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‘Farmers on notice’: the threat faced by Weimar Berlin's garden colonies in the face of the city's Neues Bauen housing programme

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2012


The Neues Bauen programme of urban development in Weimar Germany is best known amongst English-speaking historians for its modern housing estates, including those built by Bruno Taut in Berlin. Less well known are the negative impacts of this programme, particularly the displacement of thousands of garden colonies from the outskirts of towns and cities, which were cleared to make way for new developments. This article focuses on the historical development of the garden colonies in Berlin, and the threat they faced from urban expansion during the Weimar era.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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1 The term became common currency in the late twenties. Architectural critic Adolf Behne was one of those responsible for its dissemination, having published his book Neues Wohnen, neues Bauen (new living, new building) in 1927.

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4 The term ‘relative stability’ is Jost Hermand's. See Hermand, J., ‘Unity within diversity? The history of the concept “Neue Sachlichkeit”’, in Bullivant, K. (ed.), Culture and Society in the Weimar Republic (Manchester, 1977), 167Google Scholar.

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10 Johnson, R.E., Peasant and Proletarian: The Working Class in Moscow in the Late Nineteenth Century (Leicester, 1979), 3950Google Scholar. I am not including the Russian dacha in my contextualization, for these were originally a product of aristocratic society. It was only by the twentieth century that they began more closely to resemble the German Kleingärten of the same period.

11 Crouch and Ward, The Allotment, 15, 18–19.

12 For a brief history of the ‘chalet’ and allotment gardens in Denmark, see A. Damin and J.F. Palmer, ‘Rural life in the city: the chalet garden in Denmark’, Proceedings of the 2002 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium (2002) An outline of allotment garden culture across Europe and further afield is given in: Crouch and Ward, The Allotment, 134.

13 Primary and secondary accounts of urban working-class culture in nineteenth-century Paris make scant mention of allotment gardens in the country's major urban centres. See, for example, Berlanstein, L.R., The Working People of Paris, 1871–1914 (Baltimore, 1984)Google Scholar; Traugott, M., The French Worker: Autobiographies from the Early Industrial Era (Berkeley, 1993)Google Scholar. Eugen Weber suggests the rural migrants working in Paris in the mid- to late nineteenth century failed to adapt or respond to their urban surroundings, arguing that they ‘remained completely unaffected’ by their environment, ‘taking nothing, learning nothing that Paris offered them’. Weber, E., Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernisation of Rural France, 1870–1914 (London, 1979), 282Google Scholar.

14 Lovell cites statistics detailing the class demographic of dacha owners in the 1930s in Lovell, S., ‘The making of the Stalin-era dacha’, Journal of Modern History, 2 (2002), 278Google Scholar.

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16 Numerous local history and Alltagsgeschichte studies that concentrate on the garden colonies have been published in Germany. Two particularly good studies relevant to Berlin include Warnecke, P. et al. , Ein starkes Stück Berlin 1901–2001: 100 Jahre organisiertes Berlin Kleingartenwesen (Berlin, 2001)Google Scholar; Diehl, U. and Weidmann, G. (eds.), Weddinger Gärten Gestern und Heute (Berlin, 1985)Google Scholar.

17 The avant-garde nature of Taut's housing estates and Wagner's urban-planning policies are discussed respectively in Lane, B.M., Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918–1945 (Cambridge, MA, 1985), 87Google Scholar, and Tafuri, M., The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s (Cambridge, MA, 1990), 197Google Scholar.

18 Reinhold, W., ‘Die Berliner Laubenkolonisten’, in Katsch, G. and Walz, J. B. (eds.), Kleingärten und Kleingärtner im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1996), 126Google Scholar.

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20 Bernstein, E., Die Geschichte der Berliner Arbeiterbewegung (Glashütten im Taunus, 1972), 230Google Scholar; F. Schulz, ‘Rückblicke eines alten Berliner Kleingärtners (Auszüge)’, in Katsch and Walz (eds.), Kleingärten und Kleingärtner, 133–4.

21 M. Ring, ‘Ein Besuch in Barackia: Berliner Lebensbild’, Die Gartenlaube (Jul. 1872), 458–61.

22 Bernstein, Berliner Arbeiterbewegung, 257–61.

23 Wendt, G., ‘Kleingartenwesen und Partei’, Unser Weg, 2 (1929), 36Google Scholar; Springer, R., Berlin: Ein Führer durch die Stadt und ihre Umgebungen (Leipzig, 1861), 30Google Scholar.

24 Reich, Wohnungsmarkt in Berlin, 124–5.

25 Reinhold, ‘Die Berliner Laubenkolonisten’, 128.

26 Reinhold, W., Tätigkeitsbericht des Vorstandes für das Geschäftsjahr 1929, Berlin: Provinzialverband Groß-Berlin, Reichsverband der Kleingartenvereine Deutschlands, 1929 (Berlin, 1929), 23Google Scholar.

27 Albrecht, O., ‘Deutsche Kleingartenpolitik’, Die Arbeit, 3 (1924), 172Google Scholar.

28 Reinhold, W., ‘Der Kleingarten als Reaktion gegen das Wohnungselend im Zeitalter zunehmender Industrialisierung und der Mietskasernen’, Kleingartenwacht, 7/8 (1927), 86–7Google Scholar.

29 Wendt, ‘Kleingartenwesen und Partei’, 36.

30 Albrecht, ‘Deutsche Kleingartenpolitik’, 172.

31 Meissner, F., Der Hausgarten: Praktische Anleitung zur Anlage, Ausschmückung und Pflege von Hausgärten, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Lauben und Laubenkolonien (Berlin, 1902), 169Google Scholar.

32 F. Ebert and R. Schmidt, ‘Die Kleingarten- und Kleinpachtlandordnung vom 31. July 1919’, in Katsch and Walz (eds.), Kleingärten und Kleingärtner, 163–5. See also Kaisenberg, G. (ed.), Kleingarten- und Kleinpachtlandordnung nebst verwandtem Recht (Berlin, 1924)Google Scholar. Otto Albrecht succinctly summarized the new act in Albrecht, ‘Deutsche Kleingartenpolitik’, 168–76.

33 Ibid., 173.

34 Reinhold, Tätigkeitsbericht, 5.

35 SPD, Sozialdemokratische Kommunal-Arbeit in Berlin 1925/1929, 102.

36 Anonymous, ‘Erntefest in der Laubenkolonie’, Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, 36 (1928), 15Google Scholar; Anonymous, ‘“Auf der Laube”: Wie 1 1/2 Millionen Großstadtfamilien wohnen’, Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, 7 (1929), 6Google Scholar.

37 ‘Kleingärtner und Wahlen: Die Sozialdemokratie fordert: “Mehr Land dem Volk”‘, Vorwärts, 17 Nov. 1929; Albrecht, O., ‘Pfingsten 1921: Kleingärtnertag!’, Der Kleingärtner, 7 (1921), 59Google Scholar.

38 Wagner, M., ‘Das Berliner Wohnungsproblem – ein Interview’, Das neue Berlin, 3 (1929), 50–7Google Scholar.

39 Schäche, W. (ed.), 75 Jahre Gehag: 1924–1999 (Berlin, 1999), 78Google Scholar.

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41 von Berlin, Bezirksamt Wedding (ed.), Rechts und Links der Panke (Berlin, 1961), 58Google Scholar.

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43 Stenbock-Fermor, A.G., Deutschland von Unten: Reisen durch die proletarische Provinz 1930 (Lucerne and Frankfurt a.M, 1980), 141–2Google Scholar.

44 P. Ehrenberg, Dauerkleingartenverein ‘Togo’ E.V, (accessed 25 Mar. 2010).

45 Busch, Zeitgemässe Grundstückspolitik, 21.

46 Barth, E., ‘Volkspark Rehberge’, Das neue Berlin, 6 (1929), 117Google Scholar.

47 ‘Volkspark Rehberge: Die Vollendung des schönen Werkes’, Vorwärts, 18 Jun. 1929.

48 Ibid.; Barth, ‘Volkspark Rehberge’, 119–21.

49 ‘Der Volkspark Rehberge: Großes Spiel- und Sportfest am Sonnabend’, Vorwärts, 20 Jun. 1929.

50 Rück, F., Der Wedding in Wort und Bild (Berlin, 1931), 65Google Scholar.

51 Reinhold, W., ‘Von Dauerkolonien in Berlin’, Kleingartenwacht, 1 (1929), 2Google Scholar.

52 ‘Richtlinien für Kleingarten-Dauergebiete, aufgestellt vom Reichsverband der Kleingartenvereine Deutschlands’, Kleingartenwacht, 5 (1927), 50–1.

53 To put this figure into perspective, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 1929 in Berlin was 43,75 Reichsmarks. Reinhold, ‘Von Dauerkolonien in Berlin’, 1; Statistisches der Stadt Berlin, Amt (ed.), Statistisches Jahrbuch der Stadt Berlin 1931 (Berlin, 1931), 36Google Scholar.

54 Reinhold, ‘Von Dauerkolonien in Berlin’, 1.

55 ‘Richtlinien für Kleingarten-Dauergebiete’, 50–1.

56 Quoted in Diehl and Weidmann (eds.), Weddinger Gärten Gestern und Heute, 21. The colloquial term ‘Laubenpieper’ is still used to refer to small-garden owners. The term literally translates into English as summerhouse pipets, and draws an analogy between the chattering garden owners who build themselves a summerhouse, and the songbirds who take great care in constructing their nest. I am indebted to Clemens Wagner for this explanation.

57 ‘Die Kleingärtner protestieren’, Neue Zeit: Das große Berliner Morgenblatt, 24 Feb. 1927.

58 ‘Autogaragen oder Kleingärten?: Skandalöser Magistratsentscheid gegen die KGD’, Die Rote Fahne, 9 Jul. 1929.

59 Albrecht, O., ‘Dauergartengebiete: Praktischer Unterrichtsstoff zur Bodenpreisfrage’, Kleingartenwacht, 11 (1927), 125–6Google Scholar.

60 J. Robertson, 2010, The Battle for Berlin's Gardens, (accessed 7 Aug. 2010).

61 Addresses in Togostraße – the main street through the Friedrich-Ebert estate – in the Berliner Adressbuch for 1933, reveal shortened entries, indicating that many flats remained empty. Berliner Adressbuch (Berlin, 1933), 865.

62 Anonymous, ‘“Auf der Laube”: Wie 1 1/2 Millionen Großstadtfamilien wohnen’, 6. Life for the unemployed and homeless in the Laubenkolonien is illustrated in Hans Fallada's novel Little Man, What Now?, as well as in Slatan Dudow's 1932 film Kuhle Wampe. Fallada, H., Little Man, What Now? (Chicago, 1983), 337–4, 356–7Google Scholar.

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