The Reichstag was constructed to house the Reichstag; the first parliament of the German Empire – hence the name of the building. The planning and construction of the Reichstag proved to be a long and complicated process. The first plans for building a parliament building started 1871.
One year later, an architectural contest was carried out to find a fitting design for the Reichstag. The construction of the building did however not start until ten years later, due to arguments between the Kaiser Wilhelm I, Otto von Bismarck and the members of the Reichstag about how the construction should be preformed.
By the time the construction started, in 1882, a new architectural contest was held. This times winner, the Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot, actually had his plans executed. Twelve years later, the Reichstag stood complete.
Savaged by fire
At 21:25, February 27th 1993, the Berlin fire station received the message that the assembly location of the Reichstag was set ablaze. By the time the firefighter had arrived, the main Chamber of Deputies had been engulfed by the flames.
A Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was held responsible for the fire and he was later executed. The Nazi party used the Reichstag fire to justify imprisonments and persecution of political enemies. However, what and who caused the fire is still today under much debate.
Some historians say the Gestapo used van der Lubbe in order to blame the communists for the fire. What actually happened and the reasons why will most likely never be discovered.
Second World War
The Reichstag was further damaged by Ailled air raid during the Second World War. The Reichstag also become one of the central targets for the Red Army during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, due to its symbolic significance. Visitors to the inside of the Reichstag will be able to see Soviet graffiti, dating back to 1945, on some of the preserved walls inside the building.
After the war had ended, the Reichstag was more or less a ruin. In addition, the building had no real use, as the Western Germany capital had been moved to Bonn. There was a debate to whether or not the building should be demolished. In the end, it was decided that the building instead should be reconstructed.
The Reichstag was reconstructed between the years 1961-1964, much after its original design. The distinct copula that was in the original design was however not rebuilt. Up until 1990, the building was primary used for exhibitions of the German history.
The new era
After the German reunification in 1990, it was decided that the Reichstag once again was going to house the German parliament. Thus in 1992, another reconstruction was started, now lead by the architect Norman Foster. This time a copula was added to honor the original design. The Reichstag was finished 1999 and the result is what currently stands today.
Why visit Reichstag ?
The Reichstag building is one of the finest buildings in Berlin. It combines great historical architecture with new blending design. In other words – a real masterpiece.
A central role
For anyone interested in history, and German history in particular, the Reichstag is a must visit. Throughout the years, the Reichstag has played a central role in the forming of the German political history.
By looking at the architrave, visitors will see the iconic words; “Dem Deutschen Volke” – “To the German People”. This inscription was added 1916, much to the displeasure of the current Kaiser Wilhelm II who tried to block the inscription for its democratic significance.
After the First World War, and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the politician Philip Scheidemann announced the establishment of the Republic from one of the Reichstag’s windows on November 7th, 1918. The Republic, known as the Weimar Republic, existed between the years 1918-1933. The republic was later dissolved when the NSDAP and Hitler took control over Germany.
The Reichstag is located in Berlin, Germany. The building is situated on Platz der Republik, right next to the Tiergarten. The Reichstag is easily accessible by foot or by taking the metro to the stations Under der Linden or Bundestag.
For the exact location of the Reichstag, check out the location map to the right.