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A Guide to the Reichstag, Berlin

Parliament and mirror of German history

The Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament, is the most famous landmark in Berlin.

History of the Reichstag

On 9 June 1884, Kaiser Wilhelm I needed three attempts to lay the foundation-stone. It is said that, while he was using the tool, it cracked. The Kaiser did not like the Reichstag. He only reluctantly agreed to the plans of architect Paul Wallot and barely approved of his plans for a heavy stone dome. Because the Reichstag would then be even higher than the City Castle.

In 1894, after ten years of construction, the Reichstag was completed and its dome towered above the City Castle after all. Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was now in power and who was Kaiser Wilhelm’s grandson raged against this “pinnacle of bad taste.” But what could he do? It’s simple: He ended up discrediting the architect, referring to the Reichstag as the “Reich’s monkey house” and preventing the inscription “To the German people”(“Dem Deutschen Volke”) from being inscribed on it- which was added only in 1916.

Yet the Parliament building remained and, from that point onwards, it has reflected the turbulence of German history. On 9 November 1918, Deputy Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed from the window the creation of a republic. On 27 February 1933 under mysterious circumstances that still have yet to be explained, the Reichstag caught on fire, destroying the chamber and the dome. The Reichstag fire served as a pretext for the Nazi regime to persecute their political opponents.

After being destroyed in the war, it was rebuilt between 1961 and 1971 in a simplified form without the dome, which was blown up in 1945, according to plans by Paul Baumgarten. After German reunification, the German Bundestag decided to use the building as a seat of Parliament again.

Between 1994 and 1999, the Reichstag was redesigned and expanded by the British architect Sir Norman Foster as a modern Parliament building while retaining its extensive, historical dimensions. The accessible glass dome, which initially generated a lot of controversy, has since become one of the landmarks of Berlin. Since 1999, the German Bundestag has been convening in the Reichstag building.

Official Website – http://www.bundestag.de/

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