Today’s mood in Berlin – it must have been April, too, when Lesser Ury made sketches for this painting in 1910 on Kurfürstendamm. Back in the days when Charlottenburg was an independent city said to have been the wealthiest municipality in Prussia.
Ury himself lived at Nollendorfplatz 1 in Berlin W30 (the old postal code for Schöneberg). At the time his biggest “enemy” (it was more of a bitter competition but not one marked by malice) had his studio almost exactly 3.3 km north-east of Ury’s, in the very heart of fine Berlin. Professor Max Liebermann, the heavy-weight of Berlin art-world, and his family resided on the second floor of the house Pariser Platz No. 7.
The anecdote has it that when Lesser Ury allegedly began to spread a rumour that it was him and not Liebermann who created the exquisite light-effects in the master’s famous 1887 painting, “Flax Scourers in Laren”, Liebermann – famous for his direct ways and sense of humour – responded: “I can’t be bothered to sue Herr Ury – unless he starts telling people that it was I who painted his paintings.”
Last night #RBB (Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg) – for obvious reasons our favourite German TV station – treated its viewers to another episode of its highly appreciated documentary series Geheimnisvolle Orte (Secret, or Mysterious, Places).
This time it is all about the KaDeWe: since its opening in 1907 Berlin´s Kaufhaus des Westens (the Department Store of the West) remains an elegant temple of shopping, the Mecca of jet-setting keen buyers.
Its story is a rich tapestry of anecdotes and historically significant moments. Its fate reflects that of Berlin itself almost one-to-one: the Wilhelminian show-off opulence, braggadocio and drama, the Weimar Republic “wild & wasteful” craze and sudden financial slump, the Nazi-era tragedy of the Jewish management and staff, followed by the Second World War wreckage and the resurrection; division of Berlin and the 1960s anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-government student movement for whom the KaDeWe became a symbolic enemy (also because the man behind the store´s post-war resurrection, its post-war manager, held his post thanks to the 1933 Nazi process of “aryanisation” of Jewish enterprises). In 1989 the Kaufhaus des Westens was also among the most important destinations for many awe-struck East Berliners.
The RBB documentary captures all of those moments and the experts as well as the store´s management do their best to elucidate the special, almost royal, status of Schöneberg´s old shopping temple. In our humble opinion, they succeed.
The documentary is in German only, however, the precious historical film material it contains makes it worth watching even if you do not understand a word. Please click the image to enter.
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