Posts Tagged ‘Palace of the Republic’

Erich Mielke – Master of Fear

Monday, May 1st, 2017

 

Erich Mielke headed the feared East German Ministry for State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatsicherheit – MfS) for over 30 years. The agency became known as the STASI. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-stasi-and-how-it-worked/ From 1957 until shortly before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Stasi was enormously powerful, making Erich Mielke the most influential man in East Germany, right behind Communist Party leader, Erich Honecker. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-honecker-berlin-wall-architect/ One hundred thousand full-time agents and up to two million unofficial “citizen helpers” were under Mielke’s control. His agency stifled opposition by using assassination, kidnapping, execution, denunciation and intimidation to keep the 16.5 million East Germans in fear. In a 1993 interview, Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal said that the Stasi was “much, much worse than the Gestapo.”

Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi from 1957 to 1989. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv.

Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi from 1957 to 1989. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv.

Erich Mielke’s Pre-Stasi Days

Erich Mielke’s parents were founding members of the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD, making Erich a second-generation communist. Born into poverty in 1907 in Berlin, he joined the communist youth movement at age 15 and the KPD at age 20. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the Communist party and the Nazi party were frequently involved in violent armed conflicts, Mielke was member of the communist paramilitary forces.

Together with another member of the paramilitary forces, Erich Mielke shot two Berlin police captains in 1931. Their names were Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenck. Mielke escaped prosecution by fleeing to the Soviet Union. He was not tried for the murders until 1993 when incriminating papers were found in his home safe during a search. While in exile in the Soviet Union, Erich Mielke attended the Communist International’s Military-Political School and the Lenin School in Moscow.

From 1936 to 1939, Mielke served as an operative in Spain’s political police. Upon the defeat of the Spanish Republic, he fled to France, was imprisoned, but managed to escape to Belgium. His activities during World War II remain largely unknown. In 1945, at he end of the war, a law enforcement agency closely associated with the Soviet Secret Police ordered him to return to Occupied Germany. His assignment was to build up a security force in the Soviet occupation zone, which involved tracking down Nazis, anti-communists and hundreds of members of the Social Democratic Party. The number of arrests exceeded the number of available spaces in existing prisons so that eleven concentration camps were re-opened or newly established.

Erich Mielke’s Stasi Days

With the establishment of the Ministry for State Security in 1950, Mielke was appointed deputy director of the institution. In November 1957, he became the head of State Security. At that time, the Stasi had 14,000 full-time employees. By 1989 that number had increased to near 100,000. Along the way, Mielke helped Erich Honecker to topple Walter Ulbricht http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ as the party leader.

Erich Mielke’s Final Stasi Days

On 8 October 1989, Erich Mielke and Erich Honecker ordered the Stasi to implement “Plan X,” a plan to arrest and indefinitely detain 85,939 East Germans during a state of emergency. On 13 November 1989, a few days after the opening of the wall, Erich Mielke gave a speech at the Palace of the Republic (Palast der Republik) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-palast-der-republik-lives-on/ and in which he said, “I love all – all people.” On 3 December 1989, Erich Mielke was expelled from the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitsparty Deutschlands – SED). Four days later he was arrested and imprisoned on remand in Hohenschoenhausen. http://www.walled-in-berlin/j-elke-ertle/berlin/hohenschoenhausen-prison-part1/ Soon thereafter he was released due to medical reason and arrested again three months later for “crimes against humanity” and “perversion of justice.” He was moved to several prisons in succession. In 1993, the by then 85-year-old Erich Mielke was sentenced to six years in prison for the murders of Captains Anlauf and Lenck in 1931. At the end of 1995, Mielke was released due to ill health. He died at the age of 93.

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

The Striking German Chancellery

Monday, July 18th, 2016

 

The German Chancellery in Berlin, known as the Bundeskanzleramt, is one of the largest government headquarters in the world. Occupying 129,166 square feet, it is more than twice the size of the White House in Washington. http://www.curbed.com/2015/12/9/9892938/angela-merkel-time-person-of-the-year-german-chancellery While the Chancellery’s architecture is modern, Germany’s Parliament, the Reichstag, just across the adjacent open plaza, has an “old-world” look. The Bundeskanzleramt’s simple and open design is to symbolize transparency in government.

German Chancellery in Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

German Chancellery in Berlin, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Location and architecture of the Chancellery

The German Chancellery is located in a bend in the River Spree and consists of three connected structures. At the heart of the grouping stands a nine-story white cube. Its entrance is framed by a series of freestanding columns. Large glass facades give it an airy look. This is where official receptions and presentations are hosted. The two connecting wings house the administrative staff.

German Chancellery in the bend of the River Spree. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

German Chancellery in the bend of the River Spree. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of the German Chancellery

The German Chancellery was established in 1871 as Reichskanzlei (Imperial Chancellery) of the German Empire. The Reichskanzlei was located in the Wilhelmstrasse, just a little over a mile southeast from the current location. In 1939, construction was completed on the Neue Reichskanzlei (New Imperial Chancellery) in the Vossstrasse, also close to the current location. The New Imperial Chancellery was damaged during World War II and subsequently razed by Soviet occupation forces.

After World War II and the division of Berlin and Germany, Bonn became the seat of the West German government. In 1949, the West German Chancellery moved to Bonn. At the same time, East Germany created the Volkskammer (People’s Chamber), the East German Parliament. The Volkskammer eventually moved into the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-palast-der-republik-lives-on/

In the summer of 1999, the government of the reunited Germany returned to Berlin. Until the new German Chancellery building was completed, the Chancellor’s offices were temporarily housed in the former State Council building (Staatsratsgebaeude). In spring of 2001, the current Bundeskanzleramt opened for business.

The Chancellor’s apartment

While located in Bonn, a separate bungalow had served as the private residence for the Chancellor and family. Although an apartment for the Chancellor is located on the top floor of the central Chancellery cube, current Chancellor Angela Merkel prefers to live in her private apartment. She and her husband, Professor Joachim Sauer, reside at “Am Kupfergraben 6,” across from Museum Island in the Mitte District of Berlin. Contrary to the extensive security that surrounds top State officials in the United States, Merkel’s apartment building is watched over by just two policemen. There are no blocked streets, no police vans and no armed guards. http://www.onefootinberlin.com/2012/05/where-does-german-chancellor-live.html

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berlin’s Humboldt Box

Monday, June 27th, 2016

The Humboldt Box in Berlin is a temporary information center and exhibition space for the Humboldt Forum reconstruction project. The Forum will occupy the site of the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace), http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berliner-stadtschloss-to-humboldt-forum/, which gave way to the Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic) in the 1970’s. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-palast-der-republik-lives-on/. Both edifices were eventually razed for various reasons.

The reconstructed City Palace – renamed Humboldt Forum – will serve as a cultural center. Its exterior will resemble the former Stadtschloss; its interior will be modern. An extension of Berlin’s State Museums and Humboldt University, the Humboldt Forum is currently under construction with an anticipated completion date of 2019. Upon completion of the Forum, the Humboldt Box will be dismantled.

Why the Humboldt Box?

The idea of the Humboldt Box is based on a similar structure that once stood at the Potsdamer Platz when that area underwent extensive construction. That structure was called the “Info Box.” Its purpose was to raise public awareness of the Potsdamer-Platz-project. The plan succeeded and the Info Box attracted close to  nine million visitors. Similarly, the Humboldt Box, which opened in 2011, now ranks among the city’s top attractions.

What is on Display in the Humboldt Box?

Spread across 32,000 feet and five floors are a number of exhibition and event spaces, a video screening area, a gift shop, a restaurant and large terraces overlooking the construction site and the central city.

On the first floor, the Stiftung Berliner Schloss-Humboldt Forum, (Foundation Berlin Palace-Humboldtforum) outlines the history of the site and the plans for its development. Also highlighted is the hi-tech construction technology used in the project. A tremendously detailed, large-scale model of “Berlin around 1900” is on display. It was created and donated by Horst Duehring.

Model of "Berlin around 1900" on display at the Humboldt Box. The model was created and donated by Horst Duehring. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, April 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Model of “Berlin around 1900” on display at the Humboldt Box. The model was created and donated by Horst Duehring. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, April 2016, www.walled-in-berlin.com

On the second and third floors, the Ethnological Museum, the Museum for Asian Art and the Humboldt University outline their plans for the Forum and exhibit part of their collections.

The fourth floor is reserved for private events.

On the fifth floor visitors can relax in the restaurant while taking in the panoramic view across the construction site and Museum Island. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-museum-island/

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

The Palast der Republik lives on

Monday, June 20th, 2016

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.” http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berliner-stadtschloss-to-humboldt-forum/

Palast der Republic (Palace of the Republic), image by www.spiegel.de

Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), image by www.spiegel.de

Function of the Palast der Republik

The Palast der Republik http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/palace-of-the-republic/ 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. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/gewandhaus-garment-hall-to-concert-hall/

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. http://www.uncubemagazine.com/blog/10642637

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

Berliner Stadtschloss to Humboldt Forum

Monday, June 13th, 2016

The Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) dates back to 1443. It was the residence of the Margraves of Brandenburg, Prussian Kings and German Emperors. More than 60 years after its demolition, the exterior of the Berliner Stadtschloss is now being reconstructed in all its former grandeur. Called not Stadtschloss but “Humboldt Forum,” the building is scheduled to open in 2019 and will serve as Berlin’s new cultural center.

Berliner Stadtschloss - now Humboldt Forum - under construction in April 2016, photo © J. Elke Ertle, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Berliner Stadtschloss – now Humboldt Forum – under construction in April 2016, photo © J. Elke Ertle, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Location of the Berliner Stadtschloss

The Berliner Stadtschloss, Germany’s equivalent of Buckingham Palace, was located at the Schlossplatz in the historical core of Berlin, opposite the Lustgarten and the Berlin cathedral. Following the division of Berlin http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlin-blockade-and-the-Cold-War/ the City Palace ended up in the Soviet sector of the city.

History of the Berliner Stadtschloss

At the turn of the 18th century, Frederick III – Elector of Brandenburg and later Prussia’s first King – chose architect and sculptor Andreas Schlueter to turn the existing 15th century medieval castle into a majestic City Palace. Toward the end of World War II, the grand structure was seriously damaged. Although repair was possible, the socialist regime of East Germany preferred to divest itself of this symbol of Prussian imperialism. In 1950, therefore, the Berliner Stadtschloss was demolished. In 1976 a new and contemporary edifice rose in its place, the Palace of the Republic (Palast der Republik). http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-palast-der-republik-lives-on/

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was discovered that the Palace of the Republic contained 5,000 tons of asbestos. In 2008, it shared the fate of the royal residence, and the Palace of the Republic – palace for the people – was also demolished. Following countless fierce debates over what should happen to the now empty site, the parliament of reunited Germany decided to reconstruct the City Palace. However, only the original three baroque façades of the old Berliner Stadtschloss facing north, west, and south will be reconstructed. The Renaissance front facing east will be more contemporary because there is insufficient documentation relative to its original appearance.

Humboldt Forum

Since Germany hasn’t had a monarchy for almost 100 years, the newly reconstructed Berliner Stadtschloss will not serve as a royal residence. Instead, it will be a museum and a venue for public events and exhibitions. Its name is a reference to the legacy of the brothers Alexander von Humboldt (the explorer) and Wilhelm (the diplomat). At the start of the 19th century, the Humboldt brothers did groundbreaking work in researching foreign cultures. The Humboldt Forum will house non-European exhibits and arts to complement nearby Museum Island http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-museum-island/, which houses European history. The various collections will be presented and interpreted together as part of a shared cultural heritage.

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palace of the Republic

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Berlin’s Palace of the Republic — Palast der Republik — was the seat of the legislature of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1976 to 1990. Constructed between 1973 and 1976, the exterior of this cubic building was defined by its distinctive bronze mirrored windows and the interior by its unique multi-purpose concept.

House of the People

When the East German government decided to build the Palace of the Republic in the 70s, the country was hurting financially and could barely afford the construction. Nonetheless, East Germany built the most modern cultural building in all of Europe at the time. One part of the building housed the People’s Chamber, the legislature of the East German government. The other served a multitude of cultural purposes as the House of the People. Here citizens could visit art galleries, a theater, a bowling alley, a post office, a discotheque and thirteen restaurants. Cultural, political, academic, and social events at the Palace of the Republic included famous concerts and events, party congresses and even the state gala on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic in October 1989, which was attended by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. It is difficult to image nowadays that ordinary people would be allowed to be entertained within meters of government being conducted. I think it would be a security agent’s worst nightmare.

Former Stadtschloss

The Palace of the Republic was not the original building on this site however. The location had once been home to the former Berlin City Palace–Berliner Stadtschloss–an edifice dating back to the Prussian-era. In 1950, the East German government demolished this heavily World War II-damaged building to make room for the Palast der Republik. But just prior to German reunification in 1990, the modern monument to the people had to be closed to the public because of asbestos contamination. By 2003, the asbestos was declared removed, but soon more was found. It was then that the German parliament voted to demolish the Palace of the Republic altogether. The action ran against the opposition of many former East Germans, and what was to be constructed in its place became the subject of many heated debates. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-palast-der-republik-lives-on/

Humboldtforum

Eventually, the German government decided to rebuild the Prussian-era Stadtschloss, not the Palace of the Republic. Its last vestiges were removed in 2008. http://www.bundestag.de/kulturundgeschichte/geschichte/schauplaetze/palast/index.html

Construction of a new Stadtschloss began in 2013. It will be called the Humboldtforum http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berliner-stadtschloss-to-humboldt-forum/and house the Humboldt collection and gallery of non-European art. Three facades of the new palace will be exact replicas of the Prussian-era Stadtschloss, but the interior will be a modern one. Construction is in progress and is expected be completed in 2019.

 

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 http://www.walled-in-berlin.com