The safe door moves into the Humboldt Forum

6 min read

The steel door once secured the safe of the former Wertheim department store, which was expropriated by the Nazis and subsequently destroyed during World War II. After the reunification, a world-famous techno club called Tresor (which means “safe”) became the emblem of a new Berlin spirit. When the club closed its doors in 2005, new buildings were erected on the Leipziger Platz site and the vaulted cellars were demolished. Among the exhibits that will be on show, the Safe Door is a uniquely eloquent symbol of the city’s chequered history.

This extraordinary witness to the past evokes the Golden Twenties, recalls the devastations of war and the city’s division and reunification, and illustrates the appropriation and use by subcultures of places that become unexpectedly accessible. The door is one of the Humboldt Forum Highlights that provide a glimpse of the thematic diversity visitors will be able to experience in the Humboldt Forum. Thus the door’s arrival is an important milestone in realizing the Berlin Exhibition, which is scheduled to open in 2020.

The Safe Door in the Berlin Exhibition

The central theme of the Berlin Exhibition is Berlin’s links with the world. Expansive installations, extraordinary staging and surprising objects will testify to Berlin’s distinctive DNA in around 4,000 square metres of exhibition space, telling of war and revolution, free space, fashion and entertainment, boundaries and entanglement. All these facets of Berlin’s history remain interlinked with the world to this day. The exhibition makes these links palpable.

The rich and varied range of exhibits bring together a multitude of voices and histories.The door will be placed between the Free Space and Boundaries exhibition sections. Free spaces characterized the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. One of them was the Tresor club, arguably the world’s most famous techno venue. Borders such as the Berlin Wall had previously caused the safe to disappear for decades.

How the door came to the Humboldt Forum

When it became known that the techno club’s days were numbered and new buildings were scheduled for the site on Leipziger Platz, Tresor club founder Dimitri Hegemann removed the steel door with his own hands and put it into storage. Now he is loaning the historical object to Stadtmuseum Berlin. Comprehensive photographic documentation compiled by Dimitri Hegemann made it possible to have the door restored in preparation for the exhibition. The door frame complete with stepped door trim were reconstructed in order to ensure a stable mounting. Together with the safe’s deposit boxes, which have also survived, the door constitutes the first exhibit of the Berlin Exhibition.