1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Berlin

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BERLIN (see 3.785). Since 1910 the city of Berlin (pop., Greater Berlin 1919 census, 1,902,509; 1910 census 2,071,257) has undergone a very considerable development in respect of the form of its municipal organization. The rapid growth of the suburbs, which were independent communities, necessitated the adoption of certain main lines of procedure, applicable both to them and to Berlin, in order to prevent conflicting action on the part of the authorities on one side and the other. This led, in 1911, to the creation of Greater Berlin as, in the first instance, an association of the city with the more important outlying districts for special objects. It embraced the city of Berlin and the towns of Charlottenburg, Schoneberg, Neukölln, Wilmersdorf, Lichtenberg and the administrative circles of Teltow and Niederbarnim. Its objects were to institute a common control of streets, roadways and the elevated railway, also of building and street alignment plans, the uniform coordination of police regulations and the acquisition of large tracts of forest and of land for building. This special union came into force on April 1 1912. It soon became manifest, however, that beyond coöperation for special purposes, a further coördination of the administrations of these places was requisite. It was only in the year 1920 that it was possible, after long negotiations, to form a new municipality of Berlin, embracing all the suburbs under a single united administration. A law to this effect was carried through the Prussian Constituent Assembly on April 27 1920 and was put into force on Oct. 1 of the same year. This law effected the centralization of Berlin and all its suburbs into one uniform municipal region (Stadtbezirk), but nevertheless left large powers of local self-administration to the individual communes (Gemeinden).

On May 15 1912 the former Secretary of State for the Treasury of the Empire, Wermuth, was elected chief burgomaster of Berlin in place of Kirschner, who had resigned. Under his administration, which lasted till Nov. 25 1920, the city experienced notable developments. The first municipal crematorium was opened in 1912. In June 1914 the ship canal uniting Berlin with Stettin was inaugurated. In the same year the city acquired the estate of Lanke, thus securing extremely valuable land for settlement purposes. In Oct. 1915 the city purchased the Berlin Electrical Works for 128 million marks (pre-war value about £6,400,000). The years of the war necessitated the vigorous intervention of the municipal administration in order to keep the population supplied with food and other necessaries of life. A special commission for food supplies was appointed as early as 1914. In 1915 the supply of meat, vegetables, milk, etc., by the municipality was instituted. The management of all these supplies necessitated the appointment of a host of officials. The establishment of the War Departments of the empire and of Prussia as well as of the city thus entailed an accession of population which by 1917 had caused a great dearth of house accommodation, a scarcity which constantly increased up to 1921, so that special offices for enabling the public to obtain dwellings had to be established under municipal supervision. Even in 1921 it was almost impossible to find a flat. The general necessities arising out of the war demanded vast expenditure on the part of the city, so that its financial position had by 1921 become extremely unfavourable, while municipal taxation had been about trebled.

The city of Berlin suffered severely from the effects of the revolution of Nov. 9 1918. The revolution itself was practically bloodless, so far as Berlin was concerned, although the stormy sittings of the Workmen's and Soldiers' Councils, held in the Reichstag building, occasionally led to minor collisions. It was not till Christmas 1918 that serious fighting took place, when the Independent Socialist party, supported by the Sailors' Division, tried to seize power. After several days of sanguinary combats in the neighbourhood of the castle and the royal stables, where the sailors had established themselves, the division was ultimately compelled to surrender. Early in March 1919 the Spartacist insurrection broke out; it began in the suburb of Lichtenberg and spread over the whole centre of the city. The number of those who were killed in the street fighting was 1,175. The last victims of the revolution met their death on Jan. 13 1920 when a mass of people incited by Spartacist propaganda in connexion with the parliamentary debates on the Industrial Councils bill (Betriebsrätegesetz), attempted to storm the Reichstag building. There were 42 killed and 105 wounded. The Kapp Putsch in March of the same year was likewise attended by some casualties, but the decisive episode was a general strike imposed by the Socialist parties and the working-class leaders in order to put an end to Kapp's usurpation of power.

As a result of the assimilation of the municipal to the parliamentary franchise a large Left majority composed of Social Democrats, Independent Socialists and Communists was elected to the Municipal Council of Greater Berlin. The Berlin school system was presently recast in the sense of the extreme secularists, a change which the non-Socialist parties were in 1921 still vigorously combating. The workmen employed by the municipality and the tramwaymen constantly demanded higher wages, which even the extreme Left majority in the Council were unable to concede, so that strikes in the electricity and gas works and cessation of work on the tramway lines were of frequent occurrence. Gradually, however, the economic life of Berlin seemed by 1921 to be entering upon a period of greater regularity. Chief Burgomaster Wermuth was succeeded in Nov. 1920 by the former city treasurer, Boss.

(C. K.*)