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There is no democracy without socialism, and no socialism without democracy.

Rosa Luxemburgeconomist, anti-war activist, and revolutionary socialist

+ Die Wiesenburg

was opened in 1896 as a new and modern homeless shelter by the Berliner Obdachlos Asyl Verein to accommodate the growing numbers of homeless people in Berlin. Designed by architects Töbelmann and Schmock, it was a partly self-sufficient facility with its own electricity supply and a 112 m deep well. Quickly called ‘Die Wiesenburg’ amongst the homeless, it provided up to 21,000 short-term shelter places per month. New standards were set in this epidemic-prone city through modern metal beds, the disinfection and washing of clothes and the possibility to shower and bathe.

+ Prominent founding members included

the physician Rudolf Virchow, politician Paul Singer, industrialists including Borsig and Bolle and members of Berlin’s Jewish comunity. Here, people were treated for the first time humanely and with care. Unlike other municipal shelters, religious observance was not necessary, the police had no access and a man could stay here anonymously for up to four days a month.

+ In 1907 the facility was enlarged

to include an area where 400 women and children could be offered accommodation; the shelter now had 1100 beds and offered ca. 400,000 places per year.

+ The special character of Die Wiesenburg

attracted artists and writers during its shelter years. Amongst them were Kurt Tucholsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Erich Kästner, Hans Fallada and Wilhelm Voigt, aka The Captain Of Koepenick, who stayed in the dormitories for reasons of temporary need as well as for research for their work.

For directors like Fritz Lang with his film ‘M’ in 1931, Herbert Ballmann with ‘Ein Mann will nach oben’ in 1977, Volker Schlöndorff with ‘The Tin Drum’ in 1979, Wolf Gremm with ‘Fabian’ in 1980 and Rainer Werner Fassbinder with ‘Lili Marleen’ in 1981, Die Wiesenburg provided the perfect set location.

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