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Weltstadt (Berliner Cabaret #AtoZChallenge)

W (AtoZ Challenge 2019)

Bringing Berlin at the same level – possibly higher – to the other European capitals became a priority of the Reich as the German Empire grew and became more powerful in the second half or the 1800s. Still at the beginning of that century, Berlin was more a town than a city, let alone a metropolis. It did naturally grow in size due to the localisation of very important industrial companies and the consequent coming in of people in search of work. But turning Berlin into a city with a cosmopolitan soul, a centre of culture and history and an attractive tourist spot with the same allure than Paris, London or New York required a conscious effort.

The fact that Berlin was such a young metropolis, with a conglomerate of different peoples and cultures rather than her own personality didn’t quite help. Or at least it looked like it, because in actuality it could well be said that Berlin’s patchwork personality was indeed her true personality. Berlin was a city that welcome everybody, whoever they were, and happily absorbed whatever they could offer.
As it became bigger and more people took resident there, a lively cultural and artistic scene formed that indeed could rival with the cultural allure of other European capitals. Besides, Berlin had indeed become a European – if not even a global – cultural centre during the strong German experience of Romanticism in all arts and philosophy.

Berlin 1927-1930
Berlin 1927-1930

Still that was not enough and the Empire made all it could to make foreigners and tourists come and enjoy its capital. Soon an entertainment district developed in Friedrichstadt – along Friedrichstrasse between Unter den Linden and Leipzigstrassen – where most of the cabarets, pubs, restaurants and were located. It also became one of the centres of prostitution, but the city government and the police diplomatically acknowledged that this was to be expected to come with the very nature of a big city. Indeed they would often turn a blind eye if they thought that would enhance Berlin’s stance as Weltstadt (a city of the world), which probably contributed to a certain climate of tolerance that was characteristic of Berlin for many decades  before the rise of the Third Reich.

With all this, Berlin apparently kept doubting her own position, and this is evident by performances in cabarets and revues. Often, these performances touted their own horn, underlying Berlin’s grandeur and likeness to cities such as Paris and London. Some critics noted how, if the city firmly felt to be the equal of the other European capitals, she wouldn’t have felt the need to point it out. The fact that she did revealed how, young as it still was and diverse as she would always be. She would also remain quite isolated, both from her own nation – that considered Berlin alien and not quite ‘true Germany’ – and from the other European nations, who still considered Germany ‘the enemy’. This isolation certainly weighted on Berlin’s perception of her own position on the continent.

As the German Empire grew in size and power, it strived to turn its capital #Berlin into a worthy competitor of the other European capitals, a true Weltstadt #Germany #history Click To Tweet

It is ironic, then, that Berlin seemed to reach that status of Weltstadt in the moment it seemed most unlikely: after WWI and the humiliation of the defeat. In the interwar years, when Berlin seemed to have no friends and many enemies, she did become the centre of European and to some extent world life. Her scientists, doctors, researchers made advancements in all fields. Industrialization and commercialisation reached new levels. Her theatres, her cinemas, her cabarets, all her amusement industry innovated everything there was to innovate, showing the way to the rest of the world.


Peter Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret. Harvard University Press, Harvard, 1993

Berliner Cabaret (AtoZ Challenge 2019) Weltstadt - As the German Empire grew in size and power in the second half of the 1800s, it strived to make its capital Berlin a true Weltstadt, one that could compete with other powerful capitals of the world
Berliner Cabaret - Weltstadt - As the German Empire grew in size and power, it strived to turn its capital into a worthy competitor of the other European capitals, a true Weltstadt


  • Kristin
    Posted April 26, 2019 at 04:12

    I have a friend who tries to spend a month in Berlin each year. It is his favorite city. He is in his 80s now and has lived all over the world.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 27, 2019 at 09:58

      I have never visited Berlin, though now I’d really love to go. My sister has visited the city many times over the years (it’s her favourte city too), and knows it quite well. I’d like to go with her.
      Well, maybe one day 🙂

    Posted April 26, 2019 at 21:03

    Many thanks for another great Berlin piece, Sarah! And great pics.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 27, 2019 at 09:59

      It took me ages to make up that collection of pics, but I had a ton of fun researching!

  • Birgit
    Posted April 29, 2019 at 13:43

    Catching up here…I really didn’t know that Berlin was a young city. I love seeing the old pictures of Berlin before the ravages of war. My niece just came back from a week in Berlin.

    • Post Author
      Posted May 3, 2019 at 09:24

      Apparently she was, compared to the other European capitals. At the beginning of the 1900s, Berlin status as a city was very different from that of today, when city like, say, Paris or London already had their continental – and global – importance.

  • Roland R Clarke
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 04:51

    Those pictures added another dimension – tragic on one level given the destruction to come. I’ve been to West Berlin once – before the Wall came down – and I only got to see the modern side. Or is that all now?

    • Post Author
      Posted May 3, 2019 at 09:28

      I’ve never been to Berlin, so I really don’t know for sure. But my sister visited many times, though it was always after the Wall came down. I remember that the first time she went was in the mid 1990s and she said that No Man’s Land was a deserted place, where nothign stood. Now it’s a busy part of the city and yes, very modern.
      But I understand that Berlin in general is a modern city, because the war destroyed so much of it.
      My sister went most recently some three or four years ago, when she was writing her thesis (incidently, it was about the Berliner Kabarett). But she could visit very few places, because so little remains of the 1920s places.

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