Berlin, Germany,celebrated its 700th anniversary in 1937.
Recognizing that the bear is Berlin´s heraldic figure, four bears were presented to the city. One from the "BZ am Mittag", a popular Berlin newspaper, a second from Berlin´s Zoo, and two bears from Bern, the captial of Switzerland.
By June 1938 the site for the bear pit was chosen in the Koellnische Park near the Maerkisches Museum. It seemed an appropriate location since it is the principle museum of local Berlin history and customs.
A national festival (Volksfest) was arranged for the August 17th,1939, for the inauguration of the pit and transfer of bears to the Koellnische Park. The park was decorated festively with Swiss and German flags since this day not only served as transfer date for the bears, but also as the official closing ceremony of the 700th anniversary.
For two years, Berliners had anxiously awaited this moment and thousands assembled for the occasion. It was a youthful crowd which happily greeted their real life bears as soon as the ropes between the wall of the pit and the visitors were removed.
At the end of World War II., the pit was heavily damaged and all but one bears was killed. Lotte, the survivor, was transferred to the Berlin Zoo in May 1945, according to a report by the newspaper Vorwaerts (Forward) on July 1, 1946.
Since Berliner always had an enormous affection for their bear, recontruction of the pit started as early as 1945, but it took until November 29th. 1949, to reopen it with two new tenants, again from the world famous bear pit of Bern, named "Nante" ( Dad) and "Jette" (Mom). After the death of Nante in 1981, Jette retired to the Tierpark (Animal Park) for a quieter existence. After bearing 33 cubs, she had earned that rest.
Now a heavy burden of responsibility was taken over by "Taps" and "Schnute" enhanced by their female offspring named Maxi in January of 1986. Approximately every two years the family can count on an additional two or three young ones. At birth they only weigh about one pound. Immediately after birth the father is removed from the family so he does not harm them.
Taps died of a hip ailment early in 1989, leavin Berlin without a a ruling bear. Tilo, bornin 1990 in the Zoo of Bischofswerda, wasselected to succeed him as the partner for Schnute and Maxi.
This union was quite successful and produced five little ones in 1994. Since the pit can only house three bears, a new home had to be found for the offspring. Three were transferred to the Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina and two found a home in Cabarceno of Spain.
Every year more than 100,000 visitors from berlin and other places come to see Tilo, Schnute and Maxi. For their birthday in January, many Berliner bring presents, especiallyfresh fruits and honey.
March 22nd has been set aside as "The day of the Berliner Baer". It was on that date in 1280, that the bear first appeared on an official seal of the City of Berlin.