In contrast to many other areas of Berlin, which were villages before their integration into Berlin, Kreuzberg has a rather short history. It was formed on 1 October 1920 by the Greater Berlin Act providing for the incorporation of suburbs and the reorganization of Berlin into twenty boroughs. The borough is known for its very large percentage of immigrants and descendants of immigrants, many of whom are of Turkish ancestry. As of 2006, 31.6% of Kreuzberg’s inhabitants did not have German citizenship. While Kreuzberg thrives on its diverse culture and is still an attractive area for many, the district is also characterized by high levels of unemployment and some of the lowest average incomes in Berlin.
After World War II, Kreuzberg’s housing rents were regulated by law which made investments unattractive. As a result, housing was of low quality, but cheap, which made the borough a prime target for immigrants coming to Germany (and Berlin). Starting in the late 1960s, increasing numbers of students, artists, and immigrants began moving to Kreuzberg. Enclosed by the Berlin Wall on three sides, the area became famous for its alternative lifestyle and its squatters, especially the SO 36 part of Kreuzberg. Starting in 1987, there have been violent riots in SO 36 on Labour day. Kreuzberg has historically been home to Berlin’s punk rock movement as well as other alternative subcultures in Germany. The SO36 club remains a fixture on the Berlin music scene. It was originally focused on punk music and in the 1970s was often frequented by Iggy Pop and David Bowie. In those days the club rivaled New York’s CBGB as one of the finest new-wave venues in the world. There has also been a significant influence stemming from African-American and hip hop culture on Kreuzberg’s youth and the area has become a center for rap and breakdance within Berlin.
The Carnival of Cultures, a large annual festival, celebrates different cultures and heritages with colorful street parades and festivities including street entertainment, food, arts and craft stalls, music and art.
Kreuzberg has long been the epicenter of LGBTQ life and arts in Berlin. Kreuzberg is home to the Schwules Museum, established in the 1980s and dedicated to preserving, exhibiting, and discovering the queer history, art and culture.