The provision of food, housing, financial and social assistance are the typical tasks of Student Services. They have not changed since 1921. This was the founding year of “Student Economic Assistance Darmstadt e.V.”, established by dedicated professors and students who won the support of industry and patrons.
The post-war generation of students was in dire existential need, and affordable lunch options were urgently required. A job agency was created, as well as a grocery and clothing shop, a laundry and a mending room.
In 1923, a student residence was opened sleeping 64, followed by a student petrol station and a driving school in 1928. As of 1926, the Otto-Berndt-Halle, once used by the military and then as a stage set depot for the Hesse State Theatre, was remodelled with new storage rooms and used as a gym and festival hall.
The Refectory as Emergency Kitchen, 1946
Under the Nazi regime, the mission of the now renamed “Darmstadt Student Services” was to promote students of “firm character” and of “pure Aryan origin”. On 11 September 1944, the night of the great Darmstadt fire, the service buildings were reduced to ashes.
When Technische Hochschule reopened in 1946, an emergency kitchen took up its work. Two years later, it was able to produce 550 meals per day. The destroyed Otto-Berndt-Halle was rebuilt as a refectory and multi-purpose facility in 1953.
It immediately drew public attention as famous politicians, philosophers, journalists, architects and artists from around the world gathered there for the “Darmstadt Talks”, passionate debates about cultural and social concepts for the future of Germany and Europe. In the decades since then, Darmstadt citizens have enjoyed glamorous balls and graduation receptions there.
Thriving since 1959
From then on, Student Services’ facilities mushroomed, augmented by the Lichtwiese student village (1959), the first refectory on the out of town campus (1970), Karlshof hall of residence, which was designed for flexible use as shared flats or by families; the central refectory was remodelled and in 1999, the Otto-Berndt-Halle was treated to careful, historically-sound renovation.
Today, the refectories Stadtmitte and Lichtwiese serve approximately 1.4 million hot meals each year. Darmstadt Student Services, renamed “Studierendenwerk Darmstadt” in 2015, processes several thousand applications for BAföG student loans each year and lets rooms to about 3,000 students in over a dozen student halls.