The so-called Afrikanisches Viertel, or African Quarter, was created around 1900 on the former outskirts of Berlin and was planned by the Berlin magistrate as a colonial quarter. Between 1899 and 1958, 25 streets and squares between Seestraße, Müllerstraße and Volkspark Rehberge were named after African countries, places, and colonial politicians of the German colonial history. These names are still an everyday reminder of the racism, violence, and exploitation of the African population by German colonialism.
The street names of the Afrikanisches Viertel commemorate different phases of German history, which were marked by the pursuit of conquest and exploitation of the African continent. The cityscape here is marked by the colonization of the now independent states of Togo, Cameroon, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi by the German Reich and the ruthless subjugation of their inhabitants. The German Reich used the colonies as a field of unbounded racist violence. In the Volkspark Rehberge (i.e., a city park located in Rehberge section of Hamburg), the Hamburg zoo director Carl Hagenbeck (1844 – 1913) planned degrading “Völkerschauen” (“human exhibits”) that were supposed to exhibit people from the colonies in racist and and stereotypical ways. Inhabitants of African ethnic groups were taken to Hamburg to Hagenbeck’s Zoo and forced to perform fights, rituals, and war dances.
Status of the Renaming
As a place of remembrance, the Afrikanisches Viertel can contribute to the critical examination of racism as a legacy of colonial ideology and show Germany’s responsibility for the crimes of the colonial era. In May 2011, the District Assembly (BVV) in Mitte called on the district office to make the Afrikanisches Viertel a place of learning and remembrance. In early 2013, the Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment approved the use of financial resources from the AktionsraumPlus program for the “Leo Project.” The project, Das Projekt Lern- und Erinnerungsort Afrikanisches Viertel (Leo), is trying to create a place of sustainable reappraisal of colonialism and sensitization for racism with the involvement of residents, young people, and various actors from the black community.