There were lavish parties at the Hotel Adlon as early as the 1920s. The hotel did not survive the war and the GDR. But today it’s back in its old place – and is a magnet for celebrities and not-so-poor tourists.
Berlin – This is where the Rolling Stones check in when they perform in Berlin, as they did recently. US presidents, majesties and film stars are also drawn to the Hotel Adlon directly at the Brandenburg Gate.
The Queen lived there, as did the Dalai Lama several times. Angela Merkel and Barack Obama met for dinner. Unforgettable is the scene from November 2002, when Michael Jackson held his little son out of the open hotel window to show him to the fans. The baby kicked, the fans cried out in shock, and the “King of Pop” had an image crack. The awareness of the new Adlon gave another “push”, says hotel director Michael Sorgenfrey.
25 years ago, on August 23, 1997, the Hotel Adlon was reopened. It was the first new building on Pariser Platz, where the Second World War and the GDR had destroyed all the old magnificent buildings. The reconstruction of the legendary luxury hotel was also a symbol of German reunification. Where tourists crowd today and pose for selfies in front of the Brandenburg Gate, there was a huge vacant lot after the war and the division of Germany.
The old luxury hotel, which opened in 1907, was originally famous. Back then, entrepreneur Lorenz Adlon offered the first rooms with electric lights and hot running water – far more modern than the rooms in the nearby palace of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who opened the hotel and became a regular guest, as did leading politicians.
In the 1920s, which stood for both luxury and poverty in Berlin, son Louis Adlon and his wife Hedda made it a meeting point for guests such as Charlie Chaplin, Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich. In the 1930s, the leading Nazis also liked to party there.
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the hotel burned down to one side wing. In 1984 this remainder, located close to what later became the death strip of the Wall, was demolished. The Adlon name remained a myth. In the middle of the Cold War, the Kempinski hotel group bought the naming rights from the Adlon heirs, more than 30 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
There were also “quite lucrative offers” to build a new Adlon at a different location, says the founder’s great-great-grandson, Felix Adlon. A Hotel Adlon in Wiesbaden was discussed. That was rejected. “If there should be an Adlon again, it will be at the Brandenburg Gate.”
In 1989 the Wall fell, Germany and Berlin were reunited, and the Pariser Platz at the Brandenburg Gate was free of barbed wire again. The entrepreneur Anno August Jagdfeld collected money for the new hotel with a fund. “Everything here was in ruins in the early 1990s. It was difficult to place the fund and find investors,” remembers Jagdfeld, who later had problems with other real estate funds. The state of Berlin supported the project. The pudding manufacturer and company founder Rudolf-August Oetker (1916-2007) was one of the first investors.
Luxury hotel industry and tourist attraction
The project cost more than 400 million euros and is owned by 4,000 investors. The architecture in the replica style of the old Adlon was hotly debated. Today, many tourists at the Brandenburg Gate may not know that behind the historic facade and all the red plush and gold shine inside is a modern concrete building.
25 years after the reopening, the house is internationally known – even if some celebrities prefer to stay in new luxury hotels with modern furnishing style at Potsdamer Platz or the State Opera. But it is the location at the Brandenburg Gate that always makes a piece of Berlin history out of the posh hotel. Neighbors are the embassies of Great Britain, France and the USA as well as the Academy of Arts.
In view of the competitive Berlin hotel market with more than 20 luxury hotels, the location plays a role. One night costs at least 360 euros. The “Deluxe Suite Brandenburger Tor” with 130 square meters can be found on the booking portals for 8500 euros – per night. With bath and breakfast.
“The Adlon stands for luxury hotels and is also a tourist attraction,” says Christian Tänzler, spokesman for tourism advertisers at Visit Berlin. The location at the Brandenburg Gate is a unique selling point. “Add to that the eventful history and the many famous guests. Many who visit Berlin want to see the Adlon – at least for a coffee or tea.”
The story of the Adlon as a TV three-part series
The dazzling life of the Adlon family also offered film material. In 1996 Percy Adlon told about it as a director in the television film “In the glamorous world of the Hotel Adlon”. In 2013, ZDF showed the ten million euro production “Das Adlon – Eine Familiensaga” as a three-part series.
In reality, a new chapter is being opened in court. Felix Adlon, the director’s son, has been fighting for a retransfer of the property for several years and is suing the state of Berlin. The question is whether the family could have defended themselves against being apprehended by the Nazi system. The Adlons were “actually dispossessed” and are therefore entitled to compensation, it is argued. The spokesman for the Jagdfeld Group, Christian Plöger, emphasizes that nothing will change in the ownership structure of the Adlon. “A retransfer of the property and the hotel is out of the question, but at most only financial compensation from the state.”
And this is how the 25th anniversary is celebrated: In addition to a party for the employees and a gala for invited guests, there are special accommodation offers. And if you drink your tea in the hotel lobby on the anniversary day or between August 26th and 28th, according to hotel spokeswoman Sabina Held, you will be greeted by butlers in tails and white gloves with a magnum of champagne. The bartenders revive the cocktail “Hommage 1997”, in which the main role is played by the favorite drink of many guests – champagne. dpa