Enter Sandman: VEB Berliner Metallhütten und Halbzeugwerke

Filed 16/1/2016 | Updated 15/2/16
In the end it was probably a good thing VEB Berliner Metallhütten und Halbzeugwerke closed down. BMHW – as the metal works was called by people who didn’t like having their tongues tied in knots around their ankles – was spewing out all sorts of contaminated evil shit into the Spree until the plug was pulled and the leaks plugged in July 1990.
Environmental concerns were not concerns that concerned the good people of the German Democratic Republic, or rather, they were not concerns that concerned the good people’s leaders. They were more concerned about clinging to power at all costs, health included, and showing their cousins on the other side of the Berlin Wall that everything was just wonderful on this side, thank you very much.
Genossen (comrades) are still celebrating Jürgen Sparwasser’s winner for the famous 1-0 victory over then European champions West Germany at the World Cup in West Germany in 1974. Doesn’t matter that West Germany went on to win the thing, that single game in Hamburg proved the DDR was better! (In the same way Ireland’s heroic win over Germany last year ensured the Irish are the real world champions.)
But I digress. This was supposed to be about the major metal works where they were so proud of doing things by halves it formed part of its name – Halbzeugwerke indicating the semi-manufactured product production. If only the pollution had been done in halves too, but of course the metal works provided a gansey load of jobs, livelihoods if halved ones, and a major boost for the local economy.
Some 2,300 people worked here until it was closed down that giddy summer in 1990. Some of the individual works kept going while the liquidation process was underway with the giddy vultures circling overhead, trying not to laugh too loudly.
At least nobody was killed, which cannot be said for their predecessors. Before anyone even thought of becoming metalheads in Schöneweide, the area between Fließstraße and the Spree was the workshop area for A&A Lehmann AG, a fabric and textile factory specializing in mohair, silk and wool, with mechanical looms, dyeing, printing and finishing.
The factory was founded by Alfred and Anton Lehmann in 1880. Very little remains or is even remembered. Houses and small workshops at Hasselwerderstraße were demolished toward the end of the 1950s and just the villa there survived.
A&A Lehmann AG was a successful company, winning a silver state medal at a big industrial exhibition in Treptower Park in 1896.
Anton’s son Richard had joined up as a department manager in 1888 when he was 24, and he married Elsbeth “Else” Joel two years later. Richard took over when his father died (not sure when exactly) and quickly became as involved as Anton had been in the local political scene.
Edith, their daughter, was born in 1892 and little brother Hans followed three years later. The villa with garden was built by the company on its land to accommodate the growing family.
The Depression and following knock-on effects were not good for the Lehmann factory’s fortunes. Richard and Else had to leave the villa in 1932. The villa and part of the company premises was rented out to another firm and the Lehmanns moved to a more modest house in Grunewald.
If they thought they had problems then, though, they were only just beginning. Naziitus was taking hold and sure enough Germany succumbed to it a few months later. The Lehmanns were Jewish. Richard and Else were no fools. They saw the danger and organized passage for Edith, her husband and kids to England. But despite Richard’s good connections, it was 1939 before the nine family members were able to flee.
Richard and Else stayed behind, hoping that the repressive air would somehow blow away. I guess nobody could really imagine where it would blow. It was unimaginable, it still is.
They had to leave their house in 1941, finding refuge with a Jewish family at Mozartstraße 22 in Steglitz. Then they had to wear yellow stars. It was compulsory from September.
Despite it all, Richard apparently believed the repression was only a temporary madness and that Hitler would see the Jews were not his enemies after Germany had defeated the Soviet Union.
When his mother Clara died in May 1942 he inherited half her assets, including shares in A&A Lehmann AG, but he never saw any of it. Everything was confiscated by the Reich. Reich also means rich or wealthy in German, it’s no coincidence.
Richard and Else were apprehended by the Gestapo on Dec. 15, 1942 and brought to the Jewish Hospital in Wedding. They were allowed bring two small suitcases.
The hospital is the only Jewish institution in Germany to have survived Nazism, but at the time it also served as a deportation center. Richard and Else stayed seven weeks. They were brought to Theresienstadt on Feb. 2, 1943. Old Jews were brought to Theresienstadt. Richard was 79, Else 71.
Richard was murdered on June 4, 1943. They didn’t even have the cruel comfort of being murdered together. Else had been transferred to Auschwitz on May 16. She was murdered there.
Anything that happened afterward is immaterial. Who gives a shit? East Germany certainly didn’t. Post-war there was a fine big industrial area just waiting to be commandeered by the state. Of course there had never been any Nazis on East German territory, and a couple of Walls were subsequently needed to keep them out.
For those that care, BMHW was formed Jan. 1, 1951 from the amalgamation of three Berlin companies sequestered in 1946 and nationalized in 1949. These were VEB Hüttenwerk, which formed Werkteil I; VEB Berliner Halbzeugwerk, which formed Werkteil II; and VEB Sonderbronze – you guessed it – Werkteil III.
There were other incorporations and acquisitions later but we don’t need to go over everything with a metal rod. It’s fair enough to say there was a lot of metalwork going on, leading to the release of poisonous gases into the air and cooling water containing aluminum and other crap into the Spree.
BMHW wasn’t just on the Lehmanns’ land at Fließstraße (Werkteil I), but also up the road beside the Bärenquell Brauerei at Schnellerstraße (Werkteil II, recently demolished for another fucking furniture store), and across the river at Wilhelminenhofstraße (Werkteil III, being used for other endeavors today).
BMHW workers could let their hair down at the “Ernst Schneller” Kulturhaus on Fließstraße or BSG Stahl Schöneweide, a sports club.
The Kulturhaus became the Cisch-Klub in the 1990s after BMHW was wound up. Apparently Cisch was “the scene” for music fans. Many hitherto-then unknown bands such as And One, De/Vision, Blind Passengers, Spock and Oomph! played here (can’t say I heard of any of them), while the Depeche Mode parties were “legendary” and always drew big crowds leading to shoving and jostling in the long queues.
There ain’t no queues now unless it’s the rats queuing to get out. They know the writing’s on the wall. Luxury apartments are springing up like overpriced mushrooms on all sides and it’s only a matter of time before they spring up inside too. And nary a mention of the Lehmanns anywhere. Reich indeed.

All that’s left of VEB Berliner Metallhütten und Halbzeugwerke (BMHW), a huge East German metal works on the site of a Jewish family’s former fabric and textile factory and in other parts of Schöneweide, Berlin.

Fließstraße, Schöneweide, 12439 Berlin, Germany.

How to get there
Get on yer bike and cycle, it’s the only way to get anywhere, anywhere. Though I have to admit it’s not very practical in Berlin right now, especially if you’ve got one of those trendy bikes with skinny tires to match your jeans, due to the snow and ice everywhere. Trains might be a safer bet – I’ll let it slide this time so you don’t have to – and the S9, S8, S42 (Ringbahn), S45, S46, S47 and S85 all conveniently stop at Schöneweide Bahnhof.
From there find Schnellerstraße, to your right as you come out of the station, kinda parallel to the main road, take the first left and walk to the end of that road until you hit the BMHW ruins. You’ll pass an abandoned supermarket on your way on the right if you want to do some abandoned shopping, the best kind of shopping.
Here it is on a map so you have no excuses: https://www.google.de/maps/place/52°27'26.5"N+13°30'55.3"E/@52.4573742,13.5131793,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0?hl=en

Getting in
Just go in. Walk through the main gate, ignore anyone that shouts at you or challenges you – it’s our world, we’re all free and doomed anyway – and carry on like you own the place, nobody can stop you. You can also enter from Hasselwerderstraße if you go down the little laneway and hop over the wall.

When to go
Go during the day if you want to take photos, shortly before sunset if you’d like to enjoy a Berlin sunset with a cute girl or boy you just met. Rooftop romances are always a highlight.

Difficulty rating
1/10. Pretty damn easy once you get over the fear of an angry German shouting at you (it never goes away) and just go for it. Angry people will be angry no matter what you do, you may as well give them a proper reason to be angry. In a way you’re saving them, justifying their existence. They’ll be thankful, though they mightn’t show it because they’re so concentrated on the angriness.

Who to bring
Bring that cute girl or boy/woman or man (we’re all getting on a bit now) and serenade them with the clouds from the rooftop where the “Kulturhaus” sign still proclaims its importance to anyone who’ll listen. Listen. Kultur, while alien to Australians, is always worth listening to.

What to bring
Bring beer, rum, wine and something to drink on the roof, ice cubes if you want to be fancy, just your mouth if you don’t. Who needs ice cubes anyway? Though in this weather you’ll be able to scrape them directly off the roof.
Tequila, oranges and cinnamon are almost a prerequisite. It’s a wonderful German invention (I think). Take a swig of tequila, the darker stuff, not the shit that just burns its way through your body, then bite into the slice of orange coated in copious amounts of cinnamon. Then more tequila. Und weiter…
Bring a camera, torch, all that stuff if you’re into photos. But the best photos are always taken with your eyes. Don’t forget your eyes. Make sure they’re fully charged.

Heights could be a problem if you’re afraid of them, an even bigger problem if you’re not. Don’t fall off. Otherwise it’s the usual dangers – builders, nosy neighbors, stray Polizei. Stay cool, don’t do anything stupid and you’ll be fine.

Thanks as ever to the overworked Mark Rodden for casting his eagle eyes over these ramblings and attempting to bring some sense to them. He did his best.

Dedicated to David Bowie. For no other reason that everything should be dedicated to David Bowie from now on, forever.
shady shit 8055743056455097945


Hi there, I'd love to get in touch with you about a collaboration. May I have an email to contact you on?

I'm waiting for spring to visit there!

'ICCHHHHH!!! ICH BIN DER KOENIG!!!' rings in my ears all the time when I think of Bowie and when I think of Berlin. I miss it, and y'all.



Thanks for providing such interesting and inspiring info. I've visited two so far and it was so fun I had to blog about it ;). Planning on ticking another off the list next weekend.


We went to here and found 5 places right next to each other. also about 2 of them had disabled access hehe. It was so beautiful and really busy! People were taking their families for days out!

Visited this again today all still there, so many kids about smoking weed!

there's some construction going on on the property now. you can still get in and see some of the other buildings though

i have been there yesterday and all of the buildings (except one where we had to use a ladder)were accessible without any problem
Really cool lost place - thanks for sharing

I would not recommend to visit this place alone. It seems some drug dealers are having their headquarter in one the buildings in the back of the area.
Take care of yourself and your foto equipment.
Indeed, the place is nice, really wrecked up, but nice.

easy access to the kulturhaus. just walk right in. lots of young teenagers hanging around smoking weed. unfortunately the old "kulturhaus" sign on the roof is pretty much ruined now :(

Was there this week. Really easy to access (walked through the main gate), but totally fucked up. There are many construction workers on the site, I don't think that the poor remains are lasting a long time. But this site is so much damaged that I didn't even took out my camera of the bag :(

Was there 1 year ago with my boyfriend. It was really easy to access and there weren't any other guys. So just go there during the week and you will probably be alone there.

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