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Reich Chancellery
Main building and courtyard on Wilhelmstraße
General information
Address Wilhelmstraße 77
Town or city Berlin-Mitte
Country Germany
Coordinates 52°30′42″N 13°22′55″E / 52.51167°N 13.38194°E / 52.51167; 13.38194
Completed 1739
Renovated 1930
Destroyed 1945
Design and construction
Architect Carl Friedrich Richter

The Reich Chancellery (German language: Reichskanzlei) was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany (then called Reichskanzler) in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945. Its seat from 1875 was the former city palace of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł (1775–1833) on Wilhelmstraße in Berlin. Today the office of the German chancellor is usually called Kanzleramt (Chancellor's Office), or more formally Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellor's Office).

Old Reich Chancellery

When the military alliance of the North German Confederation was reorganised as a federal state with effect from July 1, 1867, the office of a Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) was implemented at Berlin and staffed with the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck. After the unification of Germany on January 18, 1871 by accession of the South German states, Bismarck became Reich Chancellor of the new German Empire.

In 1869 the Prussian state government had acquired the Rococo city palace of late Prince Radziwiłł on Wilhelmstraße No. 77 (former "Palais Schulenburg"), which from 1875 was refurbished as the official building of the Chancellery. It was inaugurated with the meetings of the Berlin Congress in July 1878, followed by the Congo Conference in 1884.

1930 extension, view from Wilhelmplatz

In the days of the Weimar Republic the Chancellery was significantly enlarged by the construction of a Modern southern annex finished in 1930. In 1932/33, while his nearby office on Wilhelmstraße No. 73 was renovated, the building also served as the residence of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, where he appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor on 30 January 1933. The Hitler Cabinet held few meetings here. In 1935 the architects Paul Troost and Leonhard Gall redesigned the interior as Hitler's domicile. They also added a large reception hall/ballroom and conservatory, officially known as the Festsaal mit Wintergarten in the garden area. The latter addition was unique because of the large cellar that led a further one-and-a-half meters down to an air-raid shelter known as the Vorbunker.[1] Once completed in 1936, it was officially called the "Reich Chancellery Air-Raid Shelter" until 1943, with the construction to expand the bunker complex with the addition of the Führerbunker, located one level below.[2] The two bunkers were connected by a stairway set at right angles which could be closed off from each other.[3]

Devastated by air raids and the Battle of Berlin, the ruins of the Old Reich Chancellery were not cleared until 1950.

New Reich Chancellery

File:Molotov hilger hitler.jpg

Adolf Hitler meets Vyacheslav Molotov in the New Reich Chancellery, November 11, 1940. Interpreter Gustav Hilger is at center.

In late January 1938, Adolf Hitler officially assigned his favourite architect Albert Speer to build the New Reich Chancellery around the corner on Voßstraße, a western branch-off of Wilhelmstraße, requesting that the building be completed within a year. Hitler commented that Bismarck's Old Chancellery was "fit for a soap company" but not suitable as headquarters of a Greater German Reich. It nevertheless remained his official residence with its recently refurbished representation rooms on the groundfloor and private rooms on the upper floor where Hitler lived in the so-called Führerwohnung ("Führer apartment"). Old and New Chancellery shared the large gardens with the underground Führerbunker, where Hitler committed suicide at the end of World War II in 1945. Speer claimed in his autobiography that he completed the task of clearing the site, designing, constructing, and furnishing the building in less than a year. In fact, preliminary planning and versions of the designs were already being worked on as early as 1935. To clear the space for the New Reich Chancellery, the buildings on the northern side of Voßstraße No. 2 - 10 had already been demolished in 1937.

Hitler placed the entire northern side of the Voßstraße at Speer's disposal assigning him the work of creating grand halls and salons which "will make an impression on people". Speer was given a blank cheque — Hitler stated that the cost of the project was immaterial — and was instructed that the building be of solid construction and that it be finished by the following January in time for the next New Year diplomatic reception to be held in the new building. Over 4,000 workers toiled in shifts, so the work could be accomplished round-the-clock. The immense construction was "finished" 48 hours ahead of schedule, and the project earned Speer a reputation as a good organiser, which, combined with Hitler's fondness for Speer played a part in the architect becoming Armaments Minister and a director of forced labour during the war. Speer recalls that the whole work force — masons, carpenters, plumbers, etc. were invited to inspect the finished building. Hitler then addressed the workers in the Sportpalast. However, interior fittings dragged on well into the early 1940s. In the end it cost over 90 Million Reichsmark, well over one billion dollars today, and hosted the ministries of the Reich.[4]

In his memoirs, Speer described the impression of the Reichskanzlei on a visitor:

From Wilhelmsplatz an arriving diplomat drove through great gates into a court of honour. By way of an outside staircase he first entered a medium-sized reception room from which double doors almost seventeen feet high opened into a large hall clad in mosaic. He then ascended several steps, passed through a round room with domed ceiling, and saw before him a gallery 480 feet (150 m) long. Hitler was particularly impressed by my gallery because it was twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Hitler was delighted: "On the long walk from the entrance to the reception hall they'll get a taste of the power and grandeur of the German Reich!" During the next several months he asked to see the plans again and again but interfered remarkably little in this building, even though it was designed for him personally. He let me work freely.

The series of rooms comprising the approach to Hitler's reception gallery were decorated with a rich variety of materials and colours and totalled 220 m (725 ft) in length. The gallery itself was 145 m (480 ft) long. Hitler's own office was 400 square meters in size. From the outside, the chancellery had a stern, authoritarian appearance. From the Wilhelmplatz, guests would enter the Chancellery through the Court of Honour (Ehrenhof). The building's main entrance was flanked by two bronze statues by sculptor Arno Breker: "Wehrmacht" and "Partei" ("Armed Forces" and "Party"). Hitler is said to have been greatly impressed by the building and was uncharacteristically free in his praise for Speer, lauding the architect as a "genius". The chancellor's great study was a particular favourite of the dictator. The big marble-topped table served as an important part of the Nazi leader's military headquarters, the study being used for military conferences from 1944 on. On the other hand, the Cabinet room was never used for its intended purpose.

The New Reich Chancellery was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945. After the war, the remains in what was now East Berlin were demolished by orders of the Soviet occupation forces. Parts of the building's marble walls were said to be used to build the Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park or to renovate the nearby war-damaged Mohrenstraße U-Bahn station, which is an early version of an urban legend.[5] Some of the red marble was used in the palatial Underground stations in Moscow.[where?] Also a heater from Hitler's rooms was placed in a Protestant hospital.[6]

While the western half of the premises were seized for the "death strip" of the Berlin Wall in 1961, a Plattenbau apartment block and a kindergarten were built on the eastern corner with Wilhelmstraße in the 1980s.

Social legacy

The Old and New Reich Chancellery served as a gathering place for militarists, scientists, artists, industrialists, economists, nobility, socialites, athletes, and politicos from throughout the world during the 1930s and 40s, and hosted elaborate parties.[7][8] Guests included Erna Sack,[9] Galeazzo Ciano,[10] Lord Londonderry,[11] Herbert Hoover,[12] Yosuke Matsuoka, Philipp of Hesse, the La Scala Ballet,[9] Nevile Henderson,[13] Haj Amin Husseini,[14] Unity Mitford,[15] Vyacheslav Molotov, Thomas Beecham, Emil Hácha,[16] Thomas J. Watson,[17] Arthur Balfour,[17] F.H. Fentener,[17] Leni Riefenstahl, Sven Hedin,[18] Franz Josef II of Liechtenstein,[19] Max Schmeling, John Simon, Maksim Purkayev,[20] Pál Teleki, Vladimir Dekanozov,[20] Gonzalo Queipo de Llano,[20] Sumner Welles,[20] Károly Csáky,[20] Paul of Yugoslavia,[20] Olga of Greece and Denmark,[20] and Anthony Eden.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were hosted at the Hotel Kaiserhof overlooking the Chancellery in 1937.[21]


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See also

References and citations

  1. Lehrer, Steven. The Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker Complex. An Illustrated History of the Seat of the Nazi Regime, McFarland. Jefferson, NC. 2006, p. 117
  2. Lehrer, Steven. The Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker Complex. An Illustrated History of the Seat of the Nazi Regime, McFarland. Jefferson, NC. 2006, pp. 117, 119.
  3. Mollo, Andrew & Ramsey, Winston, ed. After the Battle, Number 61, Seymour Press Ltd., London, 1988, p. 28.
  4. "Who Was Who in Nazi Germany", Nuremberg Trials Project. Harvard University. Retrieved 2 aug 2011
  5. Hans-Ernst Mittig: Marmor der Reichskanzlei. In: Dieter Bingen / Hans-Martin Hinz (Hrsg.): Die Schleifung / Zerstörung und Wiederaufbau historischer Bauten in Deutschland und Polen. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-447-05096-9.
  6. Architektur der Angst einestages - Zeitgeschichten auf Spiegel Online
  7. "The Führer’s Private Life", Wilhelm Brükner. Calvin College. 2004. Retrieved 2 aug 2011
  8. "Hitler's women", Guido Knopp. Psychology Press, 2003. ISBN 0-415-94730-8, ISBN 978-0-415-94730-5. p. 242
  9. 9.0 9.1 "With Hitler to the End: The Memoirs of Adolf Hitler's valet", Heinz Linge, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 2009. ISBN 1-60239-804-6, p. 61
  10. "Mussolini Unleashed, 1939-1941: Politics and Strategy in Fascist Italy's Last War", MacGregor Knox. Cambridge University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-521-33835-2, p. 141
  11. "Nazi Games: the Olympics of 1936", David Clay Large. W. W. Norton & Company, 2007. ISBN 0-393-05884-0, p. 138
  12. "Hitler and America", Klaus P. Fischer. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. ISBN 0-8122-4338-2, p. 70
  13. "GORING", Douglas Reed. LIFE. Vol. 7, No. 11. ISSN 0024-3019. p. 53
  14. "Hitler and the Final Solution", Gerald Fleming. University of California Press, 1987. ISBN 0-520-06022-9, p. 101
  15. "Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany", Jonathan Petropoulos. Oxford University Press US, 2006. ISBN 0-19-516133-5, p. 141
  16. "Prague in Black: Nazi rule and Czech Nationalism", Chad Carl Bryant. Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-674-02451-6, p. 28
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM", Kevin Maney. John Wiley and Sons, 2004. ISBN 0-471-67925-9, p. 206
  18. "Travels in the Reich, 1933-1945: Foreign Authors Report from Germany", Oliver Lubrich, Kenneth J. Northcott, Sonia Wichmann. University of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN 0-226-49629-5, p. 203
  19. The New York Times biographical service, Volume 20. New York Times & Arno Press, 1989. p. 1112
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 "Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932-1945: The Chronicle of a Dictatorship, Volume 3", Adolf Hitler, Max Domarus. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1997. ISBN 3-921863-32-5, pp. 1425, 1624, 1633, 1780, 1947, 1950, 2169
  21. "The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson", Greg King. Citadel Press 2003. ISBN 0-8065-2464-2
  • Speer, Albert (1970). Inside the Third Reich. New York: Macmillan. LCCN 70-119132. 
  • Kellerhoff, Sven Felix (2006). Berlin unterm Hakenkreuz (Berlin under the Swastika). Berlin: Berlin Edition be.bra Verlag GmbH. ISBN 978-3-8148-0147-6. 
  • Allied Intelligence Map of Key Buildings in Berlin (Third Edition, 1945)

Further reading


25fps-filmproduction GmbH & Co. KG (3D Computer Animation "Construction History and Street Facades" and "Garden Facades and Court of Honor")

External links

Coordinates: 52°30′42″N 13°22′55″E / 52.51167°N 13.38194°E / 52.51167; 13.38194

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