Villa Schade and Kino Hubertus

Filed 15/4/2017 | Updated 19/4/17
Loneliness runs so deep it transcends one world for another. It lingers in unseen spaces when there’s no one to take care of your things, to sort through your precious belongings, to secure them, to care. When all you’ve ever had, a lifetime of carefully gathered possessions and personal correspondence, is scattered all around, trampled under ignorant feet, discarded, just junk – all you’ve ever held dear.
Silent and still, two houses cling to the past – loneliness keeps time at bay. There’s no sign of life, not a mouse, not even a fly buzzing around the kitchen implements, crockery, cutlery, the empty milk jug, the un-ticking clock. The curtains hang without a flutter. No sign of living life at all.
There was life once, yesteryear. A Tagesspiegel from December 18, 1968 lies upon the table, its front page reporting that a terrible snowstorm hit Denmark the day before. Maybe the home-dweller read all about it as they poured milk into their coffee from the milk jug. Perhaps they drank from the very cup now underneath the table.
Maybe they read something else – there’s a selection of old magazines strewn around. One reports on the new phenomenon of women having children without being married.
Chaos abounds, and not because of the unmarried mothers. Drawers are pulled out, their contents spilled, clothes piled up, and furniture overturned.
The living room is still inviting with its immortal plastic plants on window sills framed by frayed curtains. Beside them, a piano. It sits there serenely, sheets of music above the keyboard, a chair pulled back enough for the musician to come back and play. I didn’t try any keys. It seemed disrespectful.
This house once served the ruined cinema, situated just behind. It began life as a restaurant and dancehall, the “Waidmannshof” built by the innkeeper Otto Kuchenbecker in 1894. Another Otto, Otto Arlt, took over and began showing moving pictures once or twice a week in late summer 1921, two years after the first silent film had been shown in Waidmannslust.
Despite being called the “Waidmannsluster Lichtspiele,” it retained its function as a meeting place and place for merriment, with dancing and drinking in between all the frequent film premieres. The Berlinale had nothing on this place. Any Waidmannsluster who was anyone used to flock here for the big screen performances, says Manfred Mendes in his book about Waidmannslust.
Arlt wasn’t adverse to publicity. In March 1923 he had a van plastered in posters with three trumpeters on board drive around to announce the latest blockbuster.
There was a huge hullabaloo and more celebrations when Alfred Pietsch converted the dance hall into a proper cinema with 333 seats in the summer of 1929.
“The hall is unrecognizable in its tasteful red coat of paint,” reported the Hermsdorf-Waidmannsluster Zeitung at the time. “A series of electric bulbs line the wall like pearls. The former stage is now boxes. The orchestra pit is opposite them.”
The paper went on to say that the first films shown that Sunday were “really good” and that the kids’ shows were even better, “with hardly a free place left. The screen gave even more reason to laugh and made the boys and girls the happiest of all.”
Cinema visits were an event to be discussed before and afterward. In the 1920s, they were a treat for people trying to get through the hyperinflation years and depression.
Anton Glombeck took over and modernized the cinema again in January 1931, when the first films with sound reached Waidmannslust. The Kino was renamed the “Capitol Lichtspiele Waidmannslust” in 1933 and the “Hubertus-Lichtspiele” in 1938. Alfred Lehmann became owner in 1939 and it maintained its popularity even through the dark days of the war.
Films provided escape for the hard-hit locals after the war too, except for one day a week when it was reserved exclusively for the occupying French soldiers. This was the French sector of West Berlin. The French, as is their wont, were often late, and sometimes they didn’t bother showing up at all. On the days they were arsed showing up, any locals who had snuck into the cinema would have to leave their seats again.
There were also problems with electricity during the blockade, when films would cut out just as they were getting exciting. Suddenly the French were forgiven for their tardiness and the Soviets were the bad guys again.
In 1950, the Hubertus-Lichtspiele was showing “Die Gräfin von Monte Christo” from Monday to Friday, “Eine Nacht im Séparée” from Tuesday to Thursday, and “Die rote Mühle” was the late show at 10pm on Saturday, July 1. Otherwise screenings began at 5 and 8pm, except on Wednesdays, when they only took place at 6pm.
The cinema boom of the early to mid 1950s didn’t last and fewer and fewer people began to come as many got their own personal cinemas at home. Television, the drug of the nation, brought the curtain down on many an independent Kino.
In early 1962 the Hubertus-Lichtspiele closed down due to a lack of business. From what I can gather it seems Lehmann was still the owner at this stage. Apparently he used to let kids in if there were any free seats before a film started.
The cinema was used for storage and little else in the years that followed. Another little bit of it died in 2008 when the roof collapsed in the summer.
Two doors further up the road lies another villa in a similar condition. They share the same fate. The woman who lived in the villa, Dr. Irmgard Baumann-Helm, inherited the cinema, though she’s in no condition to take care of it now. Today is her 91st birthday, but we’ll come back to her story...
Her tale is preceded by another tragic one, that of its previous owner, former jeweler Friedrich Schade, an elderly man who was very well respected in the community. He was one of the first Waidmannslust pioneers, buying his plot of land when it was still a fledgling colony. It only took off after 1884 when the S-Bahn station was opened. Trains would only stop on request.
It was around this time Schade built his villa. He had it extended with a logia in 1896, with a balcony and beautiful wintergarden on the first floor.
Schade, who ten years earlier presented the newly opened local church with its organ, lost his assets in 1923 due to the Weimar Republic hyperinflation.
He also lost his wife. When she died around the same time, Schade hired a nurse, the 44-year-old Fraulein Goldhahn. But Goldhahn ensured that he withdrew from public life and became more and more recluse, till it reached the stage his window blinds were constantly pulled down and he wasn’t seen at all anymore.
One day, when Goldhahn was out shopping, he managed to send a workman who happened to be in the house for help. Herr Röhler, a dentist, turned up and was shocked to discover Schade’s condition – just skin and bone, almost a skeleton, with a gaping wound at the back of his head. The house was filthy, revolting, with maggots crawling through leftovers in the kitchen.
A doctor attended to the appropriately named Schade. He discovered that for the previous two years the nurse only gave him bread, water and rubbish to eat, and had kept him tied to a bed in unwashed clothes. Goldhahn was nuts. She thought she could get rich through the hyperinflation years through Schade’s inheritance. Desperation made people do crazy things. The Hermsdorf-Waidmannsluster Zeitung noted at the time that people should pay a little more attention to their neighbors.
Now the house is still, stuffed with precious memories, personal papers and family heirlooms. There are newspapers carefully set aside from the early 1950s.
Schade sold it to a doctor, Paul Helm, in 1930, along with the servants’ quarters just behind. Helm was well-connected. He received postcards from Japan. They’re still in the house.
Schade stayed at the house till his death. Helm was registered as the homeowner in 1930, with pensioner Schade as a resident. In 1935 it was just Helm.
Born August 24, 1888, Helm was originally from Braunschweig, where his father was the city practitioner when it was capital of the Duchy of Brunswick (Herzogtum Braunschweig).
Helm worked as a military doctor during the First World War, and he became engaged to a pastor’s daughter, Gerda Niemann from Hötzum, when he was 29. However, that didn’t work out for one reason or another – love is complicated! – for when he moved to Berlin, he ended up marrying one of cinema owner Otto Arlt’s three daughters. Her name eludes me, unfortunately.
They had a daughter, Irmgard, born April 15, 1926. She also became a doctor and worked for the pharmaceutical industry, primarily in West Germany. She seemed to have a lot of connections with Cologne, though she also worked for the Heyl & Co concern. There are still Heyl & Co brushes and papers scattered all over the house.
Irmgard, who published her doctoral thesis in 1953, married her father’s successor as resident doctor – Paul Helm died in 1965 – and she ended up handling the cinema for her aunt, or aunts, Hildegard and Minna Arlt. Once it closed she rented it out for storage to a removals firm.
I don’t know what’s happened to her in the meantime, where she is, how she is, if she’s still alive. Irmgard Helm outlived her family but left her life and theirs in that villa to gather dust and lose all meaning amid the ignorance of time.
It’s a magnificent house, the kind of house that people who still dream would dream of living in. Locals believe the balcony was built by none other than Karl Friedrich Schinkel, though he died in 1841, years before the colony of Waidmannslust was founded by the forester Ernst Bondick in 1875.
Helm and Schade would be turning in their graves if they could see the villa now. A Hamburg investor is going to tear it down for two buildings with 20 residential units. There’s another piano in this house too, reserved and silent as it contemplates the sorry mess in which it finds itself. It should never have come to this.

What 
Two old deserted houses in an otherwise fancy neighborhood. The neighbors despair. One of the houses houses an old cinema out the back, though that’s in a sorry state too, with a collapsed roof and no seats and only fresh air for comfort. Memories of former glories left a long time ago through the open ceiling.

Where
Waidmannsluster Damm 167 and 163, 13469 Berlin, Germany.

How to get there
Get yer bike and cycle, or get the train if you don’t trust your legs. There are many frequent S-Bahns to Waidmannslust, the S1, S2, S85 and… well, that’s about it, but they go pretty regularly.
Here’s the cinema house map so you’ve no excuses: https://www.google.com/maps/place/52%C2%B036'24.0%22N+13%C2%B019'03.0%22E/@52.606677,13.3169287,133m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0
And the other house is two doors further up the path on the corner.

Getting in
There are two ways into the cinema house – the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is through the open back door, which is to the right of the house as you’re looking at it from the road. The hard way – I include it here because the easy way was closed and locked on a previous visit – is crawling through a drain on the left side down into the basement before going up the stairs at the back.
There’s a tunnel going from the basement through to the cinema but I don’t recommend it. It’s extremely narrow and claustrophobic – slithering through like a snake is the only option – and it goes on forever too. I genuinely thought I was going to die. You’re a goner if the tunnel collapses, which is possible given the cinema above it collapsed already. There wasn’t enough room to crawl through with a camera. I had to leave it behind and take crappy pictures with my phone. My jeans got destroyed. I’m really not sure it was worth the effort.
The Schade Villa is easier, though there are now workmen digging the shit out of the garden. Once you make sure they’re not there, you can jump the fence, slide in under it, or use the workers’ entrance at the back. Proceed quickly through the garden before a neighbor with nothing better to do calls the Polizei – there’s always some idiot desperate to call the Polizei so they feel important – and you’ll find an open window inviting you in at the back of the house.

When to go
Go during the day so you can see what you’re looking at and take decent photos. This isn’t a party location.

Difficulty rating
5/10. It’s variable. You’re not going to know how difficult it is until you go.

Who to bring
Someone to take care of the memories.

What to bring
A torch is vital! Otherwise the usual stuff: Camera and something to drink: beer, rum, vodka and wine.

Dangers
Nosy neighbors, falling ceilings and dodgy floors. That narrow tunnel through the back of the first house to the cinema is really very dangerous. And watch out for passing Polizei when you’re hopping though or over the fences. They’d love to nab intrepid explorers before they even start exploring.


I wrote the bulk of this post in early 2016, having started it in November 2013 after the first visit. I had it ready to publish but hesitated given the amount of personal belongings and correspondence in the houses. I didn’t want to intrude or encourage others to intrude, but my last visit leaves no doubt that people have been intruding anyway. The piano in the cinema house has been smashed to shit and vandals have made their mark in both houses. Both are in a very bad state, and now that there are workers at the Schade Villa, it makes little sense not to publish. At least now, anyone who’s interested has a chance to see these houses before they’re knocked down or trashed completely.

Many thanks to Frebbe for all his assistance with the detective work on the background details, and to the overworked Mark Rodden for proofreading again!
Waidmannslust villas 5124268441841502637

12 comments

Lovely article! The fake flowers & bowls still in the same position as I arranged them for my photos. :)
http://shwmc.tumblr.com/post/106631067654/the-cinema-directors-house-berlin

I wish the cinema director's house that beautiful piano music sounds in its walls one last time before it collapses.

Where were the nosey neighbors to call the Polizei when Friedrich Schade needed them?

Thank You!

You have made me take a Sweden-Berlin trip solely based on Your excellent work!

I didnt quite see where the third bulding would fit in (the one with the tower), but as I took a quick tour I realized it´s probably the servants house right?

Fredrik from Sweden

The piano fills me with songs. This place is magnificent. Like many others, it's a secret place.

I tried to go there with my girlfriend today. Getting into Villa Schade isn't difficult. Our problem though was that some neighbor yelled from his balcony at us to leave before we could even enter. We did, went around the block hoping he wouldn't have noticed us this time. Went in, took some photos, only minutes later we heard someone, neighbor had apparently seen and followed us inside the building. He told us to leave (Hausfriedensbruch) or he would call the Police. We left but plan to go there again early morning when the neighbor is (hopefully) still asleep. He seems to be watching from his balcony all day.
Place is going to be destroyed in autumn since some investors from Hamburg have bought it and are going to build apartments so pay a visit before it is gone forever.

Once inside also beware of a nasty hole on ground floor in the dark room, which is filled with relics of Dr. Helm's doctor's office. It is on the left side of the window front and maybe covered with papers....

Die Villa lässt sich gut betreten und ist auch noch vorhanden. Obdachlose haben hier gehaust und es liegen Fäkalien rum. Das Kino wurde komplett abgerissen.

The Cinema is not more possible, only the villa. But homeless people used it as toiletts.

NOT WORTH IT ANYMORE.

We went there yesterday, and I can assure, sadly, the place is not worth it anymore.

First of all, the second house on the corner has been demolished.

The first house is still here and it was very easy to get in : you can jump the (very small) fence in front of the house, of if you're afraid of being seen by the neightbors, there's even a hole in the fence if you go right of the house.
There's an open door on the ride side of the house as well.

But the place has been totally trashed. And when i mean totally, i mean TOTALLY. Absolutely everything has been destroyed, there are tags everywhere. Really, there's only garbage left.

We didn't try to go on the second floor cause it seemed pretty dangerous: we could literraly see through the ceilings. We felt like it wasn't secure at all to go there.

So it's really sad cause your pictures are amazing, and I imagine how beautiful and magic this place was in the past. It's sad to think some people just go there to smash everything down and destroy everything.

Thank you for your amazing blog and for all the tips and very documented articles !

I wish someone would go gather any belonging left and set them on their own shelves as time capsules and momentoes to these people's lives and an era long past.

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