KREUZBERGED BERLIN

Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

TODAY IN BERLIN: VATER ZILLE IS DEAD

Heinrich Zille, the legendary Berlin character, illustrator and photographer, died on August 9, 1929. His works documenting the life of the poorest and of the lower classes in general, with all its tragic sadness and irony, brought him not only endless respect of those he potrayed but also great regard among those who had been unaware of the former group´s existence before.

One of Zille´s numerous images of the everyday life in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century.

One of Zille´s numerous images of the everyday life in the late nineteenth / early twentieth century.

 

The Kaiser famously referred to Zille´s art as “Abortkunst” (abortion art) and “Rinnsteinkunst” (gutter art). Both should be considered a compliment: having caused so strong a reaction, it did what it was meant to do – it left nobody cold, not even the Emperor could ignore it.

 

A year after Zille´s death, on August 9, 1930, another fabulous Berlin character, cabaret perfomer and singer Claire Waldoff, gave a concert in the garden of Berlin´s Elite-Sänger (a singing ensemble) at the “Theater am Kotbusser Tor” in Kottbusser Straße 6/7 in Kreuzberg. The main piece she performered on that rainy afternoon was “Das Lied von Vater Zille” (Father Zille´s Song) written by the author of many Berlin classics, Walter Kollo.

The unveiling of Zille´s Memorial in Kottbusser Straße 6 in August 1929 (image by Georg Pahl, Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10259)

The unveiling of Zille´s Memorial in Kottbusser Straße 6 in August 1929 (image by Georg Pahl, Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10259)

 

The performance accompanied the unveiling of Zille´s Memorial: a poured concrete image of the sitting artist made by Paul Kentsch. In 1948, on Zille´s 90th birthday, the scuplture was removed from Kottbusser Straße and brought to Bergstraße in the north of the city (Berlin-Mite today). Berlin was about the become divided for decades and the Soviet-controlled sector was adamant that the aritst´s memorial should be displayed where working class lives mattered most.The former Sophienpark, on the site which used to be Berlin´s historical Gallows Hill where executions took place, was duly re-named Heinrich-Zille-Park.

The same monument in 1958 in Bergstraße in Mitte (image by Rudi Ulmer, Bild 183-52247-0004)

The same monument in 1958 in Bergstraße in Mitte (image by Rudi Ulmer, Bild 183-52247-0004)

 

Sadly, the memorial – the original 1930 scuplture – was removed from the park later. Its fate is unknown.

 

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