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The Brandenburg Gate, symbol of German unity

 

Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki's copperplate engraving of 1764 shows the original City Gate on the road
that led to the town of Brandenburg located North of Berlin.

 

This painting by Carl Traugott Fechhelm (Berlin's Canaletto) dated 1785 shows a west view of the Boulevard Unter den Linden.
The linden trees are there but the Brandenburg Gate is still missing.
On the right hand side you distinguish the Berlin Opera House and on your left hand side the Zeughaus (arsenal) now the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum). 

Carl Gotthard Langhans planned and built the Brandenburg Gate in the years 1789 to 1791 basing its style
on the Propylea entrance to Athen's Acropolis. The Gate was inaugurated in August 1791.
Johann Gottfried Schadow crowned the Gate with the Quadriga,
a copper sculpture of Nike, in 1794. The picture shows the Gate in 1800.

Following the defeat of the Prussian army in the battles of Jena and Auerstedt in 1806
Napoleon enters Berlin in the same year through the Brandenbourg Gate.

In 1807 Napoleon takes Schadow's Quadriga to Paris.

The Quadriga returns to Berlin in 1814 and is reinstalled on top of the Gate in the spirit of Restoration following the Napoleon wars. The eagle and the iron cross are Schinkel's additions remembering the Befreiungskriege (wars of liberation) against Napoleon.  

The Brandenburg Gate becomes
Berlin's symbol.

In the Biedermeier period around 1840 there is already lots of traffic in front of the Gate.

Following the victory over the "arch-enemy" France in 1871 soldiers are parading through the Gate.

Vale senex Imperator: On March 18, 1888, the funeral procession for Emperor Wilhelm I. passes through the Gate.

 

Quiet Pariser Platz in 1895. To the right the French embassy

 

Subsequently the Gate became a bottle neck for the ever increasing traffic on the East-West axis (Unter den Linden - Pariser Platz - Charlottenburger Chaussee now Straße des 17. Juni) until World War II. However, the picture taken in 1925 shows relatively minor traffic.

 

Cars look more modern in 1930

 

On the evening ofJanuary 31, 1933, the SA organized a torchlight procession to celebrate Hitler's appointment to Chancellor of the Reich. The photo however is a fake. It was taken in the wake of a propaganda film some years later.

 

The Olympic Games in 1936. While Zeppelin Hindenburg is cruising over the Brandenburg Gate people are waiting for the Führer to pass by.

 

The Nazi government had the Linden trees cut on the occasion of the construction of the North-South rapid train (S-Bahn) line replacing them by plaster columns with the German eagle and Nazi symbols giving the boulevard some rather eerie traits at night.

 

The Brandenburg Gate from the inside in color fully decorated with Nazi symbols on Führer's 50th birthday (20 April 1939).

 

During the Battle of Berlin in 1945 the Gate is heavily damaged but partly restored in the early 50ties. It presents the border between the Western and the East sectors of the already ideologically divided city. This picture was taken in 1953.

 

On June 17th 1953 workers in the East Germany protest against the raise in their working norms and march through the Gate branding the German flag

 

This photo I took myself in 1956. Nothing had changed in two years but the picture shows clearly that the Red Flag has replaced the missing Quadriga.

 

The living wall

The East Berlin Government had the Gate restored during the years 1956 to 1958. Eventually by 1961 even the newly built Quadriga, partly financed by the West, had been re-installed on top of the Brandenburg Gate.  

 

The dramatic event happened on 13 August of the same year when the Government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) started erecting the infamous Berlin Wall by temporarily placing Volkspolizei and Volksarmee units at the border as:   

 

The Living Wall.

 

For more than 28 years the Berlin Wall was the symbol of a divided Germany. The warning sign on the picture seems strange. With the Wall behind in place who could and who would like to leave West-Berlin to enter the East? The sign is however fully justified as GDR territory actually started well in front of the wall on the western side. You may be able to recognize the flag of the GDR on top of the Gate. 

 

Following the opening of the border on the evening of the 9th of November 1989 people from East and West Berlin had invaded the top of the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate in the morning of the 10th. For a moment the world held its breath!

 

The Sylvester party at the end of 1989 was a full success with people climbing the gate and ... damaging the Quadriga.

 

In the early nineties the Brandenburg Gate represents more than ever  

 

The symbol of German unity

 

It eventually re-became the bottle neck for Berlin's traffic running from East to West.

 

In 2011 on a sunny November morning no cars anymore. Tourists flood the Pariser Platz instead. Left the newly built US-embassy flying the star spangled banner

 
          

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This page was last updated on 17 Juli, 2017