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Entrance area of the former Jewish Girls' School
Entrance area of the former Jewish Girls' School © visitBerlin, Foto: Arthur F. Selbach

Former Jewish Girls’ School

“House of Art and Dining Culture”

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The Jewish community once stretched from Auguststraße to the synagogue in Oranienburger Straße, and one of its final building projects before the Nazis took power in 1933, was the Jewish Girls’ School in Berlin-Mitte undertaken between 1927 and 1928. The school building, located at Auguststraße 11-13, consists of a five-storey front building with a long side wing along the courtyard and a tower-shaped body along the street façade faced with red iron clinker. The historical monument is characterised by late expressionist elements which merge with the New Objectivity style. The horizontal window casements aligned rigorously along the brick guides give the impression of a horizontally layered arrangement of the building’s structure. The architect of the Girls’ School, Alexander Beer, also designed other buildings for the Jewish community, including the Orphans’ House in Pankow and the synagogue on Fraenkelufer. He was murdered in the Theresienstadt concentration camp a year before the Second World War ended. The history of the Jewish Girls’ School was dominated by the Nazi regime from the very early days following its initial occupation in 1930. Deportations were even carried out in the courtyard in 1941. The next year the school was closed and taken over by the Catholic St. Hedwig’s Hospital until the end of the war. It was only in the middle of the 1950s that the building was again used by a secondary school for its original purpose. In 1966, when its function as a school yet again ended due to a lack of pupils, the building was handed over to the Jewish community. From that time the 3,300 square metre (35,500 ft²) building stood empty for many decades. Not until 2006 was a use found for it when the 4th Berlin Biennale was held there to great acclaim. And then finally, five years later, it came to life again when the gallery owner Michael Fuchs rented the former school from the Jewish community on a 30-year lease. A complete year of desperately needed renovation on account of the decades of standing empty, carried out by the architects Armand Grüntuch and Almut Ernsnum, helped the building to rediscover its original charm, and in February 2012 the former Jewish Girls’ School reopened as “Haus der Kunst und Esskultur” (House of Art and Dining Culture). Besides the Michael Fuchs Gallery, which is moving into the former Aula on the third floor, the historical monument will also become home to the Eigen+Art Lab to be another of gallery owner Harry Lybke’s locations. In addition, the Camera Work Photo-Gallery based in Charlottenburg is opening a Camera Work Contemporary Gallery in the former classrooms on the first floor as a second mainstay. The icing on the cake to compliment this location for contemporary art and gastronomy is being provided by an exclusive culinary project, as the “Royal Grill” team, inspired by the Golden Twenties, is opening the “Pauly Saal” Restaurant as well as the “Pauly Bar”. Next door, “The Kosher Classroom” includes in its menu traditional Sabbath dinners, while a piece of New York dining culture has also moved in – in the form of “Mogg”.

Cultural Setting

The immediate neighbourhood of the former Jewish Girls’ School is also rich in highlights. Diagonally opposite on the other side of the street is the Kunst-Werke (Art Works) Berlin, Institute for Contemporary Art, which presents national and international contemporary culture in the form of exhibitions, artists’ studios and events. The Café Bravo, situated in the inner courtyard of this listed building built in the 18th century, is at the same time the first accessible sculpture by the American artist Dan Graham. And connected to the building complex of the KW – Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin you will find the Me Collectors Room Berlin. Following various renovations in this residential and exhibition house, the “Gerhard Richter – Editions 1954-2011” exhibition is being held here from 12th February to 13th May. You can also visit the Wunderkammer Olbricht (Olbricht’s Chamber of Curiosities) here, which with some 150 Renaissance and Baroque exhibits is one of the most important private collections of its kind. The C/O Berlin – International Forum For Visual Dialogues has also established itself in the immediate vicinity, and is dedicated to contemporary photography with changing exhibitions of international artists. You can visit the photography exhibitions in the former Imperial Postfuhramt (Post Office) up to the autumn of 2012, after which C/O Berlin is relocating to the studio houses in Monbijoupark. Just a few houses further on, you can visit dance events or attend dance courses every evening (according to its motto) in Clärchens Ballhaus – one of the last preserved ballrooms of the 1920s, or stop off at the adjoining restaurant to enjoy Italian and German cuisine. And last but by no means least; let’s not forget a visit to the Jewish community itself. The history of the Jews in Berlin and its environs is depicted in the process of coming to terms with the past in events and changing exhibitions in the New Synagogue. In addition, the New Synagogue’s permanent exhibition “Tuet auf die Pforten” conveys to its guests the architectural history of the building.