Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Did you know that the first ever regular TV broadcast in the world started in Berlin on 22 March 1935? In fact, the “regular” part did not begin until three days later, however, the actual debut took place exactly 83 years ago.
On that day the Reichssenderleiter Eugen Hadamovsky, the Nazi head of broadcasting, introduced a brand new service that would become a world-wide favourite for many decades to come. The name “Deutscher Fernsehrundfunk” would soon be changed to “Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow” to honour the man whom the Nazis crowned as the Father of Television. Not to diminish Nipkow’s contribution or achievements, it should nevertheless be said that at least two other German engineers should have been celebrated as its inventors: Jewish physicist Siegmund Loewe and an aristocrat-turned-scientist, Manfred von Ardenne.
The first ever TV show was presented live and began with the announcement: “Achtung, Achtung! Here is the ultra-short-waves transmitter station Witzleben on the 7.06 metre wavelength. The first regular TV broadcast!” It lasted 2.5 h and included a film “Mit dem Kreuzer Königsberg in See”, a cartoon film as well as a bit of music to round it off.
The first regular TV presenter was a young actress, Else Elster, chosen for her outgoing personality and clear pronunciation as much as for her perfect Aryan look. From March 1934 she was part of the test broadcast consisting of an hour-long programme presenting magicians, singers and instrumentalists sharing their skills with a small but curious – and often perplexed – audience. Later she shared the post with another young woman, Ursula Patschke, who made a spectacular professional leap from a position at the Haus des Rundfunks post office (Berlin’s Haus des Rundfunks in Masurenallee housed the main broadcasting studio) to the place in front of the camera.
Interestingly, both presenters worked in complete darkness: sat in a tiny room where they could see nothing, they had to stare right into the camera positioned somewhere before them. That explains the slightly unnatural, bewildered look on their faces in the few still available images and film recordings.
Until July 1939 the only available TV-sets could be found at the ministries, at public offices and businesses and in the so called “Fernsehstuben” – TV rooms – which were nothing else but the first public viewing locations. The first one of them opened on April 9 at Berlin’s Reichspostmuseum (now Museum für Kommunikation) on the corner of Leipziger Straße and Mauerstraße in Mitte. Two Telefunken-Heimempfänger FE IV with screen measuring 18 x 22 centimetres provided free-of-charge entertainment to around 30 viewers. Initially, around 3,000 people visited this first ever public TV viewing venue to find out what television was. Buying a private TV set as a regular mortal was not possible yet. It was an elite thing.
The first 20 TV receiver models made by Telefunken, Fernseh AG, Loewe, TeKaDe, Lorenz & Ardenne, Deutsche Phillips and by Müller presented during the Great German Broadcasting Exhibition in August 1935 in Berlin, burnt down along with the whole Deutsche Reichspost stand only three days after the exhibition’s opening.
During the Olympics of 1936 which took place in Berlin, the Fernsehsender Paul Nipkow could be received and watched 16 days long on any of the 25 public TV broadcasting receivers in Fernsehstuben in Berlin, Hamburg, Potsdam and Leipzig as well as on bigger screens installed at the Fernsehtheaters. Some 150,000 took this opportunity and thus made sure that TV became the next big thing for both entertainment and propaganda.
On July 28 1939 first 50 private TV-sets were put on sale at the mind-blowing price of 650 Reichsmark and were sold out within days.
The regular TV broadcast in Germany – three times a week – ran until October 1944, watched mostly by soldiers in field hospitals: with the lovely Ilse Werner it made sure than the daily show of music, dance and attractive young ladies. In May 1945 the Untergang was not televised.
And here is a historic moment captured on March 22, 1935 (or some time around it): Else Elster makes with her first TV announcement.
Like many others, this story, too, has been featured in “Notmsparker’s Berlin Companion”, available via berlinarium.bigcartel.com. Part II of the “Berlin Companion” will be on sale from April 1.