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Charlottenburg in the 1960s: Berlin’s coolest Kiez

It's hard to imagine it now, but in the 1960s Charlottenburg was Berlin’s bohemian hotspot. These vintage photos give us a glimpse into the neighbourhood's former groovy glory.

The Kurfürstendamm at night, 1968. Photo: IMAGO / serienlicht

In 1960s West Germany, it didn’t get much cooler than Charlottenburg. The cosmopolitan epicentre and the go-to neighbourhood for artists, fashion designers and celebs, anyone who was anyone in 1960s Berlin was hanging out in Charlottenburg. Join us on a photographic tour to tell the story of this affluent and exciting district.

West Berlin Landmark: The Europa-Center

The Europa-Center, 1966. Photo: IMAGO / serienlicht

1960s Charlottenburg felt almost like a mini New York and in true American fashion, it needed a shopping centre. At 86-metres, the Europa-Center was Berlin’s tallest building when construction was completed in 1963.

Still from Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo d. Ulrich Edel (Germany, 1981)

A decade later, West Berlin icon Christiane F. stormed onto the roof of the Europa-Center in the cult film Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo; immortalising the spot as a grunge landmark.

The swinging 60s at Schloss Charlottenburg

Fashion show at Schloss Charlottenburg, 1966. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA / Keystone

Back in 1966, Schloss Charlottenburg was the setting of Berlin designer Heinz Oestergaard’s ‘Swinging Life’ fashion show. Interestingly, Oestergaard was also the creative mind behind the West German police uniform of that era – a design not exactly in tune with the spirit of the ’60s.

Extreme sales tactics

Kurfürstendamm, 1969. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA / Keystone

With so many shops on Ku’Damm vying for customers’ attention, it’s no wonder that many businesses resorted to extreme sales tactics. This photo captures a sales campaign for a shop selling exotic furs: the woman wears the most valuable piece the shop had to offer: a coat made from the fur of Mexican ocelots worth 75,000 Deutsche Marks, while casually taking a tiger for a stroll. We can’t imagine Peta being too happy with this.

The cast of Hair pose on Kurfürstendamm

Cast of Hair, 1969. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA / Keystone

These costumed cast members from the hit American musical Hair might not be genuine hippies, but we promise there were plenty of real ones to be found in Charlottenburg. When Hair first premiered on Broadway in 1968, the mega-hit musical was a pop culture milestone, and quickly began touring in West Germany.

Charlottenburg: A beacon of free speech

Student protests against the Vietnam War outside the Technical University in Charlottenburg on 18 February 1968. Photo: IMAGO / imagebroker

While East Berlin was under the watchful eye of the Stasi, Charlottenburg was a beacon of Western-centred free speech. This photo captures the spirited protests against the Vietnam War, as students took to the streets.

The International Vietnam Congress at the Technical University. Photo: IMAGO / imagebroker

While protests were underway outside, other students sat inside the Technical University, waiting for The International Vietnam Congress to commence. The historic event attracted around 5,000 participants and 44 delegations from 14 countries.

The city’s first WG

Kommune 1 members, director Rudolf Thome and model Uschi Obermaier in a Charlottenburg dive bar. Photo: IMAGO / United Archives

With all the luxuries available to West Berlin, many people were disgusted by the middle-class malaise that prevailed. No more so than Kommune 1 on Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße 54A (also endearingly known as the city’s first ‘WG’) . Captured in this image, fashion model Uschi Obermaier was one of the superstars of the commune and along with Fritz Teufel, Rainer Langhans and Dieter Kunzelmann, they attracted visitors from all over the world including Jimi Hendrix. The commune boldly stood against the nuclear family as a fascist concept. This counter-model of polyamory, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll was short-lived. Just as the 60s were coming to a close, Kommune 1 shut its doors.

This article was adapted from the original German version by Eve Kershman.