Berlin is a truly wonderful place. No matter where you go there, there’s always a secret bit of history to be discovered.
Not too long ago a curious property investor stumbled upon a bricked up building in the courtyard of a residential property in Berlin Mitte.. He managed to persuade the caretaker to open up the building – lo and behold he had stumbled upon the junked up ruins of an old Cabaret and Theater – The Kolibri Festsäle und Kabaret
So the PR Agency “Markengold PR GmbH” which represents the Moritz Gruppe GmbH got in touch with me and had a bone to pick with my pictures.
After a few email exchanges with the PR Company I got this reply:
“I had a discussion with the Moritz Gruppe – they own the cabaret. I’m very sorry to tell you, that they do not want to have other pictures to be published than the press pictures. It is because of the exhibition that was installed when you visited the buildings. No pictures were allowed inside the building at all. That’s why we cannot allow you to publish these pictures.”
In all fairness the lady from the PR agency was really polite and forthcoming – but this response from the Moritz Gruppe is more than disappointing. The PR lady attached a few images (the ones which were distributed to the press) and said I could use those, which I guess is some small consolation. It took me a day to come to some sort of conclusion as to what I should do about this . Taking down the images was a given – no point in picking a fight which I cant win – but I wasnt sure if I should keep the post up. Seeing as I bothered to write a bit of text about this place – I might as well use the official pictures and keep the post up (and to be quite frank my pictures were quite shit compared to the ones they supplied me with – but thats not the point.)
*Warning – Historical Cabaret Info*
The story starts with the businessman and property developer Oscar Garbe (who was heavily involved with the development of the Samariterkirche and the Ullsteinhaus). Oscar Garbe planned and built the 1200 squaremeter house in 1905 in the Gartenstraße. In the same year “Fritz Schmidt’s Restaurant und Festsäle“ moved in and established itself in the Berlin Ballhouse Society.
Things were apparently going very well for Fritz Schmidt and Oscar Garbe, the little Ballhouse had become a hotspot for socialites so they decided to expand. In 1919 ”Fritz Schmidt’s Restaurant und Festsäle“ had been renamed to „Kolibri-Festsäle“ – quite possibly a pun referring to the theaters small size (Kolibri is German for Hummingbird). It was at this point that they had added a Cabaret Show to the program.
And then suddenly as the going was getting good it all stopped. For reasons yet unknown, all traces of activity ended in 1934. The memories of the Theater Hall and cabaret slowly faded away. Covered up by debris and trash in the 1940s- the whole building fell into a dornröschenschlaf (sleeping beauty).
The Parquet floor, the chairs and the bannister fell victim to Berlins cold winter (and the typical Berliner wood burning ovens). Interestingly enough – the Locksmith Gerhard Kniebusch ended up using the cellar, ground and first floor. For whatever reason the ballhouse / Cabaret remained untouched or unnoticed at this point in time. With the reunification came the massive redevelopment plan for east Berlin – and as fate would have it the Kolibri Festsäle und Kabaret were just 100 meters outside of the redevelopment zone, so it remained bricked up and in disrepair.
In 2008 Dirk Moritz “found” the Cabaret again. He got in touch with the owners (who inherited the property and now live in the czech republic) and sorted out a deal with them. He managed to clear out 30 tons of debris and trash from the building, making it somewhat more accessible. As to what is going to happen with the building now, its somewhat unclear. It’s currently being rented out to an Art Gallery as a temporary exhibition space until the end of the year – and then renovations are supposed to begin.
It is unfeasible for it to be converted back to its original purpose as its proximity to residential buildings would make this a German bureaucratic and logistical nightmare. The building is apparently supposed to be renovated back to its original state though and ideally tuned into a space for artists. The project is currently looking for investors – so it’s all rather open-ended.
For those who are interested in having a look inside the Building – the “exhibition” is
on until (I think) November and is free of charge closed. This is probably your only chance of getting in at the moment. While the “Art” (if you can find it) is passabel at best, the building is quite interesting. There isn’t all too much to see, but if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, pop on by and have a look before its closed off again for the next 5 years or so.
Kolibri Festsäle und Kabaret
Garten Straße 6
Berlin Mitte – 10115