The old Weinhaus Huth upright and alone under the moonlight. An oasis, illuminated, inviting and a stronghold all at the same time, silent and proud. Recognizable near and far by the small, eight-pillared tower on its roof. The whole building is a lighthouse, solitary in light-grey stone; with its oriels [sic] and high windows it emanates an old fashioned glamour.
-Inka Bach “Squatters”
The history of Inka Bach and of Weinhaus Huth, also known as Haus Huth, is an interesting one. I didn’t realize until after a second reading of her story “Squatters”, that Haus Huth is the building that was being occupied. A building that she herself lived in for a time.
See, Haus Huth, the wine house, was built in 1912. The wine store and restaurant took up the first two floors of the building. The remaining upper three floors were rented out.
Most buildings in the Platz were destroyed in the bombing of Berlin during WWII. Those that were merely damaged were quickly back in use. Until the Uprising. During the Uprising, some of these buildings that were rebuilt burned down. In the following years, the numbers of tenants that remained in the area dwindled.
The Berlin Wall, which bisected Potsdamer Platz, was built in 1969 and to make way for the increasing no-man’s-land around the wall, other buildings were demolished. But Weinhaus Huth still stood, unmarred.
Inka Bach grew up in both parts of Berlin. Born in 1956, she left East Germany with her family in 1972. She obtained her master’s and doctorate. After moving around from Paris and New York, she ended up moving into the Weinhaus Huth in West Berlin with her newborn son in the summer of 1989.
The father of Inka’s son lived on the third floor of Haus Huth. They all lived in a cramped 800-square foot loft and soon, the family included a daughter.
Living at Haus Huth was…odd. While there was substantial space for her children to play, there was very few other children to play with. The view from living in the center of, in the very heart of Berlin was “unobstructable”. But there were no other people around. No buildings. Just empty space where buildings used to stand.
But the rent was very cheap. Parking was easy. Police never bothered handing out tickets. The Berliner Philharmonie (Berlin Philharmonic), Martin-Gropius-Bau (a 19th century exhibition hall and concert venue), and the Neue Nationalgalerie (modern art museum which currently is temporarily closed under renovations), were each within a ten minute walking distance. I literally checked. And she took her children often.
By 1990 the Wall came down. And soon after, the Platz began to change.
The fifteen thousand acres to the southwest of Potsdamer Platz, which cost 93 million deutsche marks and included the Weinhaus Huth, was bought by the Daimler Group and quickly became one of the most valuable properties in Berlin. The tenants of Weinhaus Huth, including Inka Bach, held out as long as they could but eventually, they were all given financial settlements to move.
The money was no doubt substantial but it did mean no more squatters in Haus Huth. No more tenants with rent as low as 2.50 deutsche marks per square meter either. But all of Potsdamer Platz sprang up around Weinhaus Huth.
But it’s in December of 1983 that the characters of “Squatters” live on the fourth floor of Weinhaus Huth.
They include a couple and a few other men. The police come and search the apartment half-heartedly. Near the end of the story, in November of 1990, the unnamed woman goes to work and hears riots from her apartment. The woman notes the changing Platz and thinks “The time of the Wall on Potsdamer Platz is over. Built up excess pressure escapes. Construction fences are put up and block the view of the wide lawn. The grass where Curt Bois stood and shouted, ‘I can’t find Potsdamer Platz! Here – this can’t be it!’
“[No more] young couples [who] used to sun themselves between the rubble and the dandelions” (Bach).
The Weinhaus Huth had emptied of squatters and tenants alike. And soon Haus Huth would be assimilated into Germany’s modernist sensibilities just like all the rest.
Currently, Weinhaus Huth is known for its wine shop, Lutter & Wegner, situated snuggly among the many building which eclipse it.
And as for Inka Bach, after she separated from the father of her children she moved from back to Schöneberg, where she still lives today. She received both a scholarship and a prize from the Stiftung Preußische Seehandlung, a foundation which “promotes literature in the cultural field and, above all, conferences and research projects on Berlin and Brandenburg-Prussian history in the academic field.” She received a grant from the Berlin Senate for women’s grants. Inka Bach has received two grants from the international artists’ village Schöppingen, a grant from the Amsterdam Literature Program, and a grant from the The International Writers and Translators’ House in Ventspils, Latvia. Inka Bach went on to write eleven books, six radio plays, two plays, and work on two documentaries, one of which she directed herself.
Inka Bach, “Squatters”
Peter Schneider, Berlin Now: The City after the Wall