New theater at the zoo

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Neue Theater am Zoo was a Berlin theater that was located from 1920 to 1937 at Jebensstrasse 2, in the former Imperial Hall of the Landwehr Casino. After the war damage and renovations, the former theater hall is now part of the Museum of Photography (Berlin) and is being converted into an exhibition hall.

Imperial Hall as a forerunner

The "Officer Corps of the Landwehr Inspection Berlin e. V. ”had a luxurious casino built opposite the Zoo station from 1908-09 according to plans by Heino Schmieden and Julius Boethke . It was opened on September 2, 1909 in the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II . The neoclassical building complex, which was kept simple on the outside but beautifully furnished on the inside, included a public economy, a small ballroom, a fencing hall, bowling alleys and shooting ranges. The representative heart of the building was the so-called Kaisersaal, a 665 square meter ballroom with a ceiling height of 11.40 m. The “antique Doric” shaped the festive room architecturally and artistically with its flat-vaulted coffered ceiling. Contemporary sources report that at the suggestion of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the hall was provided with “a tube lamp system over the main cornice”.

The "New Theater at the Zoo" is created

The downsizing of the Reichswehr and its officer corps after the First World War also had consequences for the casino: For economic reasons, the building was now opened to civilians. The central ballroom was converted into a theater with 750 seats. World premieres of operettas (e.g. Leo FallsDer liebe Augustin ”, 1905, Willi Kollos “Olly-Polly”, 1925, or Franz Lehár's “Frühlingsmädel”, 1928) as well as “Drama, comedy, teasing and comedies” (Police concession v July 1, 1929) can be proven. The press wrote derisively about an "entertainment stage for higher daughters". The changes in the Berlin entertainment sector at the end of the 1920s proved to be problematic: the “New Theater am Zoo” was now rather inconveniently located at the back of the Bahnhof Zoo, in the “second row”, and was gradually surrounded by competitive cinema palaces.

Museum of Photography (Berlin): below the gable, on the second floor were the Kaisersaal and the “New Theater am Zoo” / “German People's Theater”

From the "New Theater at the Zoo" to the "German People's Theater"

In 1929 Joachim von Ostau (1902–1969) leased the “New Theater am Zoo” from Gustav Charlé . Ostau also took over the management and, with the financial support of his father-in-law, the textile industrialist Dr. Hendrik van Delden , remodel and modernize. With his new conception, which also included the name change to “Deutsches Volkstheater” (August 31, 1929), Ostau wanted - in his own words - to establish “a popular stage for middle-class middle class”, a “second Schillertheater”. The new opening in September 1929 began successfully and was supported by Gerhart Hauptmann , among others . Young graduates from the drama school of the German Theater, such as OE Hasse (1903–1978), belonged to Ostau's ensemble, but also well-known actors such as Eugen Klöpfer (1886–1950). The much-acclaimed world premiere of Alfred H. Unger's award-winning piece “People like you and me” also made the small private theater famous. The global economic crisis that began in October 1929 and fraud against business partners contributed to the economic failure of Ostau, which in 1930 took over the " Berlin Theater " within the Max Reinhardt Group . Charlé ran the “New Theater at the Zoo” himself again, but limited himself entirely to guest performances. In 1937 the era of the "New Theater at the Zoo" ended. Another renovation turned the theater into a ballroom.

New use as an exhibition hall

After severe war damage, the art library moved into the building in 1954, and later the XX. Century, the forerunner organization of the Neue Nationalgalerie, also the Berlinische Galerie. Since 2004 in the Jebensstr. 2 housed the Museum of Photography and the Helmut Newton Foundation .

The "ruinous" former imperial hall is to be converted into a contemporary exhibition hall for the presentation of valuable photographs by 2009.


  • The officers' meeting house in Berlin . In: Zentralblatt der Bauverwaltung . Published by the Ministry of Public Works, January 29, 1910, pp. 57–62.
  • The buildings and art monuments of Berlin: City and district of Charlottenburg . Berlin 1961, p. 274.
  • Goetz, Oscar (Ed.): German Theater Service. Current feature section correspondence . Berlin (3rd year, No. 90, November 28, 1930).
  • Hagemann, Alfred: The couple from Ostau and their impulses for cultural life (1924-1951) . In: Alfred Hagemann, Elmar Hoff (ed.): Island of dreams. Music in Gronau and Enschede (1895–2005) . Essen 2006, pp. 169–193.
  • Hasse, Otto Eduard [OE]: Unfinished Memoirs . Munich 1999, pp. 28, 44f.
  • Jhering, Herbert: Theater in the City . In: ders. From Reinhardt to Brecht. Four decades of theater and films . Vol. II (1924-1929), Berlin 1961, p. 355.
  • Jhering, Herbert: People's need? In: ders. From Reinhardt to Brecht. Four decades of theater and films . Vol. III (1930-1932), Berlin 1961, p. 146.

Web links

Coordinates: 52 ° 30 ′ 28.8 ″  N , 13 ° 19 ′ 55.5 ″  E