Ilia Hepner, the Luna Park Grundstücks-Aktiengesellschaft, HRB 23654 and the Lunaterrassen Betriebsgesellschaft mbH, HRB 25015

As one of the many refugees of the Russian Civil war businessman Ilia Hepner, born in Bialystok, came to Berlin in the summer of 1921. Obviously, Hepner had not arrived in the German capital without means. Soon after having bought several apartment buildings, an even larger investment opportunity presented itself when the “Lunapark” came up for sale in March 1922. This amusement park stretched from the end of Berlin’s fashionable Kurfürstendamm to Halensee and was considered one of the largest in Europe.[1]

Entry „Lunaterrassen Betriebsgesellschaft m.b.H“ into the commercial register. Sept. 5, 1926, State Archive Berlin, A Rep 342-0, 59995

Luna Park-Grundstücks AG” was founded to acquire the fairground, followed three months later by Lunaterrassen Betriebsgesellschaft mbH Kommanditgesellschaft, which was fully absorbed into the AG later. From March 1925, Ilia Hepner was the sole director and shareholder of both companies.[2] Under Hepner’s management, the amusement park experienced a second heyday. In addition to new rides and a wave pool that was unique at the time, high-priced raffles, beauty contests and competitions attracted crowds. In 1929, the park celebrated its 25th anniversary with a large programme.[3] By that time, the Lunapark employed some 1,500 staff from spring to autumn.

Photo by an unknown photographer, 1926 Entrance to the Lunapark, State Archive Berlin, F Rep. 290 Nr. II920

In January 1933, Ilia Hepner became seriously ill and was no longer able to run his business. His brother Paul (1872-1937), an authorised signatory for both companies since 1924, was supposed to stand in for him, but was prevented from doing so by members of the Nazi Party. They denied him access to the park, physically attacked and even imprisoned him for some days.[4] When Ilia Hepner died and was buried on the Jewish cemetery in Berlin Weißensee, he had not left a will.[5] Ten relatives scattered across several countries were his heirs. One of them, his brother Joel Hepner (1872-1938), who lived in Berlin, still campaigned for the preservation of the company, but was so threatened that he left Germany in the same month. At the – possibly forced – request of Paul Hepner, the district court appointed a guardian of the estate, which also officially took the business completely out of the hands of the family.[6]

“From Luna- to National Park”, Berliner Morgenpost, December 29, 1933, Beilage, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Berlin

The National Socialists had been interested in taking over the Luna Park for some time. At a meeting of the NSDAP on 4 July 1933 in the Wilmersdorf town hall, a party comrade presented a project for the “change of ownership and reorganisation of the Luna Park”. As the Berliner Morgenpost reported the Lunapark was to be redesigned as a “national park” by Albert Speer with “Aryan” [i.e. not-Jewish] shareholders. All Jewish employees and members of the Supervisory Board of Luna Park AG were dismissed. In October 1933, the new Management Board initiated bankruptcy proceedings. This was relatively easy to accomplish, as the properties were heavily encumbered with mortgages, interest was due and debts had accumulated. Shortly before the end of the year, the sale to Nationalpark AG was finalised. Although the reopening planned for May 1934 was widely publicised in the local press, the plans had to be completely abandoned – for a projected road leading to the site of the Olympic Stadium.[7] By that time, Albert Speer had already pocketed his fee of 42,000 RM.[8]

By Jutta Fischer

For more information:, s.v. Ilja, Paul und Daniel Hepner; Familie Jules Hepner

[1] Zum Lunapark: Ingrid Heinrich-Jost, Wer will noch mal ? Wer hat noch nicht? Aus der Geschichte der Berliner Rummelplätze, Berlin 1985, pp. 67-80; Johanna Niedbalski, Die ganze Welt des Vergnügens. Berliner Vergnügungsparks der 1880er bis 1930er Jahre, Berlin 2018, especially pp. 133-147.

[2] Ruling, July 10 1924, HRB 23654, Federal Archive Berlin (BArch), R 8127/7213; Ruling March 7, 1925, State Archive Berlin (LAB), LAB A Rep. 342-02, 49594.

[3] Der Lunapark im Jubiläumsjahr 1929, Berlin 1929.

[4] Sworn statements by various family members, in: LAB B Rep. 025-01,415/51; sworn statement by Alfred Scharff, 1965, in: LAB B Rep. 025-08, 5714/59.

[5] Gravestone in the Jewish Cemetery  Berlin-Weißensee, field F 7, row 21.

[6] Letter from the lawyers Dr. M. Zeller and Dr. H. Lorch, March 24,1933, LAB A Rep. 342, 16673.

[7] Meeting, July 4, 1933, LAB A Pr Br Rep. 057, 417, 3.

[8] Letter by the district mayor of Wilmersdorf, April 14, 1935, LAB A Pr Br Rep. 057, 417,3.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search