Ella Fitzgerald described her as „the best singer without a voice“. Her mother pronounced her “talent-free”. And during her test performance at the State Film School in Babelsberg her typical Berlinerisch pronunciation and the habit of swallowing word-endings made the examiners cringe. Yet despite all those apparent shortcomings, Hildegard Knef, who never claimed to be a talent or a beauty, became a head-turner, a star and a legend. And not only in Berlin.

Hildegard Knef on stage in Eindhoven in the play “Nicht von Gestern”. Photo by Wim van Rossem / Anefo – Nationaal Archief.

Bombed in 1944 and abandoned ever since (image by Notmsparker)

Contrary to what we hear all too often these days – more as a warning than as a fact, I believe – Berlin still has its little secrets and surprises. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have stumbled into both of them during a bike reconnaissance for a new book.

The sight of an overgrown red-brick ruin with a large tree growing through a no longer present roof had me press my brakes with such gusto that I nearly catapulted myself out of the saddle. A beautiful rusty fence and an elegant gate whose bottom part has already been devoured by rust, guard what looks like a Secret Garden par excellence. If I have ever seen a time-traveller’s portal to the Past in Berlin, then this must be one.

Quick internet search helped me establish that the abandoned villa once belonged to Professor August Hinderer, a man whose name has long been forgotten but deserves to be remembered again.

You can learn more about him and about the history of the house, which hit by bombs on the night of March 23-24, 1944 has never been inhabited since, by reading a great text by a true expert in Berlin’s secret and abandoned sites, Ciaran Fahey. You will find the story of the Hinderer villa below (please click the image).

Ciaran’s book “Abandoned Berlin” is a must for all Berlin & urbex fans.