Registration at a Berlin Night Refuge (1873)


Like everywhere else in the Western world, industrialization in Germany in the nineteenth century produced a raft of social problems. Destabilizing population shifts from rural to urban areas, the disruption of regular household patterns, the abuse of female and child laborers, escapist substance abuse, unsafe working conditions, punishing work hours, draconian workplace discipline, deadly diseases, prostitution and other forms of criminality: all these ills and more afflicted areas where factories sprang up. Governments in Germany, like elsewhere, attempted to address these ills through social welfare provisions. Here, we see an 1873 attempt to provide nocturnal shelter for the needy. The registration of names and other data, such as ages and family connections, helped orient Germany toward the “knowledge management” of its citizens. The power this management conferred might be used to ameliorate social problems. Alternatively, it might also be used to control populations through bureaucracy.


Source: The Illustrated London News, volume LXII, April 19, 1873.

Registration at a Berlin Night Refuge (1873), published in: German History Intersections, <> [November 29, 2023].