History of the KONGRESSHALLE am Zoo Leipzig
1900 - 1945: launch, golden age and war years
The exclusive Assembly House at the zoological gardens was opened in September 1900 and soon became a major venue for civic receptions and parties as well for assemblies of professional and other associations. Up until 1914, more than 100 concerts took place here every year and numerous conferences, meetings, political assemblies, club festivals, theatrical performances and parties were held. The first use of the building for a trade fair marked a rental agreement with the Technische Messe company in 1919. After the First World War, business revived once again in the Twenties and Thirties and survived, in spite of unbending interference from the Nazi regime until April 1945.
1946 - 1949: reconstruction and use as a cultural centre
After the Second World War, most of the cultural centres in Leipzig lay in ruins. As the "Assembly House by the Zoo" (as it was then called) remained relatively undamaged, it was urgently renovated and restored as the "Kongreßhalle Leipzig". And, as early as May 1946, the Leipzig Spring Fair was held there. The Großer Saal was reopened in the September and, from then on, was used for plays and concerts. The great symphony orchestra of Leipzig's Broadcasting Company, the Young World Theatre (Theater der Jungen Welt), the People's Theatre of Leipzig (Deutsche Volksbühne) and the Palace Theatre (Palast Theater) performed here and, from 1947 to 1981, so did the Gewandhaus Orchestra. The then "Kongreßhalle Leipzig" acquired its own organ in 1948 and became a venue for a whole series of first-class concerts, to which renowned orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic from Prague all contributed. Shows, music, theatre performances or dances were held every evening, providing the citizens of Leipzig with some unforgettable experiences
1950 - 1989: cultural centre at the heart of Leipzig
Political congresses and sporting events also left their stamp on the "Kongreßhalle Leipzig", including the inaugural ceremony for the German School of Fitness and Sport (Deutsche Hochschule für Körperkultur und Sport - DHFK) in 1950, the 1st German Cultural Congress in 1951, the 4th World Trade Union Congress in 1957 and the Werner Seelenbinder Wrestling Tournament in 1960. But there were also cycle ball, weight training, jazz bands, dance troupes, vaudeville artistes and magicians offering a colourful and varied programme. Stars like Udo Jürgens, Adamo, Roy Black, Costa Cordalis, Gilbert Bécaud, Mireille Mathieu and Konstantin Wecker appeared here. The Leipzig Jazz Days have taken place in the building every year since 1978. The numerous dances and balls held here until the 1980s are legendary: the Großer Saal has one of the largest sprung dance floors in Europe. Christmas parties, school concerts, dance-class end-of-term balls, and coming-of-age ceremonies - the "Kongreßhalle Leipzig" was the number one cultural venue of choice. By 1988, however, the building had fallen into severe disrepair and most of it had to be closed down.
Since 1992: the long road to renewal
After the initial repairs, parts of the building began to be used again, sporadically, from 1992 onwards. Since 2001, the "Bürgerinitiative Kongreßhalle", an action group representing the people of Leipzig, has campaigned to preserve the building, which mostly stood empty between 2008 and 2010, except for temporary use by the Krystallpalast Varieté. With the resolution, agreed by the City of Leipzig in 2009, to completely renovate the building and to turn it into a modern congress centre, the foundation stone was laid for the new KONGRESSHALLE am Zoo Leipzig. Now run by the Congress Center Leipzig, who are highly experienced experts in the congress business, it enriches the conference sector today with an attractive additional venue in a city-centre location.