Reichstag building

Hardly any other building in Germany reflects the different eras, successes and failures of this country’s history in such a way as the Reichstag in Berlin.

This magnificent building was built in the years 1884 to 1894 as both a parliamentary and representative building for the German Reich. The Reichstag experienced a particularly historical moment in November of 1918 when a representative proclaimed the institution of a republic from one of its windows. This event can be found in all the history books.

During its tumultuous history the Reichstag experienced many dark hours. It was during one of these that a part of the building was largely destroyed by a fire on the 27th of February 1933. To this day the causes of this fire have not been clearly identified. The reality is however that the National Socialists saw this fire (which became embedded in history as the Reichstag-Fire) as an opportunity to relentlessly pursue minorities and political opponents. It was assumed that a member of one of these minorities had intentionally started the blaze.

The Reichstag building did not survive the Second World War. It was one of the main targets of the extensive bombing raids by the allies and was consequently completely destroyed. After the end of the war it took quite some time before concrete plans were created detailing if and how the Reichstag building would be re-built and how it would subsequently be used. It finally took until 1961 before the Reichstag was built after ten years of work based upon the plans of the architect Paul Baumargten. However the reconstruction was not precisely matched to the historical model, for instance the dome is missing which was demolished in 1945 at the end of the war.

At first the Reichstag was not used for political purposes rather housed a permanent exhibition entitled “Questions on German history”. Only once steps were undertaken towards reunification did new plans emerge to once again use the Reichstag as the future government buildings and the headquarters of the German Parliament. In 1994 it was finally ready and the Reichstag was once again rebuilt. The plans for this came from the British star-architect Sir Norman Foster who also planned and constructed numerous other famous buildings in the world.

bigger map view

However, the Reichstag experienced a great moment even before the restorative work had begun. In 1994 the well known artist Christo and his wife shrouded the entire Reichstag building using specially made fabric panels; an artistic performance which subsequently became world famous and now fills the history books.

The subsequent start of reconstruction and conversion took a total of five years so that the new Reichstag could be inaugurated in 1999. During the reconstruction it was aimed to stick as closely as possible to the historical templates whilst coupling this alongside modern technology and numerous extras. For instance the Reichstag today once again has a dome which is now even passable. Since its new opening the Reichstag building serves as the seat of the German Bundestag.

Source:         Photographer: Peter Kirchhoff

Visitors can observe the meetings of the Bundestag via a specially installed visitor’s platform. For those visiting Berlin interested in German history and politics should not miss this building.

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