German president’s villa remains haunted by its past

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Berlin’s leafy Dahlem neighbourhood has always been a good address – except if you were a Jew selling a villa there in 1933.

Now, almost 85 years later, the tragic story of pearl factory owner Hugo Heymann has become a state tragedy. Because his former home, a pretty white plastered villa under a red-tiled roof, is now the residence of Germany’s federal president.

Until 2014, official Berlin claimed not to know the history of the villa in the Pucklerstrasse.

When the German government moved back from Bonn to Berlin, the federal president’s official seat moved to Bellevue palace on the banks of the river Spree.

While presidents still use it for work and representative events, many forego the isolated structure for the cosier Dahlem villa with a large downstairs public area and a private apartment upstairs.

But until 1933 the villa was the home of Hugo Heymann. Days after the Nazi takeover in 1933 he sold it to the Nazi publisher Waldemar Gerber.

Historian Julien Reitzenstein contacted the presidential office in 2014 with the details of its previous owner and what he viewed as a forced sale below market value.





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