This famous and humongous department store, Kaufhaus Des Westens (KaDeWe in short), is a major attraction, almost a legend, especially its sixth floor, the food department, which is a temple for the “abundance society” of late capitalism in the Western world.
We are quite the food lovers, so you can imagine we were rather overwhelmed when we first set foot there. You can find almost any sort of food you can imagine, from anywhere in the world. We even found “Thina Yerushalaim” (Berlin is rather weak in Tahini. Shooky will elaborate on that later on). We also had a nice pasta dinner there, and bought some small souvenirs, but shopping in the rest of the floors was very much beyond our budget limitations.
And like everything else in Berlin, the KaDeWe too has a history. The store celebrated its 100th birthday this year – it was founded in 1907 by the Jewish entrepreneur Adolf Jandorf, according to plans by the architect Emil Schaudt. Even then, it was the biggest and most elegant department store in Germany.
20 years after it was founded, the KaDeWe was bought by the Warenhaus Hermann Tietz, a company belonging to the Jewish family Tietz, but they were forced to cede ownership by the Nazis in the early 1930s (and the company was renamed Hertie). The building was burned down in 1943, reopened in 1950, and shortly afterwards became the symbol of West-Germany’s post war prosperity.
The KaDeWe belongs now to the German retail group KarstadtQuelle (now Arcandor), which bought Hertie in 1994. The group was involved in a few compensation lawsuits with former Jewish heirs, and recently agreed to pay 117 million dollars to the heirs of the Wertheim family, for land lost under Nazi rule, after a very lengthy legal battle.
In the 100 years celebrations ceremony, Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit did not ignore the darker side of the KaDeWe’s “checkered” history, and said then: “We should not forget today that KaDeWe’s Jewish owners were forced to give it up by the Nazis…And we should also remember that many ordinary staff were fired during the Third Reich simply because they had a different faith”.
The store spreads on 60,000 square meters, and some 50,000 people visit it every day. The food hall alone covers 7,000 square meters, and offers about 30,000 different products. The store is located on Tauentzienstraße, between Wittenbergplatz and Breitscheidplatz.
And this is the official site of the KaDeWe.