Most tourists visiting Berlin for the first time head for the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Radio Tower and a few other historic sites. A much less known gem is the 100-year-old Kammergericht (appellate court) in Berlin’s District of Schoeneberg. By the way, only Berlin’s Court of Appeals is known as the Kammergericht. All other German appellate courts are called Oberlandesgericht (High Court of Appeals).
Berlin’s Kammergericht in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015
History of the Kammergericht
Berlin’s Kammergericht is the oldest German court and the highest court of Berlin. It was established by the Electors of Brandenburg and first mentioned in 1468. Originally, it functioned as an arm of the royal court, but in 1735 it became an independent institution. At that time the Kammergericht moved into the Collegienhaus in central Berlin. https://www.berlin.de/sen/justiz/gerichte/kg/ueber-uns/allgemeines/geschichte.html In the early 1900s, the court’s space requirements increased dramatically, and the Kammergericht moved into its own building in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park in the district of Schoeneberg. It first opened its doors in 1913.
All About Berlin’s Kammergericht – Appellate Court
As a result of the division of Berlin following World War II, the city ended up with two appellate courts. While East Berlin’s Kammergericht remained in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park, West Berlin’s appellate court moved to the district of Charlottenburg in 1949. In 1961, East Berlin abolished its Court of Appeals altogether. Following German reunification, the Kammergericht returned to the site in the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park in 1992 and, once again, serves the entire city.
Division of Berlin into four sectors (1945 to 1990)
Features of Berlin’s Kammergericht building
Constructed from sandstone and basalt, the Kammergericht is a 5-story building with over 500 rooms. Its entrance faces the Heinrich-von-Kleist Park. Two stately colonnades frame the edifice. The imposing entrance hall extends through all floors. The building’s interior is richly decorated, each floor in a different color. Sculptures decorate the stairwells.
Interim Uses of the Kammergericht building
–During the Nazi period, the Volksgerichtshof (Peoples’ Court) was housed in this building, and it became the site of the show trials against the conspirators in the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on 20 July 1944. http://www.berlin1.de/berlin-sehen/institutionen/kammergericht-reprsentatives-haus-im-monumentalen-stil-2013407
–Between 1945 and 1948, the building served as the headquarters of the Allied Control Council (Allierter Kontrollrat). The four Allied powers met in this building to discuss issues concerning the four German Occupation Zones. After the Soviets stomped out of the Control Council in 1948, the Allies no longer met.
–In September of 1971, ambassadors of the four Allies signed the Four Power Agreement on Berlin (Viermaechte-Abkommen ueber Berlin) in the building’s chambers.
–Until 1990, the Allied Air Safety Center (Allierte Luftsicherheitszentrale) was housed in this building.
For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.