What is the background to the “We are the Kreuzberg-36 ladies” campaign?

A photography campaign by the Schokofabrik women’s center in April 2008


“We are Kreuzberg-36 ladies”! With this photography campaign, the Schokofabrik women’s center on Naunynstrasse in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district drew attention to the fact that there is another side to this street. All too often the media reports on the neighborhood with the nickname “SO 36” generate negative headlines, especially about violence-prone young men. The many positive projects and initiatives don’t even get mentioned. The “36 Ladies” in and around the Schoko see themselves as representatives of all the women and girls who have been getting a lot done in SO 36, enriching the neighborhood, the Kreuzberg district, and the whole city of Berlin.


“36 Ladies” is meant to play on the “36 Boys,” a neighborhood gang that borrowed its name from the former postal code for the neighborhood: SO 36. In the 1980s this gang caused quite a bit of mayhem in the neighborhood; what remains is their logo on t-shirts. Twice the German news magazine Spiegel printed a photograph showing Naunynstrasse as the turf of violent youths, one of whom was wearing a “36 Boys” t-shirt (issues 38/2007 and 2/2008). One article even mentioned that Naunynstrasse was referred to as a “no go area” in a report of the Berlin Senate.


Those of us in the Schokofabrik women’s center protested this one-sided portrayal of our street and our neighborhood in the media. We wanted our photograph to spread the message: “Don’t just look at the bad boys; finally look at the girls! We’ll show you the other side of Naunynstrasse.


We are the “36 Ladies.” We like living here and in December 2004 we bought the buildings of the Schokofabrik women’s center on Naunynstrasse and Mariannenstrasse with the active support of sponsors and members of the cooperative. We founded a cooperative with capital in women’s hands, thereby assuring the continued existence of our women’s center. If we had not been successful, the GSW housing association would have sold our buildings to an American investor and our rent would have skyrocketed.


There are violent young men with weapons and pit bulls in the SO 36 neighborhood. That is reality.


But there is also another side, and that includes a lot of women and girls, as well as men and boys who are doing all kinds of positive things in SO 36. With respect to what the women are doing, we are very proud to say that starting in 1981 we have established the largest women’s/lesbian center in Europe, covering 1200 m2 (13,000 sq.ft.).


That has required a lot of idealism and involvement. Roughly 800 women take advantage of the varied range of services and activities offered in the Schoko each week. Thus the Schoko is a successful model for a “Kreuzberg mixture,” combining work and residential housing under one roof. It is a women’s center, an employer, a social project, and a residential apartment building in one. It is thus unique, even beyond Berlin!


“We are Kreuzberg 36 Ladies.” With our photography campaign we wanted to draw attention to the fact that we still desperately need new members for our cooperative.


From May to August 2008, for example, a new café was built in the storefront space along the street with the motto: For women and their friends. We need €50,000 for soundproofing and fire protection for the ceiling, and to build a barrier-free entrance. We have to raise the funds for these building measures ourselves. The Marianne Bar is open daily (except Tuesdays) starting at 6:00 p.m. For more information go to: www.marianne-berlin.de


The 36-ladies photography campaign was conceived and developed by the journalist and author Ute Kätzel. Since December 2008 she has also led a writing workshop in the Schoko which is called “36 Ladies—Write your own HiStory.” The first public dramatic reading of texts that came out of the group took place on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2010.


If you have further questions, please contact Lisa Seiler, project coordinator, or Carmen Mayer-Bohland, publicity and outreach staff member of the Schokofabrik women’s center. Telephone: 030–615 29 99.