Posts Tagged ‘Reichstag’

The Reichstag Dome

On the morning of my first full day in Berlin I visited the dome of the Reichstag. Sounds fascinating…. Actually, it was interesting and certainly dramatic looking.

The Reichstag building is where Germany’s parliament meets. However, that’s always been the case. The building was completed in 1894 and was used thereafter just over 20 years by the parliament of the German Empire. In 1918 following the defeat of imperial Germany and abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II the Weimar Republic was proclaimed from a balcony of the building, and it was used as the parliament building for the republic. Then in early 1933 the National Socialists came to power, and shortly afterwards a fire gutted the main meeting chamber. This was used as the pretext for emergency rule – i.e. rule without the need for parliamentary approval – and for the rest of the Nazi era the Reichstag building was unused. ThenĀ it was damaged both in the bombing of Berlin and during the final battle for Berlin at the end of WWII. There’s a famous image of the Hammer & Sickle flag being raised on the roof by red army soldiers during their capture of Berlin.

After the war the building was essentially a ruin. To add to the problem the boundary between the Soviet and US zones of Berlin ran within just metres of it – the Reichstag was in West Berlin, but the Brandenburg Gate, just a couple of hundred yards away, lay in East Berlin. So the building lay largely derelict for a number of years. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) had its capital in Bonn, including the location of its parliament, the Bundestag, so there was no pressing use for the Reichstag building in Berlin. However the building was repaired and restored, at least externally – essentially the shell was restored, and internal meeting rooms were created, but no formal chamber was built. Also, as part of these restorations the previous cupola on the roof was removed. (The German Democratic Republic – East Germany – declared East Berlin to be its capital and built its own parliament building in the east. However, this was a Soviet-style show parliament, not an expression of democratic will.)

Then came the events late 1989 when the wall came down, and in October 1990 Germany was formally reunited. (more…)

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