Secret Annex

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Berlin courtyard development with side wing and rear building
Was the highlight of the Berlin back house-building, as in the district of Prenzlauer Berg , the construction of several (here four) backyards in an escape .
The photo (2007) shows the entrance to the Hirschhof from Kastanienallee 12

The rear building (also called transverse building or, ambiguously, garden house ) is the building on the rear, often connected to the front building by a side wing. After it was built during the boom in the construction industry before and after the Wilhelminian era up to the First World War , the rear building was referred to as a tenement because of the precarious living conditions, or to the present day also as a backyard .

Secret buildings in Berlin

Particularly in Berlin, the general development plan ( Hobrecht Plan ) of 1862, the extraordinary block sizes of which would actually have required access to private roads, together with the incomplete building police ordinance of 1853, the provisions on the use of the parts of the property remote from the street, were of decisive importance for this construction process and the floors were missing; Apart from the alignment and the minimum size of the inner courtyards of 28 m² (the minimum turning circle of the fire engines moved by horses at the time ), the building owners were hardly restricted. It was not until the new building regulations of 1887 that the building heights were regulated more closely (up to 22 meters and five floors). The new building regulations of 1925 finally banned side and transverse wings. Buildings with a sequence of three or four rear buildings were also not uncommon in the Berlin workers' quarters.

In addition to the dense backyard development, the mixed use of residential and commercial was characteristic of the "largest tenement town in the world". Small commercial enterprises, including restaurants, ballrooms and movie theaters, often settled in the rear buildings. The commercial use of entire blocks was also not uncommon. In the back houses of Berlin's working-class districts, there were and are large production facilities for a wide variety of industries, such as clothing, metal construction, office machinery and mechanical engineering (backyard industry). One example is the old Berlin quarter, called Reuterkiez , which was built between 1871 and 1905 and is considered “typical” with its backyard factories and commercial yards .

An extreme example of dense residential and manufacturing space development was the Meyerische Hof (colloquially: Meyers Hof ) at Ackerstraße 132 in the former Berlin district of Wedding (today: Gesundbrunnen district in the Mitte district ).

The concept of mixed use was specifically implemented, for example, in the eight Hackesche Höfe built in 1906/1907 . Although the tenements were lined up as usual, they were built more carefully and more splendidly furnished, and from the outset they included business premises, entertainment venues and ballrooms. The front buildings offered generous apartments for officers, civil servants and “better society”, while workers' apartments, workshops and shops were located in the side wings and transepts.

The Secret Annex in History, Art and Literature

Heinrich Zille : Backyard in the Scheunenviertel , on the left an outhouse , 1919
  • A well-known secret annexe in recent German history is the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam . It was protected from view on all four sides by other houses, which made it a suitable hiding place for the Franks and their friends during the period of German occupation and the persecution of the Jews .
  • Noise in the Secret Annex is the title of a popular comedy and novel by Maximilian Böttcher .
  • The German writer Hans Kasper wrote the following motto: "Better to live a little longer in the rear building than move into the front building too early and later have to sing in the courtyard."
  • In the poetry book Das lyrische Stenogrammheft by Mascha Kaléko , everyday life in a stereotypical Berlin secret annex is portrayed with an ironic undertone in a prosaic inset with the title Wir vom Gartenhaus .


  • Berlin - a big building site. In: Ruth Glatzer (Ed.): Berlin becomes an imperial city. Panorama of a metropolis 1871–1890 . Siedler Verlag, Berlin, 1993, ISBN 3-88680-474-7 , p. 275.
  • Ingrid Nowel: Berlin - the new capital. Architecture and art, history and literature. Dumont, Cologne 2001, ISBN 3770155777 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Secret Annex  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Bernd Nicolai: Architecture and urban development. In: Prussia - art and architecture . Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-89508-424-7 , p. 419.
  2. Bodo Harenberg (Ed.): The Chronicle of Berlin . Chronik-Verlag, Dortmund 1986, ISBN 3-88379-082-6 , p. 214.
  3. Herbert Schwenk: Lexicon of Berlin Urban Development . Haude & Spener, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-7759-0472-7 , p. 208.
  4. Herbert Schwenk: Lexicon of Berlin Urban Development . Haude & Spener, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-7759-0472-7 , p. 209.
  5. ^ A b Rainer Haubrich , Hans Wolfgang Hoffmann, Philipp Meuser: Berlin - The architecture guide . Edon Ullstein List Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-88679-355-9 , p. 208.