About Karl Kutschera

Karl Kutschera com­plet­ed an appren­tice­ship in Vien­na, where he was trained in all areas of gas­tron­o­my. Before mov­ing to Berlin in 1900, he worked in Ham­burg at the Hotel Ham­burg­er Hof and as a ship wait­er on the Ham­burg — New York route. Sev­er­al times he tried to land in Amer­i­ca, but his efforts were in vain because he lacked the nec­es­sary papers. In 1906 he opened the Cafe Kutschera in Bis­mar­ck­straße in Berlin. In 1907 he took over the man­age­ment of the Zat­ter­sall am Kur­fürs­ten­damm.

In 1918 he bought the Union-Palais at Kur­fürs­ten­damm 26 and in 1919 he opened the Café Wien with a con­fec­tionery. Café Wien gained inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion, espe­cial­ly after he was able to con­vert and expand the build­ing in 1926 accord­ing to his plans, because he had acquired the prop­er­ty in 1926.

In 1929 he had the cel­lars extend­ed and in the fol­low­ing year he opened the restau­rant Zige­unerkeller with Hun­gar­i­an cui­sine and “Zige­uner­musik”. Archi­tect Max Abicht was respon­si­ble for the con­struc­tion of the gyp­sy cel­lar. The inte­ri­or design was car­ried out by the car­i­ca­tur­ist A. M. Cay and the press artist Theo Mate­jko. At that time, it was the largest restau­rant in terms of sur­face area in Berlin below the street lev­el.

Entrance to the Berlin Apple Store in the for­mer House of Vien­na on Kur­fürs­ten­damm

In the ear­ly 1930s, Kutschera was one of Berlin’s best-known gas­tronomes. The wine restau­rant Zige­unerkeller and the Café Wien had an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion and were a pop­u­lar meet­ing place for the sophis­ti­cat­ed Berlin. From 1924 to 1937 he also oper­at­ed the Kurhaus Clad­ow in Berlin-Klad­ow, where he also lived.

From 1936 onwards, Kutscheras and his restau­rants became vic­tims of anti-Semit­ic per­se­cu­tion by the Nazis, which was accom­pa­nied by a cam­paign of the Nazi week­ly Der Stürmer. The strik­er described the Café Wien and the gyp­sy cel­lar as a “Jew­ish Dora­do of the Kur­fürs­ten­damm”. Among oth­ers, the Gestapo and SD man Hein­rich Hamann was respon­si­ble for the pros­e­cu­tion of the Nazis. One year and sev­er­al defam­a­to­ry arti­cles lat­er, Kutschera was forced to give up. In order to pre­vent the with­draw­al of his con­ces­sion, he decid­ed to lease both com­pa­nies to the non-Jew­ish co-part­ners Ernst Krüger and Josef Stüber. Soon after, the sign “Jews unde­sir­able” was dis­played above the entrances. He had the oper­at­ing com­pa­ny delet­ed from the com­mer­cial reg­is­ter short­ly after­wards. It was there­fore not a boy­cott of his restau­rants that forced Kutschera to give up — his com­pa­ny had even been able to record an increase in turnover com­pared to the lucra­tive Olympic year of 1936 — but rather the pres­sure exert­ed by the strik­er on city author­i­ties, which was deci­sive for his sup­pres­sion from Berlin’s eco­nom­ic life. By 1937, its oper­a­tions had an annu­al turnover of 1.5 mil­lion Reichs­mark. The com­pa­ny employed 154 employ­ees, includ­ing 13 musi­cians, mak­ing it one of Berlin’s most suc­cess­ful restau­rants.

Kutschera with­drew to Klad­ow. The Kutschera fam­i­ly was deport­ed to There­sien­stadt con­cen­tra­tion camp on 19 May 1943. While Karl Kutschera and his sec­ond wife Josephine sur­vived the con­cen­tra­tion camp, their two chil­dren, Karin-Gertrud (* 1927) and Klaus Ger­hard (* 1926), were mur­dered in the con­cen­tra­tion camp Auschwitz.

The cou­ple Kutschera returned to Berlin in June 1945. In 1946 the Café Wien was reopened while the gip­sy cel­lar was still under water.

Karl Kutschera died as hon­orary chair­man of the Berlin­er Gast­wirtsin­nung on 19 May 1950, after his death his wife Josephine con­tin­ued the busi­ness until the begin­ning of the 1970s.

From 7 April to 3 May 2013, the instal­la­tion by artist Alexan­der Jöchl “Café Wien — ein Fam­i­lien­porträt” (Café Vien­na — A Fam­i­ly Por­trait) was on dis­play in the show­case of the Deutsche Bank branch on Kur­fürs­ten­damm 28. This instal­la­tion was the first in a series of eight artis­tic instal­la­tions of the project “Spuren, Hohlräume, Leer­stellen — Jüdis­ches Leben am Kur­fürs­ten­damm”. The project of the Insti­tute for Art at the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Arts Berlin is being run in coop­er­a­tion with the Archive of the Muse­um Char­lot­ten­burg-Wilmers­dorf as part of the theme year “Destroyed Diver­si­ty — Berlin 1933–1938-1945”.


Elis­a­beth Weber: Die Kutschera-Betriebe. ”Cafe Wien” und ”Zige­unerkeller”. In: Christoph Kreutzmüller, Kas­par Nürn­berg (Hrsg.): Ver­rat­en und verkauft – Jüdis­che Unternehmen in Berlin 1933–1945. Berlin 2008, ISBN 978–3‑00–026811‑3, S. 44–48.

Christoph Kreutzmüller: Ausverkauf. Die Ver­nich­tung der jüdis­chen Gewer­betätigkeit in Berlin 1930–1945. Metropol Ver­lag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978–3‑86331–080‑6, S. 152.