Hans Arnhold Center

The home of Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold, circa 1935

The lakeside villa that now houses the American Academy in Berlin was once the home of distinguished banker Hans Arnhold, his wife, Ludmilla, and their daughters, Anna-Maria and Ellen Maria. In the 1920s the Arnhold home had served as an important salon for many Berlin artists, musicians, intellectuals, and members of the beau monde. The history of the estate mirrors Berlin’s own tumultuous experience during the twentieth century.

Forced to emigrate in 1938 because they were Jewish, the Arnhold family sold their property for a token price to the German Ministry of Finance. They moved first to Paris and then to New York City, where Hans Arnhold re-founded his banking partnership, Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder, which exists to this day. The villa in Berlin was appropriated by the Deutsche Reichsbank. Its president, Walter Funk, the former minister of finance, made the villa his residence in 1942.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, on July 4, 1945, the US Forces requisitioned the property as an Officers' Club, paying a monthly rent of 3,347 Reichmark. The house was then reclaimed by the Arnholds in 1950, under a restitution claim with the German government. The US Forces continued to pay rent, now to the Arnholdische Vermögensverwaltung. In 1953, after the Americans released the property, the Berlin senate accepted an offer by the Arnholds to utilize the villa for refugees from the east, which they did until 1956. The US Forces again requisitioned the property in 1956 to use as a recreational facility. The Arnholds sold the house to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1958, and from the 1960s until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, the residence continued to be employed by the US Army as a recreation center; for decades it was also a lively meeting point for political officials and Americans living in Berlin. Between 1988 and 1990, US Forces spent nine million Deutschmarks for complete renovation of the property and villa.

When Richard C. Holbrooke was United States ambassador to Germany, from 1993 to 1994, and the last of the American troops were departing Berlin, he proposed the idea of an American Academy in Berlin. After speaking with several German and American statesmen about the idea (Richard von Weizsäcker, Thomas Farmer, and Henry A. Kissinger) Holbrooke came upon the Arnhold villa. He went to speak with Stephen and Anna-Maria Kellen, daughter of Hans Arnhold, about transforming Ms. Kellen's childhood home into the first post-Cold War center of transatlantic cultural and intellectual exchange in Berlin.

Anna-Maria and Stephen M. Kellen and the family of Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold provided the founding gift for the renovation of the villa and grounds, and the family remains the Academy's primary source of funding. The house was dedicated as the Hans Arnhold Center in 1996 and opened its doors in September 1998. Since then, over 300 fellows and dozens of distinguished visitors -- writers, artists, academics, and intellectuals -- have come through its doors, recreating the intellectual and cultural spirit that once filled the family home of Hans and Ludmilla Arnhold.

The Hans Arnhold Center, 2011