Berlin Monument Authority  


Unter den Linden

Neue Wache

Neue Wache

Neue Wache, Unter den Linden 4, Mitte;
11816-18 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel; 1931 conversion to the Reich War Memorial by Heinrich Tessenow, 1960 conversion to the Memorial for the Victims of Fascism, 1993 conversion to the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany

The Neue Wache is the first building Karl Friedrich Schinkel built in Berlin and is considered one of the main works of German Classicism. Friedrich Wilhelm III contracted its construction as a guard house for the Kronprinzenpalais in 1816-18 to replace the old Artillery Guard House in the small chestnut forest. Through clean forms, powerful, protruding corner structures and the austere Doric column portico, Schinkel bestowed the relatively small structure a monumentality that could hold its own even against the competition of the neighboring Zeughaus (Armory) and University buildings. Schinkel himself explained the model for his design: "The plan of this completely exposed building, free on all sides, is approximately the shape of a Roman castrum, thus the four sturdier corner towers and the inner courtyard (...)". He expanded the Roman defensive fortification with a Doric portico and created a simple but striking façade which relates to the Opera facing it without relinquishing the humility fitting a functional building. Schinkel's sparing selection of sculptures elevates the Guard House beyond its functionality to a political monument of the Wars of Liberation. The tympanum shows the goddess of victory controlling and deciding a battle.

The building served as the main guard house and the royal guard house until the end of the monarchy in 1918. Heinrich Tessenow altered the building in 1930-31 to make it a memorial for the fallen of the World War I. He converted the interior, originally a 1-1/2-story room with an interior courtyard, into a memorial hall with a circular skylight. Until 1945 the Neue Wache served as a "Memorial for the Fallen of the War". After war damage the memorial was reconstructed in 1957-60 under the direction of Heinz Mehlan as a "Memorial for the Victims of Fascism and Militarism". In 1969, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the GDR's founding, Lothar Kwasnitza added a glass prism structure with an eternal flame in the center of the hall. After German reunification the Neue Wache was inaugurated on the National Day of Mourning in 1993 as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany" with the mourning pieta by Käthe Kollwitz in Tessenow's reconstructed "monumentally void interior hall".