About Schönholzer Heide and its Hidden Histories (Dennoch Köstlich Amüsiert) 2018
The public park Schönholzer Heide in Pankow, Berlin hosted in the past a castle, a fair ground, a film studio, a mulberry plantation, a health retreat, a nazi labour camp, war bunkers, a theatre, a public bath, a dumping ground, among other things. Today, if you know where to look you can find traces of these past activities in the park. You can still find remains from the castle and other buildings and constructions in the park. The park is used today for recreation and hosts graveyards as well as an adventure playground and a Soviet war memorial.
‘Bolle reiste jüngst zu Pfingsten’ is one of the most known folk songs using Berlin dialect. The song is about a person called Bolle who visited the Lunapark amusement park and got into all sorts of trouble. Despite this he enjoyed himself (‘Dennoch Köstlich Amüsiert’).
The project has been funded by the local government of Pankow, Berlin.
A richly equipped manor house was built in the park around the year 1800. This was later called ‘The Old Castle’. For a bout 10 years from the early 1870s the building hosted a high school for girls. In 1880 the building and surrounding areas was bought by a gun club. The run down building was to a large extent destroyed in the beginning of the 20th century and the remainings were used to build a new restaurant and party location, called ‘Schönholz Castle’. The building was extended with a large ballroom to host larger parties.
The Berlin Red Cross found the forest like area in the north of the park suitable for a health retreat and opened an institution for poor women and children who suffered from lung diseases, anaemia or other issues requiring rest and fresh air.
An open-air theatre with 2500 seats was built after the end of the Second World War in 1956 but was closed soon after Germany was divided into East and West. The theatre hosted several plays by known theatre companies, such as Hans-Otto-Theater Potsdam and the Friedrichstadtpalast.
In 1936 a larger area was rented from the shooting club to host an amusement park called Traumland (Dream Land, artist’s translation) including a large roller coster, a farrow wheel, a beer garten (Bayernhalle), a Liliputian Show and a dance hall. The amusement park was called Lunapark by the Berliners. The amusement park closed with the start of the Second World War.
The gun club already used parts of the back then unused park to meet for their activities in the 15th century. The club sold their previous club house in another location in 1882 and bought the Schönholz Castle, restored it for event purposes and built a new club house and a large area for their shooting activities. Both buildings were bombed during the Second World War. After the reunion of East Germany and West Germany the gun club restarted their activities and built a new club house.
In 1877 a commuter train station was opened nearby, helping the park become a much loved weekend destination. Around the turn of the 19th century the park was threatened by developers who saw a golden opportunity in using the land. The then-mayor of Pankow, Wilhelm Kuhr, however successfully managed to engage people to protest against the plans. The park was revamped in the beginning of the 20th century to include sports grounds and a shooting range.
Queen Elisabeth Christine bought land for the plantation in the beginning of 1750s, after being relegated by her husband Friedrichs II to live on the nearby Schönhausen Castle. Unfortunately the plantation was not very successful. The area was later used for a tennis court and as a graveyard.
Nazi Labour Camp
When the war began the Lunapark was redefined as a labour camp called the Lunalager hosting foreign war slave labourers mainly from Poland. The area was used as a storage for weapons to be used in the war. It was the second largest weapon storage in Berlin.
Colony of Weavers
From 1763 the Queen invited skilled clothiers and linen weavers from outside the region to live in the outskirts of the park and produce scarves. 12 colonialists moved here and gave name to today’s Tuchmacherweg (‘Clothier Street’, artist’s translation). The leaves of the white mulberry from the plantation were used as food for the silkworm, the cocoon of which is used to make silk. The silk was used for the scarves.
There are several bunkers and underground storage spaces in the park meant for either saving people during raids or storing mainly wood and charcoal. They were however only used for storage purposes as Berlin houses nearby had well built basements for protecting people. At some stage during the time of East Germany a person hired one bunker to grow mushrooms.
War Memorials and Graveyards
The park hosts several graveyards and war memorials. The graves include fallen soldiers from both sides during the Second World War and are therefore of particular interest. The graves also include slave labourers and civilians who died during the war. A large Soviet war memorial was opened in 1949 hosting graves with 13 200 fallen in the war.
Beginning with the Gun Club, the park has been a much appreciated place for sports activities. Mainly football but also tennis, back then organised group sports and regular sports festivities.
The film director and producer Robert Meinert rebuilt the Schönholz Castle in 1921 to host a film studio for the production of silent films for the company Ifa (Internationale Film A. G.). The full length film Marie Antoinette by Rudolf Meinert was finished in 1922 and Max Mack produced a short film called Ein Tag Film in 1928, the first using tone. The usage of tone caused an uproar amongst filmmakers as it was thought to destroy the art. After this film the company filed for bankruptcy and the studio remained unused.
In 1927/1928 a hill was build from the soil excavated to build a new underground station (today Vinetastrasse station on the U2 line).
After the building of the Berlin Wall the park itself was on the Eastern side but the train station on the western side. The theatre was no longer an easy to reach destination and so the park including the theatre lost their importance as a recreation area.
During the time of East Germany much of the park ended up being used as an unofficial dumping ground for people living nearby despite several improvement plans. It is still possible to find old junk from that time in the park. In 1984 however efforts were made to improve the park and among other things the adventure playground was built.
After the reunification of Germany the park again gained importance as a recreation destination. Today the park hosts large open spaces, forest parts, an adventure playground and sports grounds. The Soviet War Memorial and the graveyards are still major parts of the area. There is an annual percussion festival on the grounds used by the gun club.
Bolle reiste jüngst zu Pfingsten,
Nach Pankow war sein Ziel;
Da verlor er seinen Jüngsten
Janz plötzlich im Jewühl;
’Ne volle halbe Stunde
Hat er nach ihm jespürt.
Aber dennoch hat sich Bolle
Janz köstlich amüsiert.