Palace of the Republic

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Palace of the Republic
View of the Palace of the Republic 1986 with the television tower in the background

View of the Palace of the Republic 1986 with the television tower in the background

place Berlin center
architect Collective of the building academy of the GDR around Heinz Graffunder
Client Government of the GDR
Construction year 1973-1976
demolition 2006-2008
height 32 m
Floor space 15,300 m²
Coordinates 52 ° 31 '3 "  N , 13 ° 24' 8"  E Coordinates: 52 ° 31 '3 "  N , 13 ° 24' 8"  E

The Palast der Republik was a building on Marx-Engels-Platz (from 1994: Lustgarten and Schloßplatz ) on the Spree island in the Berlin district of Mitte . It was built between 1973 and 1976 according to plans by Heinz Graffunder and others on a 15,300 m² part of the site of the former Berlin City Palace opposite the GDR Foreign Ministry in the vicinity of the Berlin Cathedral and the State Council building. It was the seat of the People's Chamber and housed a large number of event rooms in a public cultural center . From 1990 the building was closed due to the emission of carcinogenic asbestos fibers . From 1998 to 2003 the asbestos installations were removed. After a corresponding decision by the German Bundestag in 2003, the building was demolished from the beginning of February 2006 to the beginning of December 2008. In March 2013, the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace in the form of the Humboldt Forum began in its place .


Back in the evening, 1976
Palace of the Republic, 1986

The Palace of the Republic was opened on April 23, 1976 after 32 months of construction and was open to the public from April 25. Karl-Ernst Swora , Wolf-Rüdiger Eisentraut , Günter Kunert , Manfred Prasser and Heinz Aust had worked under the chief architect Graffunder .

Officially, the construction costs were given as 485 million marks , according to an internal statement by the Minister for Building, Wolfgang Junker , it was around 800 million marks and according to other estimates it should have been one billion marks.

Up to 5000  tons of sprayed asbestos - this corresponds to around 720 tons of raw asbestos - were applied during construction. At the time of construction, this was an internationally common procedure for giving the building's load-bearing steel structure the required fire resistance .

The building site of the palace was part of the property of the Berlin City Palace, which burned out in World War II . At the SED party congress, despite all-German and international protests, it was blown up in favor of a deployment area. The cleared castle area was renamed Marx-Engels-Platz on May 1, 1951 together with the former Lustgarten and Schloßplatz , provided with a grandstand and used as a festival and parade ground (especially military parades on May 1 ) and as a parking lot for 23 years . In order to preserve the space for marches, the Palace of the Republic was only built on the east side of the palace area; A large open area remained between the palace and the Spreearm ( Kupfergraben ). However, the vibrations of the heavy vehicles during the military parades endangered the glass facade of the Palace of the Republic, which is why the organizers moved the parades to Karl-Marx-Allee . The area in front of the Palace of the Republic was then mainly used as a parking lot.

Location and building description

View from the west, 1979
Western Front in the 1980s
Event in the palace
("Erichs lamp shop"), 1976
Our sandman , the cartoon character from GDR television , is celebrating his 25th birthday in the Palace of the Republic in front of the "glass flower", 1984.
Opening of the XI. SED party congress, 1986
Signet of the Palace of the Republic
East side (from the panorama platform of the television tower ), with Marx-Engels-Forum , 2003

The Palast der Republik stood between Karl-Liebknechtstrasse and Rathausstrasse next to the New Marstall , across from the Lustgarten and Berlin Cathedral , directly on the banks of the Spree . The State Council building of the GDR was nearby, and the European School of Management and Technology and the Hertie School of Governance moved into it in 2006 .

Behind the Palace of the Republic on the other side of the Spree were the meanwhile changed Marx-Engels-Forum and the Berlin TV tower . The Red Town Hall , today the seat of the Berlin Senate , and the Alexanderplatz forum were also nearby .

The building consisted of two massive outer blocks and a middle section inserted between them, which together gave the building the shape of a cuboid with a length of 180 meters, a width of 85 meters and a height of 32 meters. The height was based on that of the neighboring Marstall and the State Council building. It stood in the line of sight of Unter den Linden (picture on the right) and was the first self-supporting steel frame building in the GDR.

In the middle of its main facade, the GDR national coat of arms, several meters high and embossed in copper , was attached as decoration. It was dismantled before reunification on June 5, 1990 by resolution of the freely elected People's Chamber.

People's Palace and its facilities

Usage concept

The construction of the Palace of the Republic was based on the concept of a people's home or people's house, which was championed primarily by the socialist labor movement in the 19th century and was too extensive in Belgium , France ( Center Georges Pompidou ), the Netherlands and Sweden ( Kulturhuset in Stockholm ) Buildings led. In the young Soviet Union in particular , cultural centers became symbols of the new state power. In Germany (built until 1933 seizure of power of the Nazis ), especially the trade unions such investments. In the GDR, the task of the Kulturhaus or Kulturpalast became an independent direction in architectural theory.

Spaces and cultural institutions

  • The Small Hall of the palace was the seat of the People's Chamber .
  • The great hall of the palace served as an event space for large cultural events. It was shaped like a symmetrical hexagon , 67 meters wide and 18 meters high. Lifting devices made it possible to have the stage at different heights for various congress or concert purposes. The action area could therefore be changed from 170 to 1000 m². Six swiveling parquet parts, lowerable ceiling ceilings and flexible partition walls allow extremely variable furnishings and seating between around 1000 and 4500 seats. The size of the hall was matched to the number of delegates at the SED congresses held there in 1976, 1981 and 1986 . Many editions of the GDR television entertainment program Ein Kessel Buntes were recorded in the large hall .
  • The main foyer was ideal for various cultural events such as performances by musicians (brass music, including pop music), amateur dance or fashion shows, especially on weekends or on public holidays.
  • In other foyer areas there were family events ('Family Day', 'Solidarity Day').
  • On the first, second and third floors there were the following gastronomic facilities : milk bar , espresso and mocha bar (1st floor), lime tree restaurant, Spree restaurant, palace restaurant and foyer bar (2nd floor), beer parlor, wine bar , youth club with disco and Spree bowling ( bowling alley with Snack options; 3rd floor).
  • A gallery was set up on the second and third floors , showing a total of 16 monumental paintings by well-known GDR artists, including Willi Sitte , Walter Womacka , Wolfgang Mattheuer and others. The motto found by Fritz Cremer : "May communists dream?" satisfied both the artists invited to design the gallery and the politically motivated clients.
  • The Theater in the Palace (TiP) offered from 1976 productions of classical plays but also contemporary drama, musical and literary evenings, writers readings or chamber and guitar concerts. The TiP had a mobile studio control system for sound, light and direction (design: Jürgen Frenkel).
  • Noteworthy were a post office - also open on Sundays - as well as the often shown Glass Flower by the Magdeburg artists Reginald Richter and Richard O. Wilhelm as well as white marble imported from Sweden in the foyer. According to the artist's intention, however , the glass flower represents a glass tree . The reinterpretation of a flower goes back to a statement by Erich Honecker , which was then generally adopted.


Performances by artists such as Santana , Harry Belafonte , Mireille Mathieu , Katja Ebstein , Miriam Makeba , Helen Schneider , Herman van Veen , Mikis Theodorakis , Mercedes Sosa , Czesław Niemen and others. v. a. took place in the Great Hall and were broadcast on GDR television .

There were also concerts a.o. rock for peace . a. by the Puhdys , Stern-Combo Meißen , Karat , Pankow , Stefan Diestelmann , Bernd Kleinow , Jürgen Kerth and Engerling , City , Silly , Berluc , Express and Drei as well as amateur bands such as Bromm Oss . In 1987 there were 20,000 spectators and 65 bands here. The bands and musicians from Western Europe included a. Udo Lindenberg , Latin Quarter and Tom Robinson , who played with the GDR band NO 55 .

On January 31, 1980, Tangerine Dream appeared as the first West German band in the GDR. The concert took place as part of the DT64 youth concerts in the Great Hall and garnered international attention.

On October 25, 1983, during the event Rock for Peace, the West German rock singer Udo Lindenberg was suddenly allowed a 15-minute concert in the Palace of the Republic in front of a selected FDJ audience after he had complained in his song Sonderzug to Pankow that he was performing failed in the GDR. The prospective DDR tour but was not approved, even though it is a leather jacket to Erich Honecker gave away and in turn a Schalmei (had played as a youngster Erich Honecker) received.

There was a scandal in January 1984 when the West German band BAP refused to remove a title written especially for this tour ( Deshalv spill 'mer he ) from the program. She left on the eve of the planned opening concert of a tour with 14 concerts.

In 2004, after a decision by the Berlin Senate to demolish the Palace of the Republic, a concert by the band Einstürzende Neubauten took place.

Development from 1990

Closure and asbestos removal

In 1990 the palace was closed due to asbestos contamination. As already mentioned, an internationally common method for steel frame structures was used during the construction. The cause of the asbestos contamination was that after the spray asbestos had been finished and dried out (approx. 1974), the structural engineers in charge ordered additional reinforcement of the main girders of the steel structure. This was necessary because changes in the load conditions on the building made this urgently necessary. For this purpose, the dried out sprayed asbestos had to be removed locally by hand so that the additional steel girders could be flange-mounted . The torn asbestos jacket was closed again with spray asbestos after the additional support was attached, but this was not done adequately. Already at the time of its construction, warnings were given against insulating the steel structure against fire with spray asbestos. When it was foreseeable that, after German reunification, European and German occupational safety and health standards would also apply in Berlin, the palace was closed on September 19, 1990 on the instructions of the Volkskammer . For various reasons, no renovation was planned at this time.

Between 1998 and 2003, specialist companies disposed of the asbestos in the building. The contract for this was awarded for a lump sum of 35 million euros. During the asbestos disposal, the entire interior had to be removed; after that, the structure was in the shell state. The disposal took place in such a way that afterwards both demolition and renovation were possible.

The palace's numerous and often unique pieces of equipment with the “PdR” logo were largely sold or offered in auctions.

Total renovation versus demolition and new construction

Protests against the demolition, 2006

The urban planning development of the Berlin Schloßplatz has been the subject of intense discussions since German reunification due to the central location of the square and the historical importance of the castle and palace.

When deciding between rebuilding or demolishing the Palace of the Republic, there were essentially two groups facing each other: The faction in favor of demolition saw this as an opportunity to restore the historic center of Berlin . A loss of the palace was seen as acceptable, with reference to costs, architectural quality and an unresolved re-use concept.

As the only member of the Expert Commission on Historic Center Berlin , Bruno Flierl voted against the construction of the new palace and in favor of preserving the Palace of the Republic. Gregor Gysi occupied the roof of the building to protest the demolition. After several architecture competitions, the Bundestag decided in 2003 to demolish the palace and create a green area in the meantime until the Humboldt Forum was built . This will house the museums of non-European cultures (until then in Berlin-Dahlem ), the Central and State Library Berlin and the science history collections of the Humboldt University . Their facades not facing the Spree are to be reconstructed based on the model of the baroque facades of the Berlin Palace, which was blown up in 1950.

The Palace of the Republic was not a registered monument. Nevertheless, an unpublished, highly controversial report was drawn up in the Berlin Monument Office in 1991/1992, which analyzed its monument value, honored it as a contemporary document, emphasized its importance for the cityscape and the public's interest in its preservation. In the discussion about the preservation or demolition of the palace, monument aspects played no role, especially since the building had to be removed down to the shell to remove asbestos.

Temporary uses before demolition

Inside on October 9, 2004
Palace of Doubt, 2005

In spring 2004, temporary uses of the gutted Palace of the Republic began under the name of the People's Palace . This included art exhibitions and theatrical performances, which took place in the interior with the help of makeshift grandstands. During the Façade Republic project , visitors were able to explore the partially flooded palace in a rubber dinghy.

On January 26, 2005, the Norwegian artist Lars Ramberg installed more than six meters high neon-lit letters on the roof of the palace that formed the word "ZWEIFEL". The lettering served as the logo for the Palace of Doubt project . The campaign ran until May 10, 2005. With this project, Ramberg wanted to promote discussions about the palace and connect it to the discourse about lost utopias , the search for new perspectives and identities.

With the exhibition Fractals , a large white room was created in the middle of the palace. The White Cube Berlin exhibition attempted to use this space with internationally renowned artists to contrast the new use with the demolition plans. This last temporary use of the building (until December 2005) and the process of building the white cube were shown in the documentary AltlastPalast .

Demolition between 2006 and the end of 2008

Demolition work, 2008
Graffiti on the foundation of the demolished palace, October 2008
Construction pit, 2009
Open space after the end of the demolition work, September 2009

The demolition of the Palace of the Republic was postponed several times. On January 19, 2006, the German Bundestag rejected proposals from Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen and the then Linkspartei.PDS to postpone the demolition or to maintain the structure. The Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag dealt with 880 objections to the demolition, all of which were rejected.

After appointments in spring 2005 and October 2005, the building was dismantled from February 6, 2006 with the help of five cranes. Blasting the building was out of the question because there was a fear of damage to the surrounding buildings from the upwelling of the floor pan and the resulting drop in the water table. Instead, the removed material was weighed and the same weight of water-mixed sand poured into the bottom pan. The basement floors of the Palace of the Republic have been completely preserved and are to be used in a new building.

The demolition work was originally supposed to be completed in mid-2007. In the course of the work, the contracted companies discovered other asbestos-containing material in several places . The demolition slowed down significantly. On December 2nd, 2008, the last part of the palace was demolished. The federal government had to cover the additional costs of 9.9 million euros so far . The demolition took place after a tender by the working group dismantling Palast der Republik , consisting of the companies Ludwig Freytag GmbH & Co. KG, Bunte Bauunternehmung GmbH & Co. and Jaeger Umwelttechnik GmbH & Co. KG.

After the demolition work was completed, the basement of the palace was filled with 20,000 m³ of sand. The area was greened as an interim solution until the Berlin City Palace was rebuilt as a Humboldt Forum . Construction work on the Berlin City Palace began in March 2013. On June 12, 2013, Federal President Joachim Gauck laid the foundation stone . From September 2008 to August 2010, the " Temporary Art Gallery Berlin " was open to the public on the adjacent area of ​​the former Schloss Freiheit .

The total of 78,000  tons of removed building materials consisted of:

  • 56,600 tons of concrete
  • 19,300 tons of steel and iron
  • 00 500 t of glass (around 8,200 m²)
  • 00 600 tons of bricks and wood
  • 01,000 t of bitumen mixtures , plastics and insulation materials
  • 00 200 t of substances requiring special monitoring, which had to be disposed of separately because of the asbestos content.

The Swedish steel of the basic structure was melted down and sold to Dubai for the construction of the Burj Khalifa . Further steel could be used by Volkswagen for the construction of engine blocks in the Golf VI .

The asbestos removal and dismantling cost around 119 million euros, according to a report by the then Federal Ministry for Transport, Building and Urban Development , including:

  • Asbestos removal: 80.3 million euros
  • Fee for specialist specialists: 6.5 million euros
  • Demolition: 32 million euros (estimated 12 million euros)

In addition, there was 118,000 euros for the greening (lawn) and the construction of wooden walkways for the transition period up to the start of construction of the Humboldt Forum .

The Palace of the Republic in the media

Special postage stamp in the jewelery block on the occasion of the opening of the PdR, 1976

The documentary The Caretaker and His Palace - A Berlin Fate by Arpad Bondy and Margit Knapp Cazzola from 1991 accompanies a caretaker of the Palace of the Republic after it was closed.

Altlastpalast is a 2006 documentary directed by Irina Enders. It shows the last six months of the existence of the Palace of the Republic, the discussion about its demolition in Berlin, the creation of the fractal exhibition on the subject of “death” in the palace and the debate about the reconstruction of the palace. It also includes the final interior and aerial photographs of the palace before it was demolished.

The palace was the motif of a permanent stamp series and several times for special editions.


There were various popular names for the Palace of the Republic, such as “Ballast der Republik”, “Palazzo Prozzo”, “Erich's lamp shop” or “Lamp house center”. The latter relate the lavishly installed lamps that illuminate the foyer and stairs day and night to the head of state and party leader Erich Honecker or to the names of the retail stores in East Berlin named after their offer in the respective city ​​district .


  • Thomas Beutelschmidt, Julia M. Novak (Hrsg.): A palace and his republic. Location, architecture, program. Verlag Bauwesen, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-345-00765-7 .
  • Tim Birkholz: Did the debate stop? The temporary uses in the Palace of the Republic in the context of the Schlossplatz debate. Institute for Urban and Regional Planning, TU Berlin, 2008, ISBN 978-3-7983-2092-5 , ( ISR gray series, booklet 14), ( full text ; PDF; 2.8 MB).
  • Bruno Flierl : Built GDR. About town planners, architects and power. Verlag für Bauwesen Berlin, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-345-00655-3 .
  • Heinz Graffunder , Martin Beerbaum, Gerhard Murza (photos): The Palace of the Republic. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig 1977.
  • Kirsten Heidler, Ingetraud Skirecki: From Erich's lamp shop to asbestos ruins, everything about the Palace of the Republic , Argon, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-87024-389-9 .
  • Moritz Holfelder: Palace of the Republic. The rise and fall of a symbolic building. Christoph Links Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-86153-491-4 , documentation of the palace years in Berlin-Mitte.
  • Thorsten Klapsch: Palace of the Republic. Verlag Edition Panorama, Mannheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-89823-429-0 (photo book with photos from 1993; illustrated review by Katja Iken at, 2010).
  • Anke Kuhrmann: The Palace of the Republic. History and significance of the East Berlin Parliament and Culture House. Imhof-Verlag, Petersberg 2006, ISBN 3-86568-143-3 (= studies on international architecture and art history 49) (updated and revised dissertation November 2003 at the Art History Institute of the Ruhr University Bochum).
  • Philipp Misselwitz, Hans Ulrich Obrist , Philipp Oswalt (Eds.): Fun Palace 200X. The Berlin Palace Square. Demolition, new building or green field? Martin Schmitz Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-927795-35-6 .
  • Alexander Schug (ed.): Palace of the Republic. Political discourse and private memory. Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-8305-1373-5 .
  • Jürgen Sonnenberg: The Palace of the Republic. Personal memories from a stage technical point of view In: The Fourth Wall. Organ of the TheaterMuseum Berlin initiative . Edition 009. Berlin, 2019, pp. 106–119 ( Online in the Internet Archive )
  • Conrad Tenner (Ed.): The Palace of the Republic. Pictures and story. Das Neue Berlin, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-360-01979-0 .
  • Interim use of the Palast der Republik, balance sheet of a transformation 2003 . Ed .: ZwischenPalastUaltung, Alliance for the Palace. Urban Catalyst, Berlin 2005.
  • Christian von Steffelin: The Palace of the Republic. Hatje Cantz Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-7757-2721-1 .
  • Andreas Venzke: Portal IV . A literary description of the history of the Palace and Palace of the Republic. In: Andreas Venzke: Berlin Berlin - History of a Nation . Würzburg 2011. pp. 155-159. ISBN 978-3-401-06143-6 .

Web links

Commons : Palace of the Republic  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Mark Jurziczek: Palace of the Republic. In: August 2005, accessed June 21, 2020 .
  2. ^ German Bundestag: History> Parliamentary Locations> Palace of the Republic .
  3. a b Senate Department for Urban Development: Dismantling the Palace of the Republic - Asbestos removal , accessed on October 12, 2007 ( Memento from October 22, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Difficult to love Süddeutsche Zeitung from May 17, 2010
  5. State coat of arms removed from the Palace of the Republic . Information from the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government , requested on January 16, 2020.
  6. a b c d Advertisement on the 3rd cover page of the telephone directory Berlin / Capital of the GDR from 1989
  7. Are communists allowed to dream? - The pictures from the Palace of the Republic. In: Deutsches Historisches Museum Foundation, February 9, 1996, accessed on June 21, 2020 .
  8. ^ Anja Wiese and Claudia Wasow: Gallery of the Palace of the Republic. In: Deutsches Historisches Museum Foundation, February 9, 1996, accessed on June 21, 2020 .
  9. Hans Gerd Brill: II. International Guitar Days in East Berlin. In: Guitar & Laute 8, 1986, No. 3, pp. 35-38; here: p. 35.
  10. ^ Article in the Tagesspiegel from January 9, 2016
  11. Udo Lindenberg, East Berlin and the Stasi files .
  12. The controversy about the Palace of the Republic in its monumental status ( Memento des original from May 3, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on memorial debates @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  13. ^ Moritz Holfelder: Palast der Republik: Rise and Fall of a Symbolic Building , p. 196f. on Google Books
  14. ^ The exhibition wonder of Berlin . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , December 22, 2005
  15. Altlastpalast in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  16. From everyday petitions. In: General-Anzeiger , May 14, 2009, p. 4
  17. The Palace of the Republic is flat. In: Die Welt , December 2, 2008
  18. ↑ The demolition of the palace takes longer and will be more expensive than planned. In: Die Welt , December 11, 2006
  19. Dismantling of the Palace of the Republic - the contract awarded by the Berlin Senate's press release of January 6, 2006.
  20. Gauck lays the foundation stone for Berlin Palace on June 2, 2013, accessed on June 13, 2013
  21. ^ Brochure: Palace of the Republic - The dismantling , information from the Senate Department for Urban Development
  22. Technologie-Presseservice, August 6, 2008
  23. Spiegel Online: Recycled materials in the VW Golf VI - DDR inside
  24. Info page Senate Department for Urban Development on the dismantling of the Palace of the Republic ( Memento of the original from January 18, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. Ulrich Paul: The demolition of the palace was much more expensive than planned . In: Berliner Zeitung , January 17, 2009
  26. ^ Ulrich Paul: Expensive lawn for the palace square. In: Berliner Zeitung , June 18, 2009
  27. Birgit Wolf: Language in the GDR. A dictionary . De Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2000, ISBN 3-11-016427-2 ( preview in Google book search)
  28. For “Lampenhaus Mitte” see Armin Burkhardt : Palast versus Schloß or: Who do the symbols belong to? In: Ruth Reiher, Rüdiger Läzer (Ed.): From “Buschzulage” and “Ossinachweis” . Structure Taschenbuch, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-7466-8025-5 , pp. 137–168, here p. 146.