The Palast der Republik lives on

Berlin’s Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic) and the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) shared the same physical site at different points in history. Located at the Schlossplatz, across from the Berlin Cathedral and the Lustgarten, the former Stadtschloss served as royal residence during the Prussian era. In 1950, East Germany’s socialist government demolished the symbol of Prussian imperialism and constructed the Palace of the Republic on the same spot a quarter of a century later. In 2008, it too was razed. The government of the reunited Germany leveled it because the structure was contaminated with asbestos. In 2013, reconstruction of the exterior of the former Stadtschloss began. The new building is scheduled to open in 2019 as the “Humboldt Forum.”

Palast der Republic (Palace of the Republic), image by

Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), image by

Function of the Palast der Republik

The Palast der Republik was an East German prestige project. The contemporary structure, covered almost entirely in brown mirror-glass, was not only the seat of the former East German Parliament; it also served as a cultural center, a “Peoples House.” In addition to two large auditoriums, it housed a theatre, art galleries, restaurants, cafés, a post office, a bowling alley, a giant dance floor and a discothèque. Important events at the Palace of the Republic included party congresses of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), East Germany’s 40th anniversary state gala in 1989, which Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev attended, and concerts of famous orchestras such as the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

Debate over the fate of the Palast der Republik

Following the discovery after German reunification in 1990 that the building was heavily contaminated with asbestos, the Palast der Republik was slated for demolition. A fierce debate ensued. Some former East German citizens had fond memories of the building; others wanted to get rid of this symbol of the former Communist regime. The majority of East Germans agreed on one thing: They opposed tearing down the Palace of the Republic because it represented a part of East Germany’s history. Eventually, the parliament of the reunited Germany decided to demolish the building. They stated that the decision was based on cost considerations.

Reuse of components of the Palast der Republik

Between 25,000 and 35,000 tons of steel were salvaged during the demolition of the Palace of the Republic. The steel was shipped to various sites, but mainly to Dubai for the construction of the Burj Khalifai, the world’s tallest skyscraper. A small amount of steel was used to make Volkswagen engines. Granite slabs from the Palast der Republik line a skate park in Berlin-Tempelhof.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of

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