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Front view of Yorck59 , probably January 2005

The Yorck59 , also Yorck 59 , was a left house project founded in 1988 in the rear building of Yorckstraße 59 in Berlin-Kreuzberg . In addition to shared flats in which around 60 people lived, it offered space for left-wing initiatives and organizations . In June 2005 the house project was evacuated by the police.

The follow-up project New Yorck , also New Yorck59 , occupied parts of Bethanien a few days after the evacuation . After initial tolerance, the occupation was legalized in the course of a public petition against the privatization of the building.


The Yorck59 was an important point of reference for the Berliners and the German left alternative movement. The project was evacuated by the police in June 2005 after conflicts about rent levels, which were accompanied by strong protests by supporters. According to the Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution , "one of the last symbolic objects of the left-wing extremist scene in Berlin" has disappeared.

After the eviction, some former residents and supporters occupied two floors of an empty side wing of the Bethanien and founded New York59 . This squatting is tolerated by the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district as the owner of the Bethanien. The planned privatization of the building on Mariannenplatz was therefore suspended.

Foundation and establishment of Yorck59

The house project Yorck59 was founded in 1988 by seven people from the left Berlin scene. They were looking for former factory floors in order to expand them for communal living. Finally, they received an offer for seven vacant floors in the rear building at Yorckstrasse 59, which had previously been used by some small businesses . The location of the building was favorable due to its proximity to the Mehringhof , several other large shared apartments and several trendy bars.

Within a short time, the original group was supplemented by other people from their friendship and political environment, so that in December 1988 a commercial lease with right of residence for 60 people was finally signed. This should run for at least eleven years and include an option for an extension of five years at a time. V. ”served as a contractual partner for both owners and residents. After the contract was signed, the factory floors were remodeled in collective work by around 50 people: The 450 m² floors were used for one or two shared apartments for six to 13 people, a 240 m² floor was left free for events and sports, and another floor expanded for an archive and initiatives. In addition to the anti-racist initiative , which was in the house for almost the entire 15 years, a large number of other groups - such as B. the African women's initiative , the radio Onda or the news pool Latin America .

At the beginning of Yorck59, an attempt was made to anchor in the Kiez beyond the left movement. To this end, "tenants' meetings", farm parties and a neighborhood kitchen were organized together with other shared apartments. Yorck59 also took part in the “Gelber Punkt” campaign and tried to convince shops in the neighborhood of this initiative: A “yellow dot” stuck to the front doors of shops signals that those affected can find protection there in the event of racially motivated attacks. The action took place in Saarbrücken at the end of 1991 after an attack on a refugee accommodation in which Samuel Yeboah died. The initiatives in the Kiez became less and less over time and all that remained was the annual courtyard festival in the Yorck59.

Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many leftists feared that political initiatives and poorer sections of the population would be displaced from Kreuzberg, as the district moved from the outskirts of West Berlin to the new center. Continuous work by Yorck59 on this complex, known as urban restructuring , fell asleep after a few attempts in the first few years. After the house was sold in 1994, this development seemed to threaten the very existence of Yorck59: In the negotiations about a new rent setting following the sale of the house, the new owner, "Labani GmbH", demanded a quadrupling of the rent Rental fee. This was rejected by the Yorck59 and a campaign initiated to inform the public and to address the city's restructuring in order to strengthen the negotiating position of the Yorck59. An attempt was made to put pressure on Dietrich Garski and Helmuth Penz, who were behind the owner company “Labani GmbH” and the property management company “GWF”. As a building contractor, Dietrich Garski was involved in the overthrow of the Berlin Senate in 1981 and still owed the city of DM 93 million  . His real estate business therefore ran through his wife Claudia Garski. Helmuth Penz managed more than 30 companies, such as a hotel chain as well as homes for the homeless and asylum seekers, and was therefore concerned about his public image and the trouble-free operation of the companies. After the property management “GWF” had withdrawn and Garski's entanglements with “Labani GmbH” had ended, a rent increase acceptable to residents and users was negotiated in 1995. However, even this could only be borne by a financial contribution from the users of the public floors.

"House fight" and eviction

In December 2003, the owner of the house had to file for bankruptcy and the house came into receivership . The residents and users of the Yorck59 failed in their attempt to buy the Secret Annex themselves with the help of the Freiburg apartment house syndicate , as the bank involved - according to their own statement - passed them over to the sale. Conflicts arose shortly after the purchase, as the new property manager Boris Gregor Marweld wanted to pass on renovation costs to the residents due to alleged self- infliction , as well as the costs of removing political posters in the courtyard entrance. They, on the other hand, felt that the removal of the posters was a restriction on their freedom of information. In addition, the use of the inner courtyard for events - in particular for a courtyard party planned for summer 2005 - was prohibited.

At the end of September 2004, the Yorck59 lease finally expired. The new owner, Marc Walter, started negotiations with the demand that the net rent be doubled, which the residents of Yorck59 rejected. As a result, an arbitration report was requested from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce , which, according to the rental agreement, should determine the market rent if the negotiating parties could not agree. However, the rent increase of 55 percent envisaged in the expert opinion was not considered financially viable by those living there and a political solution was called for. The residents and supporters then tried to increase public pressure in order to bring about a political solution. a. Rallies and demonstrations carried out, the state headquarters of the governing parties in Berlin PDS and SPD occupied and a newspaper supplement that appeared in five national newspapers was created. A purchase of the house by the residents or a ring swap with the real estate fund of the state of Berlin failed because of the owner's asking price, which at 2.5 million euros was more than one million above the price he had paid in December 2003 according to the purchase agreement . There was also no result in the negotiations about a replacement property.

On the morning of June 6, 2005, the Yorck59 was finally evacuated by around 500 police officers. At this point in time, around 250 supporters blocked the entrance to Yorck59 with a sit-in, and 150 other people were in the barricaded house project. When the sit-in was cleared, a woman fell unconscious and had to be taken care of by an ambulance that arrived 20 minutes later .

The police operation was criticized in some press reports as well as by those affected from the Yorck59: In particular, the police operation against the sit-down was described as "disproportionate" and the police officers were accused of having acted "partly with massive violence" against "peaceful demonstrators". In addition, the compulsion against those arrested to kneel down in the courtyard for a long time was seen as evidence of the “arbitrariness” and the “power behavior” of the officers employed.

In December 2008 the Berlin Court of Appeal declared the eviction to be illegal. The owner had not obtained valid eviction permits against all tenants and sub-tenants. In the same judgment, the criminal charges for community trespassing were declared invalid. The owner had filed a criminal complaint against the people who were in the house during the evacuation. At this point in time, however, the sub-tenants had domiciliary rights and not the owner.


Even after the evacuation, there were protests throughout the day by sympathizers of the Yorck59: In the morning and afternoon, Reclaim the Streets campaigns and bicycle demonstrations were held in particular . At 6 p.m. there was a demonstration against the eviction with around 2500 demonstrators and in the evening there was a brief squatting in solidarity on Oranienplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg , which was followed by further protest actions. Under the motto “Yorckstrasse is everywhere”, supporters of Yorck59 changed the names of numerous street signs in large parts of downtown Berlin on the night of June 13, 2005 in order to demonstrate solidarity with the residents of the evacuated house project. The signs were pasted over so that “Yorckstrasse” could be read on them.

One year after the evacuation of the rear building at Yorckstrasse 59, it is still empty. In the meantime, however, construction work is in progress on so-called “luxury lofts” that are being marketed through selectberlin properties . The property manager Boris Gregor Marweld spread the rumor that the actor Til Schweiger would move into one of the 13 luxury apartments being built . Schweiger himself reported in interviews about his new loft apartment in Kreuzberg, which has not yet been completed. This, along with other loft owners, has actually moved in, which makes the situation even more explosive. A private security service shields the house day and night to prevent attacks by leftists.

Criminal proceedings

On February 13, 2007 the trial began against the approximately 150 people who were in the house during the evacuation of the left house project at Yorckstrasse 59 on June 6, 2005. The house owner Marc Walter and police officers were summoned as witnesses. The public prosecutor applied for fines between 300 and 500 euros.

Occupation of the New York

Five days after the eviction, on June 11, 2005, former residents and supporters of the Yorck59 occupied two floors in the left wing of the symbolic Bethanien on Mariannenplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The rooms had been used by the social welfare office until the amalgamation of unemployment and social assistance on January 1, 2005 and have been empty since then. They named this occupation New Yorck and declared that they would stay until the district would offer a "reasonable replacement" for the vacated Yorckstrasse 59. Since the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, as the owner of the Bethanien, did not file a complaint and probably also because of the street festival that took place on the day of the occupation on Mariannenplatz, the police did not immediately evacuate the occupiers on the basis of the General Security and Order Act (ASOG).

On the following day, the district office issued a temporary toleration of the occupation pending negotiations in the course of the next few days, which was gradually extended. While the parliamentary groups of the CDU and SPD in the district assembly ( BVV ) demanded an immediate evacuation, the district mayor Cornelia Reinauer ( Linkspartei.PDS ), as well as the parliamentary group of the Linkspartei.PDS and the Greens , which together have a majority in the BVV, to negotiate with the occupiers. However, on July 29, 2005, the signing of a tolerance agreement that ran until March 31, 2006 failed, with both sides claiming that the other side was not present.

A few days later the situation changed fundamentally when the “Initiative Zukunft Bethanien” (IZB) declared that it wanted to seek a public petition against the sale of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien to a private investor, which was decided at the end of 2002. Due to the public petition and the occupation, the potential buyer broke off negotiations on the purchase of Bethany on August 17th. Thereupon the district office requested the occupiers on August 23rd to vacate the Bethanien by the end of October 2005. The occupiers saw this as an attempt to achieve a quick sale due to the impending popular initiative. The referendum, with which the Zukunft Bethanien initiative also wants New York to remain in Bethanien, was finally officially launched on October 19, whereupon the district office declared that it would suspend all sales negotiations for the duration of the referendum.

After the New York toleration expired on November 1st, which was not extended despite the public petition and the breakdown of the sales negotiations, the district mayor Reinauer asked the police to vacate the house. After police circles described an evacuation due to delayed danger after a four-month occupation as legally questionable, the district office relativized its demand of the previous day and declared that it would not allow an eviction to be carried out for the time being, as this required longer-term legal preparation. On November 11th, the district office of the Future Bethanien initiative , which also works in the occupied rooms, surprisingly offered a usage contract for both occupied floors in order - according to its own statement - not to let the conflict escalate. This should apply for the duration of the referendum, contain an enforceable eviction obligation and contain a temporary evacuation of a floor to accommodate the participants in the street soccer world tournament during the soccer world championship on Mariannenplatz.

The fears of the IZB that the district could transfer Bethanien to the real estate fund of the state of Berlin before the referendum was made were allayed by a BVV resolution on November 23, which was passed with the votes of the parliamentary groups of the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party. It was also decided to develop a new usage concept for the Bethanien in cooperation with the residents, the IZB and “other local actors”. The planned privatization and development of Bethany into an "international cultural start-up center" was thus effectively rejected. The managing director of Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH then threatened to move out of the Bethanien, as the cast both damaged an image and meant the loss of some sponsors . On January 28, the district declared that the problem with the young people taking part in the street football tournament had been resolved because they had found accommodation in a school in the Mitte district .

At the beginning of July, the IZB's petition was declared valid. She had collected around 13,500 signatures, of which only 5,719 were valid. In September 2006, the referendum was ended by a compromise between the Future Bethanien Initiative (IZB) and the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, which includes the IZB's most important demands.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Clearance of the autonomous housing project at Yorckstrasse 59 - current reports . ( Memento from September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Department II, July 7, 2005
  2. “Countervailing Power from Below”. Yellow point campaign . ( Memento of March 7, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 53 kB) In: Metabolism , April 1996, p. 6f.
  3. ^ History and stories of the Yorck59 house project. yorck59.net
  4. Yorck59 stays! The residents and users of Yorck59, 2004
  5. a b 500 police officers clear 1 house . In: taz , June 7, 2005
  6. ^ House-to-house fighting in Kreuzberg . In: Berliner Zeitung , June 7, 2005
  7. ^ Off for Yorckstrasse 59 . In: taz Berlin , June 7, 2005
  8. Yorckstrasse 59 has been cleared. Yorck59 lives on! Yorck59, June 10, 2005
  9. Press release of December 16, 2008, New York in Bethany
  10. Yorckstrasse is everywhere - street renaming indymedia.org
  11. a b neue-deutschland.de - "Trial against Yorck59 begins"
  12. Ex-residents of Yorck59 occupy Bethanien . In: Der Tagesspiegel , June 12, 2005
  13. CALL TO VIOLENCE Bethanien: The occupiers refuse . In: Berliner Zeitung , August 1, 2005
  14. ↑ Urban warfare with the ballot . In: Berliner Zeitung , August 8, 2005
  15. Conversations about Bethanien stopped . In: Berliner Zeitung , August 17, 2005
  16. Bethanien will soon be empty again . In: taz Berlin , August 24, 2005
  17. Citizens covet Bethany . In: taz Berlin , October 20, 2005
  18. Squatters have to get out . In: taz Berlin , November 2, 2005
  19. Bethanien remains occupied . In: Berliner Zeitung , November 2, 2005
  20. District office wants to make up with occupiers . In: taz Berlin , November 12, 2005
  21. Privatization of Bethanien stopped . In: taz Berlin , November 25, 2005
  22. ^ Artists threaten to move out of Bethanien . In: Berliner Zeitung , November 25, 2005
  23. Residents should develop concepts for Bethanien . In: Berliner Morgenpost , February 1, 2006