In 1952, the first Kempinski hotel opened its doors in Berlin.
The use of the name 'Kempinski‘ for a hotel chain by the same name of the former Jewish owners of various Berlin restaurants sparks controversy. In fact the Kempinskis were expropriated, expelled and murdered by the Nazi regime. Today the Kempinski group of hotels drives a dubious PR-campaign trying to prove that they are hoteliers since 1897.
The Wine Tavern:
The Kempinski era began with a determined Jew named Berthold Kempinski from Breslau (today Wrocław, Poland), who set out to conquer the capital of the German Reich, Berlin. Around 1870 he started a wine store in Friedrichstrasse 178, registered in the register of companies in 1872. The wine tavern, operated with his wife Helen, proved to be a lucrative source of income providing the Kempinskis with capital. The place soon became too small and having achieved a secure level of prosperity they bought real estate at Leipziger Strasse.
Moritz Kempinski (1835-1910); his younger brother and wife, Berthold (1843-1910) and Helen Kempinski.
The Unger Era:
The Kempinskis had no male heir. For this reason their son in law, daughter Frieda's husband, Richard Unger, entered the company. Unger proved to be professionally business minded. Berthold Kempinski withdrew, went into a well earned retirement and died in 1910. Up until the first world war (1914-1918) Unger, who now owned the company, had managed to build a respectable real estate complex revolving around his company. This he turned into a large gastronomical business.
Kempinski family tree (click to enlarge)
As the area around the street Kurfuerstendamm became more and more popular, Unger bought and managed a restaurant at Ku’damm 27 (Kurfürstendamm 27). In 1928, Unger took over the management of the “Haus Vaterland”; on Potsdamer Square and introduced a sensational new restaurant concept. Entertainment gastronomy like Berlin had never seen before. Epicurean delicacies were served over four floors. These gastronomical arrangements were topped with artistic performances.
During the Nazi regime and World War 2 (1930s–1945) the jewish Kempinski business under Unger nose dived. Richard Unger and his wife emigrated to the United States. Under the pressure of the anti-jewish racial laws, the Kempinski enterprise was in fact stolen by the German Reich, which constituted a typical act of 'aryanization', as these acts of expropriation were called. Walter Unger, son of Richard, had remained in Germany to continue the business. Eventually, he had been forced to transfer the shares of his family's company to a company called Aschinger AG, all this in exchange for his own life. After the deal was executed, Walter Unger was murdered at the concentration camp Auschwitz. The jewish name Kempinski was no longer accepted by the regime, the restaurant(s) were renamed F.W. Borchard.
After the War:
After 1945 (end of World War 2), Berthold Kempinski's grand son Friedrich W. Unger had been able to restitute the location of Kurfürstendamm 27 from the Aschinger company who had bought it for a ridiculous low sum it in 1937. Supported by the Marshall-Plan the construction of a hotel was permitted. In February 1951, in the presence of the Mayor of Berlin Dr. Walther Schreiber, the corner stone of the new Kempinski hotel was laid on the plot of land number 27. The hotel opened for business in 1952. The name Kempinski – associated with the successful restaurant chain before World War 2 – for the first time graced a hotel in West-Berlin's prime location. Unger sold his shares and, according to various sources, failed to share the profit with the remaining members of the Kempinski family.*)
The Kempinski Hotel Bristol**) Berlin became the first of the today internationally active hotel chain Kempinski. Thus, 1952 can be confirmed as the official date of the foundation of the Kempinski Hotel Group.
In 1994, after lengthy discussions, a memorial plate was unveilde at the Kempinski Bristol in Berlin. 'Here stood since 1928 a Kempinski Restaurant ...'
Hoteliers since 1897:
In 2010, Kempinski, under its president Reto Wittwer, added the line "Hoteliers since 1897" to the company's name. For the first time ever the date 1897 had been circulated. It looks like an attempt to fabricate a suitable history. The hotel group felt entitled to secure for itself the title 'oldest luxurious hotels group in the world'. By that time various hotel groups already existed, left alone grand hotels.
* There is information available on the web concerning the dubious 1950s-deals, involving the former aryanization-company Aschinger AG, which continued to be involved via sub-companies even in modern Germany. Names featured among others are Paul Spethmann and Werner Steinke (sources: Fritz Teppich and others), who were former Nazis, still acting in the same positions after the war.
For example: http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/98/08/kempinski.htm
Book about the saga of the Kempinski family: http://www.berlinerliteraturkritik.de/detailseite/artikel/die-familiensaga-der-hoteldynastie-kempinski.html?type=1&cHash=eabf4ee4fba3ae5aeb8a5e126d102547
** Kempinski’s grand son Friedrich W. Unger merged his share of the business with a Hotel Corporation called Bristol and Kaiserhof. Thus the company acquired the name Bristol. The Bristol was a hotel located Unter den Linden, in a different part of the city. It had opened for business in 1890. A 'Hotelbetriebs-Aktiengesellschaft', registered in 1897, had acquired it in 1904. Before 1852, that hotel Bristol had nothing in common with the Kempinski Bristol Berlin of today.