The Polish Pharmacy in Berlin

"The Polish pharmacy" in Berlin, ca. 1900
"The Polish pharmacy" in Berlin, ca. 1900

An eagle gazes down on the passers-by in the busy street, its wings spread wide apart ready to take flight. Beneath it are the words "Polish Pharmacy". But neither a pharmacy nor anything Polish can be seen there today. We are standing in the middle of the German capital, Berlin, in front of the "Friedrich House" on the corner of Mittelstrasse in the centre of the city. 

The Prussian Princess Dorothea was a very industrious lady. Nowadays she would certainly have earned the title of Manager of the Year, and probably have won it for years on end. The people who profited were those who were seeking a future in the newly defined Residence City of Berlin. Amongst the craftsmen, goldsmiths, doctors, wigmakers, tailors and locksmiths drawn to take up a new home along the River Spree, was an industrious pharmacist from Königsberg. It was in 1706 when the small bell on the entrance door gently announced the arrival of the first customer in the "Polish Pharmacy". The proud apothecary and owner of the "Polish Pharmacy" Samuel Wölcke greeted him personally with a firm handshake.

Nowadays we can only guess with a wry expression and a smile that the pharmacy got its name because the medicaments sold there came from Poland, or that Polish medicaments were renowned for their particularly high quality. However, from a historical point of view, it is much more likely that the apothecary Wölcke wanted to attract Polish customers, a clear sign of Polish life in Berlin at the time. It is however sure that the words "Polish Pharmacy" and the proud eagle on the facade of the house on Friedrichstrasse had a magic attraction not only for tourists but also for the citizens of Berlin, and promoted daydreams of the stories of Polish life in the centre of the German capital.

1845 Theodor Fontane works here for around one year as the second recipe maker. The "Dorothea Town Pharmacy" still exists today not very far from its original location, at Friedrichstraße 151 on the corner of Dorotheenstraße

The name “Polish Pharmacy” existed until 1933 when the Nazis changed its name to "Dorothea Town Pharmacy". It was only after the building was redeveloped in 1998 that the words "Polish Pharmacy" and the eagle were once more displayed on the house facade. 

Adam Gusowski, December 2013




Landesarchiv Berlin

B Rep. 012 Nr. 435

A Rep. 010-02 Nr. 2632, 2633

E Rep. 200-96 Nr. 42

Verein für die Geschichte Berlins / Martin Mende (Interview 30.10.2013)

Erika Schachinger: Die Dorotheenstadt 1673-1708. Eine Berliner Vorstadt. Köln 2001

Media library
  • "Polish pharmacy"

    The eagle on the facade of the "Polish pharmacy" in Berlin, 2013
  • "The Polish pharmacy"

    "The Polish pharmacy" in Berlin, 2013
  • The main room

    The main room in the "Polish pharmacy" in Berlin, ca. 1900
  • Polish Pharmacy - Radio play by "COSMO Radio po polsku" in English

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