Julia Lazarus

From KGB to VBK – Field research in Lichtenberg and Wedding
Retail cooperatives in Berlin stand for economic power first off, and then for political splitting up: in 1863 the first retail cooperatives were founded in Berlin, and in 1902 they merged to form »Konsumgenossenschaft Berlin und Umgegend e.G.« (Cooperative for Berlin and the surrounding areas) or KGB for short. Over 200,000 cooperative members from all over Berlin were supplied from the newly built headquarters in Lichtenberg which had its own large-scale bakery, sausage factory, warehouses for textiles, glass and ceramics in a spacious yard – there were two coop-owned department stores in the district of Wedding alone, and over a dozen other retail outlets. The cooperatives were subjected to serious repression during the Nazi era as a result of their socialist and communist political outlook. KGB was dissolved in 1935, and the coop’s assets at the time were transferred to Nazi organisations.
Later on, the cooperative model also meant crossing borders: after the Second World War, new cooperatives were founded in various districts in Berlin. Coops in the French sector of West Berlin (in Wedding and Reinickendorf) were allowed to join the »Verband Berliner Konsumgenossenschaften« (Association of Berlin cooperatives, VBK), which had its headquarters in the East Berlin district of Lichtenberg. As a result, coop members in Wedding continued to receive regular supplies of foodstuffs from the Soviet sector right through to 1952.




March, 2015