Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
One word: Kleinbeerenstrasse.
I will bet my freshly acquired medical ankle braces (yep, winter and ice are already harvesting first victims but my injury is – like 90% of all injuries – a home-made one, thank you) that your first thought was to correct the above.
The word GROßBEERENstrasse was positively hanging on your lips.
It´s no wonder. Hardly anyone realises the “Big Berries Street” has a smaller sister.
And that´s how she came to be.
The brand new little street built parallel to Hallesches Ufer between Möckernstrasse and Großbeerenstrasse and occupied mostly by construction sites belonging to one Baumeister (master builder) Caspar is named Kleinbeerenstrasse.
Baumeister Caspar´s wish to have it called Sadowa Strasse is in the end ignored (the Battle of Sadowa is another name for the Battle of Königgratz in Austro-Prussian War after which Königgratzer Strasse, today Stresemannstrasse, was named in 1867).
It is only fitting that a small street ending in Großbeerenstrasse (commemorating, what else, another famous battle of the Swedish-Prussian War of 1813) should be named after a small village right outside Großbeeren.
Despite its rather unimpressive size, in its old days before the last war Kleinbeerenstrasse used to be home to many a famous establishments.
Between 1886 and 1915 No. 16-19 housed the famous Königliche Augustaschule, a school for girls from the so called better families. It neighboured at another very important centre of education, Askanische Gymnasium in Hallesche Strasse.
After in 1915 the Augustaschule moved to Elssholzstrasse, the address Kleinbeerenstrasse 13-19 belonged to the new wing of Land- und Amtsgericht II (The 2nd Regional and County Court), built by Erich Meffert and Ernst Petersen. Sadly, it fell prey to the air-raid blasts and the fire some 30 years later.
Number 25 became famous on November 8th, 1912 when an organisation called Versicherungsgenossenschaft der Privatfahrzeug- und Reittierbesitzer (The Insurance Cooperative of Private Vehicle and Riding Animals Owners) was established here. It was the forerunner of today´s car insurance for private users.
And just a as a little side-note: in 1931 the house at No. 25 was also the registered address of a certain Amalie Alpern (telephone-number: Bergmann 3526). Frau Alpern´s cinema, “The Capitol”, was a very popular entertainment spot in another corner of Kreuzberg: in Hasenheide 28/31.
But it is No. 26 that comes last but definitely not least.
It was into this house that a book and map publisher Alexius Kiessling moved his business from Brandenburgstrasse 64 some time in 1891 (by the way, Brandenburgstrasse was re-named Lobeckstrasse in 1962). The name of Kiessling might not be famous these days but back then his publications were as popular as Baedeker, Pharus or later Falk.
Actually, Alexius Kiessling´s Buch- und Landkarten Verlag (Book and Map Publishers) managed to play David to Baedeker´s Goliath: in 1878 he started publishing a little city guide which he named – not exactly per coincidence – “Berliner Baedeker”. Baedeker, the king of the guide-book market since 1812, was until then selling mostly regional guides for Germany. Berlin was featured only as an addition to the “Mittel- und Norddeutschland” volume.
Seeing those not yet sailed yet perfectly navigable waters, Kiessling chose to ride the competition´s wave. It took quite a lot of chutzpah to do what today would amount to an act of brand-name piracy. The theft was undeniably also a compliment – after all Kiessling used the company name as a synonym for a guide-book – but Baedeker publishers did not take it well anyway.
Still, Kleinbeerenstrasse publishing house forced the giant to re-consider their offer: soon they, too, had a special guide-book for the capital. Due to the fast development of Berlin and the permanent changes happening (the saying: “Berlin´s fate is never to be but always to become” was as true then as it is in 2012) Baedeker had to speed up their work and from 1914 every two years a new book was available.
Meantime, Alexius Kiessling was busy publishing very well designed books and equally excellent maps: just like his other later publications, his map of Berlin from 1892 was widely praised.
One of the great achievements of Kiessling´s publishing house was the cycling map of Berlin available since 1898. After in 1884 all bicycle traffic was banned in Prussian capital (which was nothing unusual then – most big European cities considered the conflicts with other traffic participants and the risk of frightening the horses to be a reason enough to get rid of the shaky single-track vehicles from the city centre), the ban got partly lifted in 1896. Now only some of the streets were out of bounds for the hasty cyclists.
Obviously, it paid to know which of the areas should be avoided when bicycling and Alexius Kiessling´s map came in very handy. In 1904 his printing machines were busy producing already the 5th edition of Kiessling´s Neuer Radfahrer-Plan für Berlin und Vororten. A copy of it is available in Berlin Landesarchiv (under the signature of F Rep 270, A 8036. Or online here:
In 1920 Kiessling´s Verlag was bought by Flemming Verlag, another big player on the market. Unfortunately I was unable to find out what happened to Alexius himself.
Perhaps it was a good thing that he never lived to see the end of this pretty little street when it was bombed and when it burnt in the 1940s, leaving behind practically nothing. The final blows came in June 1963 and then once again three years later: Kleinbeerenstrasse had two sections of its length cut off and was turned into a tiny quiet cul-de-sack.
Today the only sounds disturbing the silence there are the screeching of the bicycle brakes when the judges arrive at the court in the morning and later the sound of cigarette smoke being puffed out outside the court when yet another trail comes to an end…