Superior Court

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Supreme Court building
The courthouse in Kleistpark

The courthouse in Kleistpark

place Berlin
builder Paul Thoemer ,
Rudolf Mönnich ,
Carl Vohl,
Jean Fasquel
Construction year 1909-1913
height 22 m
Floor space 9045 m²
Coordinates 52 ° 29 '32.8 "  N , 13 ° 21' 26.2"  E Coordinates: 52 ° 29 '32.8 "  N , 13 ° 21' 26.2"  E
after 1945 demolition of the damaged tower

The Kammergericht (KG) is Berlin's highest court of ordinary jurisdiction . It is the higher regional court of the state of Berlin.

The court emerged from the middle of the 15th century by the court chamber court founded by the Brandenburg elector Friedrich II . It was first mentioned in a document in 1468 and is considered the oldest still working court in Germany. The corporation moved into a new office building in September 1913, which has belonged to the Schöneberg district since a change in the district boundary in 1938 . The house has been a listed building since June 1993 and serves as the administrative headquarters of several legal institutions.

History of the Supreme Court

Seal of the Berlin Court of Appeal on the first legal examination from November 10, 1933 - (excerpt)

The Kammergericht is the oldest German court with uninterrupted activity. It was mentioned in a document for the first time in 1468. As early as the middle of the 14th century, however, there were reports of the chamberlain , which existed as a court in Tangermünde at the court of the Margraves of Brandenburg, who were also arch chamberlain of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . On the one hand, the objects and persons who were not subject to compulsory courts and could only be prosecuted by the sovereign himself were subject to his jurisdiction. On the other hand, the chamber court was later until 1735 the highest judicial instance in Kurbrandenburg or in the later Kingdom of Prussia . It was created because of the electoral privilege, according to which no appeal to the imperial courts were possible against judgments of electoral courts ( Ius de non appellando ). This institution served as the highest appellate instance because of the princely judicial power, which was founded in the territory of the elector instead of the imperial imperial courts (in particular the imperial chamber court established from 1495 ).

From 1698 to 1735 the Court of Appeal had its seat in the old Kollegienhaus at Brüderstraße 1 in Kölln . In 1735 it became independent from the now royal court and moved into the new Kollegienhaus in Lindenstrasse in old Berlin . King Friedrich Wilhelm I had the first large administrative building of his reign built here by Philipp Gerlach in order to bring the various civil, criminal, spiritual and class courts under one roof. The baroque Kollegienhaus has been part of the Jewish Museum Berlin since the late 20th century .

At the end of the 18th century, the chamber court was divided into the judge's court (minor matters), the instruction senate (with criminal and civil deputation, and also the pupil committee ) and the senior appellate senate.

A well-known appellate court process from the 18th century was the appeal proceedings of the preacher Johann Heinrich Schulz (called Zopfschultz) against his suspension from service (1792). In another process, which is considered to be an indication of the independence of the Chamber Court, the king was defeated when he wanted to burden the city of Berlin with the costs of paving the roads.

One of the most important proceedings of the Chamber Court in the 19th century was the Polish Trial (1847). It was the first public political trial in Prussia, but because of the large number of defendants, it did not take place in the courthouse, but in the new cell prison in Lehrter Strasse . From 1853 onwards, the Kammergericht was responsible for all capital crimes in Prussia.

With the entry into force of the Courts Constitution Act in 1879, the Court of Appeal had the nine regional courts Berlin I and II, Cottbus , Frankfurt a. O. , Guben, Landsberg a. W., Potsdam , Prenzlau and Neuruppin .

In 1913 the Court of Appeal received a specially constructed building in Kleistpark in Schöneberg (see below ) .

Until 1918, the Secret Judicial Council existed as a special department , before which the members of the Prussian royal house and the Hohenzollern family had their personal jurisdiction . In addition, six judges of the chamber court together with five administrative lawyers formed the court to decide the conflicts of jurisdiction (cf. § 17 GVG ).

See also: Prussian Higher Tribunal and Prussian Higher Administrative Court .

Eduard Tigges became President of the Supreme Court in 1922. Together with State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice Curt Joël, he was the driving force behind the Weimar reform of matrimonial property law and a supporter of the community of gains . In June 1933 Heinrich Hölscher became President of the Court of Appeal as the successor to Tigges, who was forcibly retired. The role in National Socialism is viewed differently. While the judiciary in the GDR viewed Hölscher as an essential supporter of the Nazi regime, Weichbrodt (2009) assumes in his appraisal of the Nazi history of the higher court that Hölscher classified the court “in the National Socialist regime, but not beyond it has penetrated with its demon in a special way ”. In any case, since 1934 (also as a branch of the People's Court ) it has passed a large number of judgments against political opponents and critics of the regime. In 1943, under the President of the Kammergericht Johannes Block, the court's practice of repression intensified . At least 69 death sentences are known from the High Court against resistance fighters and forced laborers between 1943 and 1945. From the beginning of August 1944, the “People's Court” negotiated in the plenary hall of the Chamber Court against those involved in the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt . After the collapse of the Third Reich, Block was arrested by Soviet agents and sentenced to death by a Soviet military tribunal , and probably executed on November 25, 1945. After the Second World War , the jurisdiction of the chamber court was limited to the urban area of ​​Berlin; the surrounding area belonged to the newly created Higher Regional Court of Potsdam. At the end of 1945, the Court of Appeal initially had its seat in East Berlin ( regional court building ). The division of the Court of Appeal began with an affair involving the Vice President of the Berlin Regional Court, Jakob Blasse . This was suspended on November 8, 1948 by the President of the Court of Justice Georg Strucksberg after accusations of enrichment . While the three western powers supported this position, the Soviet court officer ordered its reinstatement. The President of the Regional Court Siegfried Loewenthal refused this order on February 4, 1949 on the grounds that such an instruction could only be issued jointly by all four powers Seat of the Court of Appeal on February 5, 1949 in the Yorckhaus on Fehrbelliner Platz in West Berlin . The vast majority of judges continued their work there. Ten of the eleven Senate Presidents decided to continue working in the Yorckhaus.

Since at the same time the Supreme Court remained in the Soviet sector, the division of the Berlin judiciary was complete. In the eastern part of the city, the Soviets declared Loewenthal and Strucksberg deposed. On February 16, they appointed Hans Freund as the new President of the Supreme Court, which in turn was not recognized in the West. The Kammergericht (East) Berlin was the part of the Kammergericht that remained in the Soviet sector of Berlin after the division of the Berlin judiciary in 1949 . From the perspective of the GDR, it was the Supreme Court of Greater Berlin . Its duties were replaced on November 27, 1959 by the GDR Supreme Court and dissolved in 1961.

From 1951 the West Berlin Chamber of Appeal had its official seat in the building of the former Reich Military Court at Witzlebenstrasse 4-5. It had the function of a higher regional court responsible for the state of West Berlin and was also responsible for state security matters such as terrorism. The President of the West Berlin Supreme Court Günter von Drenkmann was on 10. November 1974 by terrorists of the June 2 Movement in a kidnapping attempt killed . After reunification on October 3, 1990, the Chamber Court was again responsible for all of Berlin. In 1997 it moved back to its traditional location at Kleistpark, where the Allied Control Council and the Allied Aviation Security Center had their headquarters and where the Four Power Agreement of 1971 was signed.

District Court District

The chamber court district covers the entire area of ​​the federal state of Berlin. The district includes a regional court and eleven local courts. The Criminal Courts of First Instance in the building of the Criminal Court of Moabit in the District Court Tiergarten set up family courts exist in the local courts Pankow / Weissensee , Tempelhof-Kreuzberg and Schöneberg . The court for agricultural matters is set up at the Schöneberg District Court, which is also responsible in the first instance for all matters pending deportation .

In the district of the Supreme Court are 14,127 lawyers and general counsel attorneys admitted (as at 1st January 2018).

Duties of the Court of Appeal


The Kammergericht is the highest court for criminal and civil matters in the state of Berlin. It stands above the local courts and the regional court. The 144 judges negotiate political criminal cases such as espionage and terrorism as well as appeals, complaints, revisions and questions of maintenance law . You can overturn judgments and decisions of other courts. The court is headed by a president. The Kammergericht is the training authority for trainee lawyers in the state of Berlin.

Document collection

The files of all the proceedings that took place here are kept in the house, but most of them were destroyed in the course of the Second World War or are considered lost. An extensive library with around 120,000 legal books was also in the house, about half of which was moved from the Berlin State Library to a farm in Brandenburg at the beginning of the 1950s , where it was forgotten. Found again in the 21st century and brought back to the building, the books could be restored with the help of 340,000 euros from lottery funds. They are currently being spotted and will then be available again to lawyers and scientists. The holdings are summarized in a library catalog. The oldest document found so far is a court order from 1533.

Lawyers at the Supreme Court (selection)

Johann Weinlob, Chancellor in Brandenburg and first chairman of the Kurbrandenburg Chamber of Commerce

Sorted by year of birth

History of the building in Elßholzstrasse

New building

With the participation of the architects and Prussian construction officials at the Ministry of Public Works Paul Thoemer and Rudolf Mönnich (planning) as well as Carl Vohl (site management ), a new service building was built on behalf of the Ministry of Justice to meet the growing requirements. Some sources name other participants, including z. B. Jean Fasquel.

The site of the first botanical garden on Potsdamer Strasse was chosen as the location . Its glass greenhouses on the western edge of the Heinrich-von-Kleist-Park created here were demolished in 1902, and in 1909 the foundation stone was laid for the courthouse. To the north and south of the new building, open spaces were reserved for possible extensions. The property adjoins Grunewaldstrasse (in the south), Elßholzstrasse (in the west), Pallasstrasse (in the north) and Heinrich-von-Kleist-Park (in the east).

The opening ceremony of the chamber court building took place on September 18, 1913, to which numerous guests and 52 guests of honor were invited. The then Prussian Justice Minister Max von Beseler symbolically handed the new building over to the President of the Court of Justice Wilhelm Heinroth after a brass orchestra had performed .

Use until April 1945

From August 1944 to January 1945 the People's Court met in the plenary hall of the Chamber Court. During this time, among other things, the show trials led by Roland Freisler against those involved in the military resistance from the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944 took place.

Non-public use by the occupying powers

Allied Control Council schedule

After the end of the Second World War , the four victorious powers confiscated the building and housed various administrative facilities here, first and foremost the Control Council . On October 18, 1945, the International Military Tribunal for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials was constituted in the plenary hall . The sworn judges received the indictments to review and prepare for the trials of 24 major war criminals . The tribunal then adjourned to Nuremberg, but retained its "permanent seat" in Berlin in accordance with Article 22 of its charter . The Allied Control Council lost its importance after the representatives of the Soviet Union left it in March 1948 in protest against the German policy of the three Western occupying powers. After that it never met again, but was not formally dissolved until after German reunification .

Postage stamp for the Four Power Conference in Berlin in 1954 with a picture of the royal colonnades and the Court of Justice

The foreign ministers of the USA , Great Britain , France and the Soviet Union met in the Grand Chamber in early 1954 to negotiate the future of Germany. During these years, the main focus was on the question of a peace treaty with which the war could only have officially ended, and whether there should be reunification talks .

On September 3, 1971, the ambassadors of the four allies signed the four- power agreement on the status of Berlin in the plenary hall , which made it easier for guests and residents of West Berlin to travel and visit. As the last joint facility, the Allied Aviation Security Center used 20 rooms in the building until 1990.

From 1951 until the end of the division of Germany , the Court of Appeal, responsible only for West Berlin, had its seat at Witzlebenstrasse 4/5 in Berlin-Charlottenburg in the building of the former Reich Military Court .

Restoration until 1997 for new civil use

After reunification, the former occupying powers returned the building to German administration. The Senate then arranged for an extensive renovation and technical modernization of the building under the leadership of the Berlin architect couple Ralf Schüler and Ursulina Schüler-Witte. For example, corridors and stairwells were redesigned in color, additional escape routes were set up and elevators were installed in the courtyards. The extension of the top floor brought almost 6,000 m² of new usable space , the total area is now 35,165 m².

The Berlin Court of Appeal has been located in the building again since 1997, and groups can visit its large plenary hall after prior registration. Since 1992 it has also been the seat of the Berlin Constitutional Court , the Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office and several professional courts .

The association Forum Recht und Kultur im Kammergericht e. V. is also based in the building and holds regular roundtables, discussion evenings and cultural events on the subject of law in Berlin.

The building ensemble at Kleistpark

Exterior architecture

Central elevation of the Chamber Court with the tower that was demolished after 1945

The building was built from 1909 to 1913 in the historicizing neo-baroque style according to plans by the Prussian building officials Rudolf Mönnich and Paul Thoemer , who also called on Jean Fasquel and Carl Vohl as master builders . Because the official business of the court increased considerably during the design work for the building, rescheduling had to be made before the laying of the foundation stone for increased space requirements.

The structure

The building made of sandstone and basalt lava consists of three parallel longitudinal wings, which are connected to one another by short transverse wings. It rests on what the planners called a canal floor substructure. Above it are a basement, a ground floor, floors one to three and an attic. The structure is divided into 38 window axes, is around 135 meters long and 67 meters deep in the central axis. The height indicated in the info box is the distance from street level to the eaves, taken from the structural drawings. The base and the ground floor area of the building complex with Bossenwerk clad, overlying floors can be plastered and provided with various ornaments on the arches, above the windows, under the eaves and the gable. A high hipped roof forms the end of the building, each with dormer windows on the outside of the building . The roof tiles were replaced in the 1970s . The entrance from Elßholzstraße is designed as a double flight of stairs, the decoration of which is a wrought iron grille. The total cost of construction at the time was 4,283,700 marks .

The exhibition facade with the main portal faces the park and is oriented towards the royal colonnades that were moved here during the construction period . The focus of the facade design is a richly decorated central risalit , which protrudes four meters from the alignment line with four columns, the triangular gable of which bears the great coat of arms of Prussia . Other adornments of the building are arched portals, arched windows, numerous carved cartouches and three-dimensional female heads above the windows.

Also on the main front, the building was given side risalits, which were richly decorated and closed in three-part roof windows.

The tower

The tower, which was initially erected in the middle above the east wing, no longer exists. It had an octagonal floor plan, contained a clock tower and two open walkways. Its platforms could be reached via two spiral staircases, and two ladder stairs inside led to the top of the lantern . A tower ball formed the upper end .

The tower was badly damaged in a bomb strike in the immediate vicinity of the building during World War II. Its reconstruction would have cost about two million DM , which is why it was demolished after the end of the war because of the risk of collapse.

Wall design, art and more

One of the two horse tamers in front of the court

The walls of the two large inner courtyards are ornamented , those of the smaller courtyards are covered with glazed white bricks, which should promote brightness and make cleaning easier. The building encloses a total of seven courtyards of different sizes.

On the forecourt of the main portal, the horse tamers stand to the right and left of the building. These two bronze sculptures by the Russian sculptor Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg came to Berlin in 1842 as a gift from Tsar Nicholas I to his brother-in-law Friedrich Wilhelm IV and were in front of the Berlin City Palace until 1945 .

To the south of the courthouse, the architects planned a garden house for the president of the higher court.

Original interior design

Entrance hall
Great plenary hall

The representative building, inaugurated in 1913, had 540 rooms, including numerous negotiation rooms. In the first few years, the house was an official apartment for the President of the Court of Appeal with a total of 16 rooms on 520 square meters, including a ballroom, music room and fireplace room. These three common rooms were designed by the architects Bruno Paul , Joseph Wackerle and Erich R. Weiß. The residents had their own elevator available. The separate entrance was on the south front of the building.

The individual floors can be reached from three main and four secondary stairs. Of the two elevators originally installed , one has largely been preserved and in operation in the 21st century.

The walls in all corridors are tiled , in different colors depending on the floor. Various forms of vaults can be found above corridors and waiting rooms : Roman cross vaults, barrel vaults, ring vaults, monastery vaults or funnel vaults. Like the facades, various areas inside the building have been decorated with decorative elements. The entrance halls and the house-high central hall with its 17 m span have figurative and ornamental sculptures. The eight-meter-high plenary hall is decorated with stucco ceilings , chandeliers, paintings by Albert Maennchen and wooden wall panels. He has a balcony specially designed for the emperor, with groups of putti at the corners . In the office of the attorney general and in two other conference rooms on the third floor on the main front, artistically valuable stucco rosettes from the Marien-Dom in Fürstenwalde can be seen . The court library contains bookshelves with a total length of 7000 meters on four levels - two floors halved by false ceilings.

Changes in equipment

In the 45 years of use by Allied service units, a number of conversions and installations were made, of which not many are left after moving out. In the attic, the outlines of small bays have been preserved, which are said to have been set up by soldiers for keeping pigs. This improved their nutritional situation in the 1940s and 1950s. The Americans left a seahorse- shaped pointer on a wall clock in the large central hall. This depiction is reminiscent of the pioneer unit commissioned with restoration work , which used the animal as a talisman . In addition, a stand built by the Americans in the western hall porter's lodge, the four flag poles on the east façade and a closet large wooden board appointment in the eastern entrance under grandfathering .

The renovation and modernization had been completed by the 100th anniversary of the inauguration. In September 2013 there was an anniversary celebration with harp playing, press representatives and again many guests of honor.


Web links

Commons : Supreme Court  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Eberhard Schmidt : Court of Justice and the rule of law: a memorial. De Gruyter, Berlin 1968, pp. 1-4 .
  2. Altes Kammergericht, Berlin. View, cross-section, floor plan. in the holdings of the architecture museum of the TU Berlin From: Drawing committee of the students of the Royal Technical University of Berlin (Ed.): Architecture of the Baroque and Classicism in Germany. 1875.
  3. Tigges , Holtze : Supreme Court . In: Julius Magnus (Ed.): The highest courts in the world . W. Moeser, 1929, p. 61
  4. ^ Judgment text by Leopold Volkmar : Religious process of the preacher Schulz zu Gielsdorf called Zopfschulz, a light friend of the eighteenth century; represented by the act . Leipzig 1846, p. 136–158 ( full text in Google Book Search).
  5. on the course of the process: Prussian Upper Tribunal , knowledge of August 9, 1832, yearbooks for Prussian legislation, jurisprudence and legal administration . Volume 54, 1839, p. 328 f. ( Full text in google book search); popular representation: victory of the law . In: The Gazebo . Issue 13, 1866, pp. 207–208 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).
  6. Law on the establishment of higher regional and regional courts , of March 4, 1878 ( GS p. 109 )
  7. ^ Ordinance on the conflicts of jurisdiction between the courts and the administrative authorities , dated August 1, 1879 (GS p. 573 )
  8. (Stephan Weichbrodt: The History of the Court of Appeal from 1913-1945. Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag, Berlin 2009, p. 375)
  9. Johannes Tuchel: The death sentences of the higher court 1943 to 1945. A documentation. 2016, ISBN 978-3-86732-229-4
  10. ^ Friedrich Scholz: Berlin and its justice: the history of the chamber court district 1945 to 1980. de Gruyter, 1982, ISBN 3-11-008679-4 .
  11. Large membership statistics as of January 1st, 2018. (PDF; 37.3 kB) Federal Bar Association, accessed on September 5, 2018 .
  12. decisions of the chamber court (published by the regional labor court Berlin-Brandenburg in cooperation with juris GmbH)
  13. Overview of the case law of the Court of Appeal at
  14. Overview of the Kammergericht, its structure and its tasks ; Retrieved May 5, 2014
  15. a b c d Sabine Deckwerth: Where the four powers decided . In: Berliner Zeitung online. September 2, 2013, p. 18.
  16. ^ History of the library of the Kammergericht
  17. An almost complete list of judges at the Supreme Court for the period from 1538 to 1773 can be found in: Contributions to the legal literature in the Prussian states… . Volume 4, Berlin 1780, pp. 237-267 (preview on Google Books) .
  18. Fasquel, Jean . In: Address book for Berlin and its suburbs , 1900, Part I, p. 329. (with the misleading job title "Builder" - possibly meant "Government Builder", the title of an assessor in the public building administration, since Fasquel in later years with the Official designations of building officials "Landbau inspektor ", "Government and building councilor", "Oberbaurat" or "Secret building councilor" is mentioned.)
  19. This area originally belonged to the Tiergarten district of old Berlin, it was only added to the Schöneberg district in 1938.
  20. a b c Dehio-Handbuch der Deutschen Kunstdenkmäler, Berlin. ...
  21. ^ Berlin Court of Appeal - history of the building
  22. Activity report 2011 ( Memento from November 5, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 673 kB), Foreword by the President of the Court of Appeal, p. 4.
  23. ^, Lexicon: Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf from A to Z , key words: Former Reich Military Court, Reich Court Martial, Court of Appeal.
  24. ^ Website Forum Law and Culture in the Court of Appeal
  25. View of the side elevation in the first photos on; accessed on May 6, 2014.
  26. ↑ Plan drawing of the garden house for the President of the Supreme Court on architekturmuseum.ub.tu-berlin
  27. Press release for the ceremony on September 18, 2013 ; Retrieved May 4, 2014