Clärchens Ballhaus

Situated in Auguststrasse in the Mitte district of Berlin, Clärchens Ballhaus is possibly the last original Weimar-era dancehall still surviving and, very much, in operation today.

It was opened in 1913 by Fritz Bühler as Bühler’s Ballhaus. It became known as Clärchens Ballhaus after Fritz Bühler was killed in the First World War and the business was taken over by his widow, Clara.

The business continued after the First World War and eventually came under the ownership of Elfriede Wolff, the stepdaughter of Fritz and Clara and then in 1979, it was taken over by her brother Stefan Wolff.

The German illustrator Heinrich Zille was a regular at the bar where he used to sit and draw, and the poster, still used today, was designed by Otto Dix.


 

Up to the 1940′s there were two dance halls. The ground floor was host to the popular music of the time, whilst the grand, mirrored hall on the first floor was a much more formal affair.

There was also a bowling alley in the basement.

In 1944, all music and dancing stopped, and it is thought the upstairs ballroom was commandeered as an officers mess.

After the war, the upstairs ballroom remained closed and would do so for the next 60 years. The bowling alley was used as a coal cellar.

The front building was so badly bomb-damaged that it had to be demolished, and was never re-built, providing space for the large courtyard and biergarten that is in use today.

The business finally left the family ownership in 2003 after 91 years.


In January 2005, after a substantial rent increase, the Ballhaus changed hands again. The new operators, David Regehr and Christian Schulz, have left the interior largely unchanged and, in 2005, re-opened the mirrored ballroom upstairs for the first time since the Second World War.

In 2008, the venue was used to film scenes for the movie ‘Valkyrie’, starring Tom Cruise, and Jake Gyllenhaal was spotted on the dance-floor during this year’s Berlinale Film Festival.

 

Today there are weekly dances plus regular dance classes in Ballroom and Latin. The mirrored ballroom is available for private hire and the restaurant and bars are open every day from 10am.

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4 Responses to Clärchens Ballhaus

  1. Wow–what a history. Such a beautiful building–thank you for sharing all of this in your post. Do they ever host cabaret performances at this venue?

  2. Hels says:

    Weimar era dance halls must have been exciting places to hang out in. I can imagine that the decor, music, booze, clothes and sex were all rather daring. But Bühler’s Ballhaus or Clärchens Ballhaus would have been seen as decadent and vile during the Nazi regime, so the place was fortunate to have survived from 1933 to 1944.

    Do you have any photos or paintings of the crowds before 1933? I wish I was around then, to feel the excitement. I wish I could have met Otto Dix.

  3. Pingback: Communist Berlin and Abandoned Grandour « onegirlsworldtravels

  4. Joerg says:

    Clärchens was also used as a film-set for the Quentin Tarantinos “Inglorious Basterds”. It is the scene at the end, when Christoph Waltz tries to negotiate his survival. It is shot right in front of the entrance to the toilets.

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