by new owners the Kempinski organization…”


TrackBack URI

Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: