What Knaack’s Return Means for Berlin

Five years after closing its doors due to noise complaints from neighbors in December of 2010, Knaack club is slated to reopen in a new location as Knaack-Kulturhaus.

Knaack-Klub first opened in 1952 at 224 Greifswalder Straße, which was at that time, East Berlin. It started out as a youth centre with ping-pong tables and occasional shows and by the late 1960s it included (mostly recorded) music and dancing. By 1973 it had fully incorporated the “Diskothek” aspect of the club and in 1992 it became a legitimate concert venue for all kinds of live music - from hard-rock and punk to pop and jazz. At its peak, the venue hosted around 100 concerts a year.

By the end, Knaack-Klub also had a billiards room and hosted a karaoke night three- days a week. It was a raging success, even gaining the status of “legendary” and “an institution” by journalists and fans alike, hosting bands such as Rammstein, Die Toten Hosen, and Snow Patrol. The noise complaints started in 2009, resulting in animosity between the club owners and the neighbours. Starting in February of 2010, the club was only allowed to play loud music until 10pm, and eventually the Higher Administrative Court (Oberwaltungsgericht) forced the club to close down. Its last event was held on New Years Eve 2010-2011.

The club was named after Ernst Knaack (1947-1944), after whom the nearby Knaackstraße was also named. Knaack was a German Communist - an official member of the Communist Youth League of Germany (KJVD - Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands), fighting against the Nazi Regime. Knaack specifically worked as a leader for agitation and propaganda in Prenzlauerberg. In 1942, he was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In July of 1944, he was sentenced to death and executed.

Prenzlauerberg has been a prime example of gentrification in Berlin. After World War II throughout the GDR period, Prenzlauerberg was home to intellectuals, artists, and students. After reunification, most of the property in Prenzlauerberg was inhabited by squatters, some paying nothing, others paying around 50 Deutsche Marks per month. Over time, the area has become known as the Park Slope of Berlin (a young creative class made it attractive for young couples with babies and enough money to eat organic brunch, thus driving up the price of rent). It was understandably frustrating for Knaack-Klub, which had been around since the 1950s, to be forced to close because of its new neighbours' babies and their preference for silence. Jens-Holger Kirchner, a council member from the department of urban development and planning [Stadtrat fuer Stadtentwiklung] said “Wir sind dem Club noch was schuldig”, (English: We still owe the Knaack Klub).

Knaack wasn't the only club in the area to close recently. Magnet Club, White Trash, Klub der Republik and the scene-bar ‘Zum schmutzigen Hobby’ have all been forced to close down and move in the past few years. Knaack's opening is a rarity for Prenzlauerberg, and is perhaps a sign that the district is trying to give a little bit of what once went missing. Knaack-Kulturhaus will be situated conveniently along the so-called “party tram” -the M10 tram line, next to Mauerpark, between the Ebeserwalder Str. U2 and the Bernauer Str. U8, just at the border between Wedding and Prenzlauerberg. Thilo Goos, who is also the managing director at Black Box Music, formerly a co-owner of the club, is planned to be the sole proprietor of the new location.