The Bethanien is one of the last bastions that makes Berlin the special city that it is today.
But it was a long way untill it became that impressive establishment that it is today.
Before the Bethanien became the unique arthouse that it is today, it had to go through an exciting colorful past.
The Bethanien got erected between 1845 – 1847 as an teaching hospital. In 1848 the German writer Theodor Fonatane began to work as a pharmacist in the Bethanien. In 1968 it was the plan to tear the building down, in 1970 the hospital totally closed. One year later it was occupied by young people so the government of Berlin decided to use it as a living project for youth.
In 1971 some youths frequently met in a youth center called „Wrangel Jugendheim“ in the Naunystr. in Kreuzberg. There they met for a beer after work or school. But their they never hat the possibility to do more than a little dancing, playing table tennis or to act. Soon they had the idea to found an own project and have a look for some empty rooms in Berlin Kreuzberg, where they could do what they wanted to do, without any rules by a housemaster who tells them what to do.
They found an empty factory near the Mariannenplatz with four floors, and squatted it with 300 hundered people at the 3rd of July in 1971. It was the 1st succsefull squatting in Berlin ever and a paradigm for a bunch of squattings that would come up in the future of Berlin. But that was the easy part. The house was in a terrible condition, some of the squatters disribeted it as a heap of rubbish. The new residents had more than just to clean up the place. They had to install new power supply lines, repair the sanitary installations, had to build up walls and to renovate the whole building. Allready in this time the self-organisation began. Different groups, like students and worker groups have been builded and each group had theire own tasks. Suprisingly it worked very good. The new youth center became a great succes.
A lot of the people still lived at home with theire parents, but wanted to move out. But because of the condition of the youth center it was impossible to live in theire. So they tried to rent own flats in a legal way, but really fast they had to realize that it was almost impossible because the most of them have been 18 or younger and didn’t earned more than 100 Euro per month.
But right across the Marianneplatz was the former Bethanien Krankenhaus (Bethanien Hospital) that has been abandoned since 2 years. The people In Kreuzberg have been angry about the Bethanien anyway. The rents in Berlin became more and more expensive, but the Bethanien was empty for years although the rooms have been really nice and the whole house was heated in the winter time. so it was the perfect place and time to squat this building next. In a meeting of the youth center members a plan was made. A party was organized, as a reason they took the murder of „Georg von Rauch“ an anarchist and left wing activist who got „murdered“ by the german police. In the end 600 people came up to the Mariannenplatz in Berlin Kreutzberg and about 100 to 200 managed to enter the building. The other ones stayed and demonstrated infront of the house. Of course the police arrived fast after. They tried to break up the deomnstration by driving into the crowds of people with the car, using pepperspray or batons. But the people who allready managed to enter the building have been save.
In the year 2003, parts of the Street Art exibition Backjumps Issue #1, took place in the Bethanien. The Bethanien has a long history, has been a, hospital, a former squat and is an independent Arthouse were contemporary Art, Street Art and different workshops are taking place. The entry is free.
More infos about the Art house and former squated house Bethanien by Wikipedia.