Situated on the corner of what is now Potsdamer Strasse and Pallasstrasse in the Schöneberg district of the city, The Sportspalast opened in 1910.
It was built on land formerly occupied by the palatial estate of the city’s Head of Planning August Leopold Crelle, who designed and built the Berlin to Potsdam railway. The site was bought by Die Internationale Sportpalast – und Winter-Velodrom Gmbh in 1909 , who commissioned architect Hermann Bernburg to build the venue. It was completed very quickly and opened in November 1910 with a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, conducted by Richard Strauss.
(image: wikipedia commons)
It was designed to be an all-purpose winter sports and meeting hall and at the time of opening featured the world’s largest ice-rink. Depending on the event and the seating plan, the venue could hold up to 14,000 people and was the largest meeting hall in the city.
1911 saw the debut of the legendary Six-Day Bicycle Races which were to take the city by storm and be a regular feature at the Sportpalast for the next twenty-four years.
” Whoever wants to see the Berlin people in a fever, do not miss the chance to see a part of the 144 hours dedicated those who ride on an inclined wooden track, the riders of the six-day races, making their circuits of the great hall. In the central circle and the reserved boxes of the hall, one will see the cream of society and celebrities with their beautiful shoulders draped in Sable and Fox fur. You will want to sit amongst the true connoisseurs, the super-berliners, but in your sweaters and your jackets you must mingle in the gallery. No racing position or change of lead is ignored, everything is criticised or applauded in the most enthusiastic fashion.”
Franz Hessel, 1929
(Image: Sutton Verlag)
In 1935, the races were moved to the newly built Deutschland Halle, but this was short-lived as the racing was soon banned by the Nazi’s.
In 1923, The Sportpalast hosted the world’s first ever indoor equestrian event, and throughout the 1920′s was home to many high-profile boxing matches. German Heavyweight Boxing Champion Max Schmelling fought here several times during 1927 and 1928.
The 1920′s also saw the venue come into use for large political rallies, with all the main parties, Social Democrats, Communists, and latterly National Socialists holding events and rallies, often the venue was filled with a partisan crowd for added effect and publicity.
When the Nazi’s came to power in 1933 the venue was considered by them to be ‘Unsere große politische Tribüne’ – Our biggest political grandstand- and featured many vast political rallies and speeches. The Sportpalast was the scene of Hitler’s famous ‘Winterhilfe’ speech of September 1940, announcing the start of retaliatory bombing of British cities, and Goebbals ‘Total War’ speech of February 1943.
The building was badly bombed in January 1944 but, unlike many other buildings, was rapidly repaired and a new temporary roof erected. This caught fire on several occasions and it was not until October 1951 that a new completely refurbished Sportpalast was opened to the public, this time without a roof.
This was financially disastrous for the venue as it was now far too cold for spectators viewing winter sports and by 1954 a further refurbishment had taken place and a roof was once again added. The venue could now seat up to 8,600 for Boxing events and 6,000 for Ice Skating. There was also a separate 2,450 seat cinema. The six-day cycle races also returned to their original home.
(image: Wikipedia commons)
From the late 1950′s until late 1960′s the venue hosted some many high profile rock concerts featuring Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.
The construction of the Berlin wall in 1961 left the building in an isolated and not very central location, leading to a rapid downturn in income. The owner died in an accident in 1973 and the building was subsequently sold.
It was demolished on 13th November 1973, and a large block of flats built in its’ place, know locally as the ‘Sozial-Palast’.