As far as I can ascertain, J22 was built in 1913. It was known as the ‘Blaue Haus’ and the Vorderhaus was, in its time, a revolution, as it had apartments with 3 and 4 rooms.
The Tanzschule was set up by Emil August Meisel. He founded his school just after World War 1, and moved to the Jonasstrasse around 1920and during the time of inflation a lesson cost 4.2 billion Marks. In the 1950s this was the first dancing school on TV, and it was the first school to teach Rock ‘n Roll. In the 1980s there was a TV series ‘Tanzschule Kaiser’, which was filmed here.
In the 1990s the school was taken over by Tanzschule Dieter Keller, and led by Monika Keller.
Will Meisel (died 1967) composed 8 operettas and music for 44 ‘Tonfilme’, including a song ‘Berlin bleibt doch Berlin’.
The Tanzschule existed over 3 generations and for some 70 years. When Emil and Olga Meisel opened the school in 1915, they were strict teachers. Their granddaughter Inge Meisel-Karras remembers them well: ‘Grandmother always controlled the cash-register’. Emil and Olga had 2 sons: one of them, Inge’s father later took on the Tanzschule, while the other one, Will Meisel, founded his own and later became the well-known composer and music publisher.
While still a child, it was job to distribute flyers in the neighbourhood, inviting people to join the dance school.
nge’s father died towards the end of the war, and while not yet an adult, she took on the dance school, under the close and strict supervision of her grandparents. Inge married Günther Karras, who taught at the school with her. In the 1950s they were the first couple to teach dancing on TV. Generations of young Neuköllners learned proper behaviour and dancing in the Prachtsaal.
In the tradition of the family, Inge was a strict teacher too. She kept an exact record of which dress she had worn to which course on which day, so as not to wear the same dress twice in a row. She loved to dance, it was her form of relaxation. She enjoyed step-dancing, and was one of the first, if not the first, to teach Rock ‘n Roll in Berlin. As she spoke both French and English fluently, she taught herself English dance vocabulary and taught dance at the American barracks in Berlin. For many years she was friendly with an Officer of the US Army and, when he returned to the USA, visited him and taught Rock ‘n Roll there.
In 1965, the Tanzsportabteilung Weiss-Gold-Casino was founded; for 29 years (1994?) it was located in the Tanzschule Meisel-Karras, the Prachtsaal.
In 1980 the couple Meisel Karras retired and passed the school on to a former pupil, Rita Beck.
A darker part of the Prachtsaal’s history is during the Nazi period. The Saal was a meeting point for the SA, for we know that certainly Will Meisel joined the NSDAP Party on 1 Mai 1933. He profited personally from the dispossession and arianisation of Jewish capital.
In the summer of 2012 the Café and Bar Prachtsaal moved into the front rooms of the Prachtsaal. The Café was refurbished towards the end of 2016 and early 2017. Then it closed down.
Der Prachtsaal in Neukölln ist eher lässig als prächtig. Hier kann man bequem frühstücken, selbst gebackenen Kuchen essen, hausgemachte Limonade trinken, Geburtstag feiern, kickern, Bier, Long Drinks und Wein genießen und natürlich am Sonntag gemeinsam mit anderen Tatort-Fans und Stammgästen dem Tatort-Ritual frönen und in Wohnzimmer-Atmosphäre den Tatort gucken!
Dem Prachtsaal gelingt so tatsächlich der Spagat zwischen Café mit Frühstücksangebot und Bar. Sogar Mittagessen kann man. Es stehen wechselnde Wochengerichte auf der Karte. Alle angebotenen Speisen sind hausgemacht. Den Tatort im Prachtsaal gibt es seit vier Jahren, eine eingefleischte Fan-Gemeinde rät und fiebert mit und diskutiert über die besten Tatort Kommissare. Neue Tatort-Fans sind jederzeit willkommen”. (07/03/2016 – Top 10 Berlin)
Another occupant was the Jewish theatre company Jüdisches Theater Berlin Bimah. Binah means Stage in Hebrew. This was the first Jewish theatre company in Berlin after the war.
"Mit der Wahl der Spielstätte in Neukölln will ich ein Zeichen für den Bezirk setzen", we’re making a statement by choosing this new setting in this location, Dan Lahav, artistic director and manager declared to Berlin’s Morgenpost at the time.
Die Welt provides more information about this interesting theatre man, who died 14 September 2016. He was born in Haifa in 1 February 1946 and was proudly Israeli. ‘I am Jewish. My work in the theatre is a homage to my relatives who were murdered in Auschwitz, and is a bridge for all those who are interested in Jewish culture.
The theatre in the Jonasstrasse 22 opened its doors on 14 October …,with ‘Harte Liebe’, in the presence of VIPS from politics and cultural life. The play forcuses on the relationship between orthodox and liberal Jews and was accompanied by Kletzmer music, tasty Jewish treats and lots of Jewish humour. He regarded the location as propitious – his mother was called Jona! Before settling the theatre in Jonasstrasse, Lahav organized monthly events in different locations called ‘Shabat Shalom – Jewish culture you can touch’. Participants were invited to a typical Jewish Friday evening supper with Shabat candles, blessings, wine, and humorous Jewish stories from the likes of Ephraim Kishon, Kurt Tucholsky, Georg Kreisler and Heinrich Heine. He was a close friend of Peter Ustinov.
Dan Lahav’s family came from Hamburg and Lübeck. His grandfather was a successful businessman and had large premises in Hamburg. His grandmother came from a well-to-do Lübeck family and was an oper singer. His mother Jeanette trained as a tailor. The family moved to Antwerp, and had the long-term plan to emigrate to Palestine. But few visas were given out for emigration. However, Jeanette was a successful sprinter and won the Hamburg short-distance race in 1930. Her sporting prowess enabled her and some of her family to obtain a visa, Her sisters and brother were not so fortunate and did not survive the Holocaust.
The family opened a Café in Haifa. Dan Lahav was born into great poverty in Haifa on 1 February 1946. There was no father, and Lahav was largely raised by his grandmother who sang him German arias every day. Thus he learned all the important German arias by heart at an early age. After his school education, Lahav completed his military service and fought in the Jom Kippur war. Later he studied theatre at Tel Aviv university, obtained a scholarship and studied with Marcel Marceau before coming to Berlin, where he stayed for 2 years and built relationships with the German theatre. On return to Israel he married and had 2 children, and in 1980 returned to Berlin, a city he loved.
“The German-Jewish theatre is a meeting point with rich Jewish culture. It is a place of tolerance and friendship, and I hope that we will be able to play for a long time in this beautiful and exciting city.
Dan Lahav is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Weissensee and his epitaph reads: ‘He did not die of boredom’.