From 1898 to 1908, court architect Ernst von Ihme commissioned a luxurious palace in the English country-house style for the banker Franz von Mendelssohn, a grandnephew of the German composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. It was built on the corner of Bismarckallee and Herthastraße and was a replica of Castle Kronberg in the Taunus Mountains. The well-known banker and art patron Robert von Mendelssohn was born in this very building. His father, Franz von Mendelssohn, who later became the chairman of the Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce, created an atmosphere of tolerance and charity. Among the famous persons frequenting the palace were Kaiser Wilhelm II himself and the scientists Max Planck and Albert Einstein. The latter even played music in the saloon which is today called the Salon Mendelssohn.
After his father’s death in 1935, Robert von Mendelssohn succeeded his father in the bank that had been founded back in 1795. He refused the planned Aryanization of the bank by the Nazi regime and preferred to have it wound up. Deutsche Bank took over the employees and the business customer accounts. At the end of World War II, Robert von Mendelssohn moved with his family to a place near Stuttgart. From 1972 until his death in 1996, he lived in Berlin again, the city where he was born.
His house of birth looks back on a painful history. In 1939, the Nazi regime ordered the sale of the building to the German Reich. Firstly, it was used by the German Reich’s Post; then it served as a guest house for prominent Nazis. The extensive technical facilities installed by the Post were later used by the secret state police of the Third Reich (Gestapo) to bug and tap the entire area of Berlin-Grunewald from there. In 1943, the house was hit by allied bombs and partly burned out. After 1946, the former palace housed a make-shift school founded by the British occupying power for 260 children: today’s church was the auditorium, today’s cinema the gymnasium. When the English moved into a new building in Berlin-Charlottenburg, the house was returned to the heirs of the Mendelssohn family, who were by then scattered all over the world. They hardly recognized the once so well-kept palace they remembered from their loving childhood memories, and they decided to put the half-ruined building up for sale.
So it was that the charitable organization Johannisches Aufbauwerk (today: Johannisches Sozialwerk) acquired the property for 332,500 Marks in 1957. It named the house St.-Michaels-Heim. Even though the selling-price could be payable in seven instalments of 50,000 Marks, the acquisition was a great challenge for both the church and the charity. It was only made possible by the help of 1,000 voluntary sponsors who each donated one Mark per week until the full amount was attained. From 1963 until 1967, the house was rebuilt under the direction of the architect Hans-Georg Heinrich and with the participation of many volunteers.
Today, St.-Michaels-Heim houses the church called Johannische Kirche, a youth guest house with 140 beds, a small 3-star hotel and the restaurant St. Michaels – also known as the “Frommer Löffel” (“pious spoon”) – with a beer garden. Its “Bankett & Catering” service turns your private parties and festivities into an unforgettable experience.
On our grounds covering over 23,000 m2 you will find:
- a day care facility for children with nursery
- a children’s home with therapeutic youth residential program
- a dentist’s office
- a general practitioner’s office
- a welfare centre
- a guardianship association
- a home-delivered meals programme
- an osteopath’s and physical therapist’s office
- a speech therapist’s office
- a breathing therapist’s office
Today, St.-Michaels-Heim is still a meeting place for all kinds of people, just as its builder had intended it to be. All as befits the motto of the house:
Peace to those that come here,
joy to those that stay here,
blessings to those that move on.