Schöneberg got the short end of the stick in the 2001 administrative reform: Since the neighbouring Tempelhof was larger in area and had more inhabitants, the district authorities opted for Tempelhof-Schöneberg when naming the new district. In terms of today’s districts, however, Schöneberg is ahead – with over 120,000 inhabitants, twice as many people live here as in Tempelhof. Schöneberg was and is highly attractive.
Schöneberg – always in focus
Archaeological finds suggest that the area of today’s Schöneberg was already inhabited in the 13th century. In order to attract settlers, however, the sovereigns had to reach into their bag of tricks: the name Schöneberg is probably not exclusively due to the slight elevation of the region, but a so-called desired name. Living on a “beautiful mountain” was already attractive at the time, similar to Schönwalde or Schönefeld.
As Berlin continued to grow in the 19th century, Schöneberg, which was still independent, had to cede areas by royal decree – the number of inhabitants dropped to just under 3,000. This changed abruptly after the founding of the German Empire in 1871 and the accompanying building boom of the Gründerzeit. By the beginning of the 1920s, almost 180,000 people lived in Schöneberg. The term “millionaire farmers” also dates from this time: similar to Wilmersdorf, many Schöneberg farmers became rich because they sold their land to real estate investors. In 1920, the rest of Schöneberg also became part of Berlin.
During the Second World War, Schöneberg lost almost a third of its residential properties to bombing. Joseph Goebbels gave his famous speech calling for “total war” here in the Sports Palace, which had to make way for a residential building in 1973. Twenty years later, US President John F. Kennedy stood on the balcony of Schöneberg Town Hall and assured West Berliners of his support with his famous phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner”. In his honour, the square in front of the town hall, the seat of government of West Berlin until 1990, bears his name today. As part of the American sector, Schöneberg remained a hotspot of City West until reunification: not only was the Allied Air Security Headquarters based here, but RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) also broadcast its programme from Schöneberg.
Live and let live
If you had to describe Schöneberg in one word, you wouldn’t go wrong with “colourful”. The district has always attracted very different people who live together peacefully here. Exemplary for this openness is still the Nollendorfkiez with its large LGBTQ scene, which dates back to the 1920s. Every year, the Motzstraßenfest takes place here with hundreds of thousands of visitors, and the rainbow flag is hoisted on Schöneberg’s city hall. Numerous celebrities and intellectuals were also attracted by Schöneberg’s carefree lifestyle: Albert Einstein lived here in Haberlandstraße, Rosa Luxemburg lived in a house in Cranachstraße. Or the writers Hans Fallada and Carl Zuckmayer, football legend Sepp Herberger, the actors Hildegard Knef and Klaus Kinski, director Billy Wilder and musician David Bowie also temporarily called Schöneberg home.
Schöneberg not only experienced a building boom in the 19th century, but also in the post-war period. Until 1966 alone, over 20,000 new flats were built here. The so-called Bavarian Quarter, which stretches from the west of Schöneberg to Wilmersdorf, is particularly exemplary of the diverse housing options. In addition to numerous new buildings in the style of the 1950s, there are also a number of houses from the Wilhelminian period that survived the destruction of the Second World War or were saved. The artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock also created the places of remembrance here – 80 signs with texts and pictures that keep the disenfranchisement of the Jewish citizens in mind.
Today, Schöneberg is a thriving district where people enjoy living. It is not only a place for creative people, but also ideal for families thanks to the numerous schools and daycare centres. You can relax in Rudolf Wilde Park, shop in the world-famous KaDeWe department stores’ on Tauentzienstraße or look at the stars in the planetarium at Insulaner.