Founded in 1837, the association Philadelphia represents with nearly 175 years of age the oldest existing social association of Greece. Founding members were German architects, businessmen, tradesmen, officers, soldiers and civil servants who accompanied King Otto of Bavaria to Greece when he was made King of Greece to develop the country after its recent liberation from Turkish rule.
The association soon found a home in Omirou-Street, a site where today the Goethe-Institute is to be found. The Philadelphia had its heyday during the second half of the 19th century when scholarly celebrities like Schliemann, Dörpfeld, Ziller, diplomats and leading businessmen were counted among its members. In those years the association became the social centre for all Germans in Athens and those Greeks who had a special relationship with Germany.
Besides normal activities of a social club like the annual celebration of its founding, musical and theatrical events, the association turned its interest to more serious social tasks. The German School in Athens grew out of its membership, soon followed by the founding of a charitable institution for the support of needy German citizens in Greece. When in 1896 the Olympic Games were restored again, the Philadelphia was involved by giving shelter to the German contingent of participating athletes.
The Philadelphia always reflected the spirit of its time and in its long existence there were most divers times. Thus it is not surprising that for a while it came under the influence of the local chapter of the NSDAP. The end of the II. World War brought the confiscation of its real estate and other property. Compensation came much later by court order, becoming the starting capital for the building of a new home, which was completed many years later.
According to the latest statutes of the Philadelphia, issued on May 16th 2007, its objectives are:
– To further communication and friendly contacts of its members
– To improve and deepen German-Greek relations
– To care for the cultural and social needs of its members
– To organize social, cultural and sports events
– To further and support activities of a non-profit and public-spirited character
– To build and run a center for the persuit of the above objectives
According to its statutes the cultural-centre is meant to be a meeting place for citizens who master the German language and for the many Greek nationals who studied at German universities or attended German schools in Greece, being interested to remain in contact with German language and culture.
The first step of the building of a new home took place in 1996 when a plot of land was bought in Maroussi. On May 24th 2005 the Philadelphia-House was formally opened. It consists of two buildings, one being the cultural centre, the other a bloc of flats as assets for the up-keep of the centre. The completion of this complex confronted the board with the totally new task of having to run the association as a kind of business on a non-profit basis. As a consequence of this the cultural sentre is open to all interested parties to rent and use it for their purposes. The objective and aim behind this being to make in the long term the House – not the association – a place again for German-Greek meetings in the widest sense.