The Reichstag building was originally built to house the Reichstag (the first parliament of the German Empire). The Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot intended the Reichstag building to resemble the look of a Renaissance palace through the Weimar classicism movement. The foundation stone was laid in place on June 9 1884. The neo-renaissance manner building eventually opened in 1894. “The original building was most acclaimed for the construction of a original cupola of steel and glass, a technical masterpiece of the time” (MobileReference 2011).
After WWI ended, the Kaiser had abdicated, during the revolution of 1918, “Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the institution of the republic” that resided seats in the Reichstag as the parliament of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933 (MobileReference 2011). After the appointment of Adolf Hitler as the Reichskanzler on January 30 1933, the building was set on fire on February 27 1933. The fire provided “a valuable excuse for the Nazis to suspend most human rights provided for by the 1919 constitution in the Reichstag Fire Decree” (MobileReference 2011). During the 12 years rule of the National Socialist the Reichstag building was not used for parliamentary sessions, instead using the Krolloper building (former opera) opposite the Reichstag building. The building, which was unusable due to the fire, was used for propaganda presentation and, during the WWII; it was used for military purposes. The building was destroyed further through air raids. During the Battle of Berlin, (1945) the Reichstag became a key target for the Red Army due to its symbolic significance.
When the Cold war broke out the Reichstag found itself with West Berlin, however it was only a few meters from the boarder of East Berlin, which in 1961 was closed due to the resurrection of the Berlin Wall. “During the Berlin blockade, an enormous number of West Berliners assembled before the building on September 9, 1948, and Mayor Ernst Reuter held a famous speech that finalized in the call, Ihr Volker der Welt, schaut auf diese Stadt! (People of the world, look upon this city!) (MobileReference 2011). After the war, the Reichstag was a ruin that had no real use due to the Capital of West Germany being moved to Bonn in 1949. In 1956, it was decided that the Reichstag shouldn’t be taken down and instead it should be restored. The cupola of the building was destroyed during the war so another architect Paul Baumgarten reconstructed the building from 1961-1964. “Until 1990, the building was used only for occasional representative meetings and for a widely lauded permanent exhibition about German history called Fragen an die deutsche Geschichte (Questions to German history)” (MobileReference 2011). This was all due to the “provisions set forth for Berlin by the Allies in the 1971 Four Power Agreement on Berlin”, therefore the parliament in the West Germany were not allowed to assemble formally in West Berlin even though East Germany violated this provision with the declaration that East Berlin was its capital.
The official German reunification ceremony took place on October 3 1990 and the day after the parliament of the united Germany assembled in the Reichstag building as an act of symbolism. At the time the role of Berlin was still undecided, it was not until June 20 1991 that both the government and parliament was decided that it should return to Berlin from Bonn. In 1992 Norman Foster won the architectural contest for the reconstruction of the building. During the reconstruction the building was completely gutted except for the outer walls. “It again became the seat of the German parliament in 1999 after a reconstruction led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster” (MobileReference 2011). “The reconstruction is widely regarded as a success: the Reichstag, most importantly the huge glass cupola that was erected on the roof as a gesture to the original 1894 cupola, is one of the most visited attraction in Berlin” (MobileReference 2011).
Wallot dedicated the building to the German people by placing a massive inscription on the front that reads “Dem Deutschen Volke”- “For the German people”.
By Rebecca Holland
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