Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
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.
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 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.
Sadly, the memorial – the original 1930 scuplture – was removed from the park later. Its fate is unknown.