March 28, 2016

0427, 2417 GERMANY (Berlin) - Reichstag building

2417 Reichstag building (1)

Posted on 24.12.2012, 28.03.2016
The Reichstag building (German: Reichstagsgebäude) is probably the most famous landmark in Berlin. Even though it was evident still since 1871, immediately after the unification of Germany, that there wasn't an appropriate building to house the Imperial Diet (German: Reichstag), its construction began only after more than 10 years. In 1882 was held an architectural contest, and the winner, the Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot, would actually see his Neo-Baroque project executed.

0427 Reichstag building (2)

The direct model for Wallot's design was Philadelphia's Memorial Hall, the main building of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. The Reichstag's decorative sculptures, reliefs, and inscriptions were by sculptor Otto Lessing. In 1884, the foundation stone was finally laid by Kaiser Wilhelm I, at the east side of the Königsplatz, even if he didn't like the plans of the building. Before construction was completed in 1894, Wilhelm I died (in 1888, the Year of Three Emperors).

After WWI and the abdication of Wilhelm II, during the revolutionary days of 1918, Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic from one of the balconies of the Reichstag building. The building continued to be the seat of the parliament of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), which was still called the Reichstag. It caught fire on 27 February 1933, under circumstances still not entirely known, and this gave a pretext for the Nazis to suspend most rights provided for by the 1919 Weimar Constitution.

The building, never fully repaired since the fire, was further damaged by air raids in WWII. During the Battle of Berlin in 1945, it became one of the central targets for the Red Army due to its symbolic significance. Today, visitors to the building can still see Soviet graffiti on smoky walls inside as well as on part of the roof, which was preserved. Yevgeny Khaldei took the famous picture, Raising a flag over the Reichstag, which symbolizes the victory of USSR over nazism, on 2 May 1945.

After the war, the building was essentially a ruin. When the Cold War emerged, the building was physically within West Berlin, but only a few metres from the border of East Berlin, which ran around the back of the building and in 1961 was closed by the Berlin Wall. Another architectural contest was held, and the winner, Paul Baumgarten, reconstructed the building from 1961 to 1964, but utterly removing all sumptuous elements that harked back to the mythology of the German past.

The official German reunification ceremony on 3 October 1990 was held at the Reichstag building. In 1992, Norman Foster won yet another architectural contest for the reconstruction of the building. His winning concept looked very different from what was later executed. During the reconstruction, the building was first almost completely gutted, taking out everything except the outer walls, including all changes made by Baumgarten in the 1960s.

The reconstruction was completed in 1999, with the Bundestag convening there officially for the first time on 19 April of that year. The large glass dome at the very top of the Reichstag has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main hall of the parliament below can also be seen from inside the dome, and natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor. The dome is open to visitors by prior registration.

About the stamps
On the postcard 0427
The two stamps showing the Post Tower in Bonn and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin are variable value stamps (Automatenmarken in german). I wrote about them here.

On the postcard 2417
The first stamp is part of the series Baby Animals, about which I wrote here. The second stamp is part of the series Blumen, about which I wrote here.

Reichstag building - Wikipedia
Reichstag - Visit Berlin

Sender 0427: Marius Vasilescu
Sent from Berlin (Berlin / Germany), on 22.01.2012
Photo: Huber
Sender 2417: Anke / cartolineNH (postcrossing) DE-5092887
Sent from Oranienburg (Brandenburg / Germany), on 21.03.2016

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