History of the Volks- and Waldpark Wuhlheide
The Wuhlheide is an urban forest and park area in the district Oberschöneweide in Berlin. In addition to the former Volkspark Wuhlheide, it includes the largest family leisure center in Berlin, FEZ Berlin, the second largest open-air arena in Berlin, Parkbühne Wuhlheide, the unique Modellpark Berlin-Brandenburg, the Parkeisenbahn (park railway) operated by youth and children as well as other facilities listed below.
The park was created as folk and forest garden according to plans of the Treptow garden director Ernst Harrich in the years 1919 to 1931. The guiding principle was the so-called "forest park" with natural deciduous forest areas.
The effects of the war partly destroyed the park. Only the open-air bath Wuhlheide has been preserved in its original form and will continue to be used after a complex renovation in the style of the 20s.
The following well-researched text by the Geschichtsfreunde Karlshorst provides further information on the history of the park.
In 1979, the Haus der Pioniere, later called the Pionierpalast, was built, with 13,000 square meters of function rooms, a restaurant, a sports hall and a 50-meter swimming pool. The spectacular highlight was a "cosmonaut training center".
After the German reunification, the area was called FEZ (Freizeit- und Erholungszentrum). Since the 1990s, the facilities have been restored. The FEZ hosts major events such as the United Nations Weeks, the annual Puppet Theater Festival, and events such as the Festival of Young Politics, the Harry Potter Events, the city play FEZitty, and others designed by teenagers and children, taking place especially during vacations. But even in normal daily operations, it is the largest non-profit children and youth recreation facility in Europe. In the same building there is also the Landesmusikakademie Berlin.
The Volks- und Waldpark Wuhlheide
The Volks- und Waldpark Wuhlheide
The first written record of the Wuhlheide dates back to 1577, in which the name "wolowische Heide" was used. Even in later periods, this vast and sparsely populated area was economically interesting in terms of forestry. With time the Wuhlheide gained more and more importance as a recreation area. The entire terrain - in 1920, a total size of 610 acres - was created was deidcated to recreation. The inhabitants of the immediately adjacent towns Karlshorst, Köpenick and Oberschöneweide used the Wuhlheide already in 1900 extensively for recreational purposes. That is why it is not surprising that the first plans to create a public park there date back to 1902. But for now only declarations of intent were expressed.
In 1911, the Zweckverband Groß-Berlin acquired 527 hectares of the Wuhlheide in order to build a waterworks there. With this purchase, the city took over the same obligation to develop a part of 125 hectares as a public park. The waterworks was put into operation in 1914, but the outbreak of World War I prevented the creation of the "Volkspark Wuhlheide". After the end of the war the Treptow garden administration resumed the planning. In 1922, the city council passed the relevant resolution. Municipal Garden Inspector Ernst Harrich responsible for for the district of Treptow was working on the preparation of the plans. He was responsible for the realization of the plans from 1924 until his death in 1941. After training at the Royal Garden Institute Dahlem (1907-1909), he was involved in the construction of the Schillerpark under the head gardener Weiss. He was entrusted with the execution of the technical work. The plans for the Wuhlheide presented a special challenge. Due to the rapid advance of the city, the increasing industrialization in Ober- and Niederschöneweide, the use of forest clearings as a dumping ground and the lowering of the groundwater level by the construction of the new waterworks the park had already suffered severe damage. For Harrich, setting up a folk park was therefore also a matter of nature conservation. He did not want an "ornamental forest", but a permanent forest that could meet the recreational demands of the population. Therefore, Harrich designed the entire system as a people's park.
Construction began in 1924. The first section was handed over to the public on 4 July 1926. This included a sports meadow, the large forest meadow, the toboggan run, the hedge garden, the sand playground, the paddling pool and as a special part a flower meadow. The work was essentially completed by 1932. Another sand playground, the bathhouse and a subsequent meadow, which should serve as an ice rink in winter, were among the last handed projects. With a total area of 175 hectares, Berlin received the largest public park at that time. The park was immediately accepted by the population. Visitor numbers of 5,400 people on a weekend were not uncommon. With the outbreak of World War II the decay of the Volkspark began. As in other parks, facilities for air-raid protection were also built here. Anti-aircraft positions and an air raid shelter on the street "An der Wuhlheide" were built. Combat and air strikes led to destruction in many park areas. Large parts of the northwestern terrain on the Treskowallee - Große Waldwiese, Sportwiese and Hängemattenhain - were used by the Soviet Army for their own purposes immediately after the war. Barracks were built here in the next few years. But also other third-party use, ie. the deforestation of the forest after the war and lack of care in the following years led to completely new structures.
The East Berlin administration had no interest in rebuilding the old people's and forest park as they had other plans. The Pionier Park Ernst Thälmann was built in 1951 in the eastern part of the forest area. During this time, the open-air stage (called Kindl-Bühne Wuhlheide in between and today Parkbühne), the stadium, the bathing lake and the so-called "Pionierbahn" (Pioneer Railway) were built on the occasion of the 3rd World Festival. In 1979 the Pionier Palast with swimming pool, sports hall and playground were added. This entire facility is now called Freizeit- und Erholungszentrum (FEZ) and is a popular destination for children and adolescents. The already mentioned Parkbühne is used commercially. Numerous events and concerts are held after extensive renovation in 1995/96.
At the end of the nineties, after the departure of the Soviet Army and the removal of the barracks, initial plans for a cautious reconstruction of the Volks- and Waldpark began. Foundations and boundaries of old facilities were uncovered. Former meadows and playgrounds were cleared of vegetation. Signs in the area of the former children's play and gymnastics area remind us of how this area was once used for. At the place where once stood the refuge of the children's playground, the "Linden Pavilion" was built. The former open-air bath was completely renovated as an outdoor swimming pool, whereby the structures from the twenties were preserved. The oval, which once surrounded the Große Waldwiese, is now asphalted and designated to a skateboarding track. Embedded in the landscape, where once was the sport training ground (also known as the "Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion"), the Model Park Berlin-Brandenburg opened in spring 2007. Visitors can see famous Berlin and Brandenburg sights in scale 1:25.
This article could only give a little insight into the richt history of the Volkspark Wuhlheide.
Jörg Bock – Geschichtsfreunde Karlshorst