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Risen from RuinsThe Cultural Politics of Rebuilding East Berlin$
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Paul Stangl

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781503603202

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503603202.001.0001

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(p.169) 5 Wilhelmstrasse
Risen from Ruins

Paul Stangl

Stanford University Press

Wilhelmstrasse evolved over several centuries from an upscale residential quarter to the center of German government. Its architecture was considered less culturally and artistically significant than Unter den Linden and more tainted by association with the Prussian-German state and the NSDAP in particular. In the late 1940s, Berlin planners intended for the area to continue serving as government center. They began to transform Wilhelmplatz into a larger square, Thälmannplatz, with a memorial to honor the fallen Communist leader. After the state founding of the GDR, Ulbricht and leading GDR planners shifted planning for the government center to Marx-Engels Square, leaving Wilhelmstrasse as an area of secondary concern. Socialist realism had limited impact here, as decisions over demolition and preservation hinged more on utilitarian spatial value than architectural merit or place-based meaning. Nazi structures were cleansed of iconography and preserved, while older residential structures were demolished.

Keywords:   Wilhelmplatz, government quarter, Ernst Thälmann, Thälmann memorial, Reichschancellery, Ministry of Propaganda

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