Berlin

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Berlin is the capital of Germany and the biggest city in this country with 3.5 mil. inhabitants ( pre-war 4.5 mil.)

  • Colors: "Landesfarben" are white /red with a black upright Berlin Bear.

Geography

Berlin is located at the river Spree. It is situated in, but not part of, the Bundesland Brandenburg. Formerly it was a part of Mark Brandenburg , since 1920 it is a seperate state

Sights

  • Tiergarten (Berlin's biggest park) Tegel and Grunewald Forrests.
  • Kreuzberg , Insulaner
  • Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche: stands for Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church. The church was bombed out in World War II and its ruin was preserved in the damaged state.
  • Potsdamer Platz: the center of the new Berlin. It contains the Sony Center and the Daimler-Chrysler Quartier, both of which are outstanding examples of modern Architecture. In the 1920s, this was the busiest spot in whole Europe, during the Cold War it lay in the middle of the death strip. After that, it was Europe's biggest construction site (Baustelle).(Schaustelle) is now the place to go if you are into Film. It has three cinemas with more than fourty screens, a film academy and a film museum.
  • Reichstag: The old and new seat of German parliament, rebuilt by Sir Norman Foster
  • New Synagogue in the Oranienburger Strasse: built in the 1860s in moorish style with a large golden dome.

Museums

Culture

After the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) a lot of houses partially destroyed in WW II and not yet rebuild, were situated in the city center (formerly west of East Berlin). They became a fertile ground for all sorts of underground and off-culture as well as many nightclubs, like the world-famous Tresor, which is one of the most important Techno clubs on earth. Berlin has a rich art scene, but it is increasingly coming under pressure, because since the government moved in, the rents went up considerably.

Important Theaters

  • Schaubühne
  • Volksbühne
  • Deutsches Theater
  • Berliner Ensemble

Large Opera Houses

  • Deutsche Oper
  • Staatsoper Unter den Linden
  • Komische Oper

Large Universities

  • Freie Universität Berlin
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Technische Universität Berlin

Famous Streets,Avenues,Places

Domes, Churches

  • Berliner Dom
  • Franzoesische Dom
  • Nicolai Kirche church
  • Gedaechtnis Kirche
  • Hedwigskirche


History

see also: History of Germany

Origin

Since ancient times the area of Berlin had little fishing and farm villages. Around 1200 two town settlements were founded on the banks of the river Spree, Cölln and Berlin. It's not known when exactly they received city rights; the first mention of those rights for Berlin is 1251 and for Cölln 1261. In 1307 the two trading cities decided to unite on political and security matters. Around 1400 Berlin and Cölln had 8,000 inhabitants.

During the Mark Brandenburg

In 1417 Friedrich_I_of_Brandenburg became Elector of Brandenburg. Until 1918 members of the Hohenzollern-family would reign Berlin successively as Margrave of Brandenburg, King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany. The Berlin people were not enthusiast about this change. In 1447 they revolted unsuccessfully against the monarch, losing a lot of their political and economical liberties.

When Berlin became the residence of the Hohenzollern, it had to give up Hanseatic League free city status. It's main economical activity changed from trade to the production of (luxurious) goods for the court. Population figures rose fast (12,000 inhabitants around 1600), leading to poverty. The Jews were the usual suspects: in 1510 100 Jews were accused of stealing and desecrating hosts. 38 were burned, others were banished, losing their possessions , only to be returned by later margraves.

In 1540 Joachim II introduced the Reformation in Brandenburg and confiscated church possessions,the secularization. With it he could pay for his big projects, like the building of an avenue, the Kurfuersten Damm, between his hunting castle Grunewald and his palace, Stadtschloss Berlin.

The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) brought harsh consequences for Berlin: a third of the houses had been damaged, the population halved. Friedrich Wilhelm I of Brandenburg (1640-1688), the Great Elector, started a policy of immigration and religious tolerance. In 1671 50 Jewish families from Austria were offered a home. With the Edict of Potsdam (1685) he invited the French Calvinist Huguenots to Brandenburg. Around 15,000 French arrived, 6,000 of them in Berlin. Around 1700, 20 percent of the Berlin inhabitants were French and their cultural influence was important. Many people from Bohemia, Poland, Salzburg also took refuge. Friedrich Wilhelm also built a standing army.

During the Kingdom of Prussia

In 1701 Friedrich III (1688-1701) coronated himself as Friedrich I (1701-1713), King in Prussia. (Not of Prussia, while he didn't posses all of Prussia). He was mostly interested in decorum: he ordered the building of the castle Charlottenburg in the west of the city. His son, Friedrich Wilhelm I (1713-1740) in contrast was a sparing man, who made Prussia an important military nation. In 1709 Berlin counted 55,000 inhabitants, of whom 5,000 served in the army. In 1755 the figures were 100,000 and 26,000. Furthermore Friedrich Wilhelm build a wall around the city with 14 gates. One of them was the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), which only at the end of the 18th century got the appearance it still has.

In 1740 Friedrich II, known as Frederick the Great (1740-1786) came to power. Berlin became, under the rule of the philosopher on the throne, a center of the Enlightenment, the city of Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelssohn. Stagnation followed under the rule of Friedrich Wilhelm II. He was an adversary of the Enlightenment and trusted on censorship and repression.

In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Berlin. The Prussians realised that they were not only beaten by the French, but also by their own backwardness. One of the consequences was the installation of self government of Berlin. In 1809 the first elections for the Berlin parliament took place, where only well-situated were allowed to vote. In 1810 the Berlin University (nowadays the Humboldt University) was founded. It's first rector was the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. In 1812 Jews were allowed to practise all occupations.

The defeat of the French in 1814 meant an end of the reforms. But economically the city was in good shape. The numbers of inhabitants in the first half of the 19th century from 200,000 to 400,000, making Berlin the fourth city in Europe.

As in other European cities, 1848 was a revolutionary year in Berlin. Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1840-1861) managed to suppress the revolution. One of his reactions was to raise the income condition to partake in the elections. Consequence was that only five percent of the citizens could vote. This system would stay in place until 1918.

In 1861 Wilhelm I (1861-1888) became the new king. In the beginning of his reign there was hope for liberalization. He appointed liberal ministers and builded the city hall , Das Rote Rathaus. The appointment of Otto von Bismarck disturbed the hope.

During the German Empire

Prussia was the dominant factor in the unification of Germany. When the German Empire was established in 1871, Wilhelm I became emperor, Bismarck chancellor and Berlin capital.

In the mean time, Berlin had become an industrial city with 800,000 inhabitants. Improvements of the infrastructure were needed; in 1896 began the building of the subway ,(U-Bahn) and city train (S-Bahn). The neighborhoods around the center (like Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and Wedding) were filled with tenement blocks.

The economic boom caused by the new function of Berlin was followed by a crisis in the second half of the 1870s.

In 1884 the building of the parliament building, the Reichstag was started.

World War I led to hunger in Berlin. In the winter of 1916/1917 150,000 people were dependent on food aid. Strikes broke out. When the war ended, Wilhelm II (1888-1914) abdicated. The socialist Philipp Scheidemann and the communist Karl Liebknecht both proclaimed the republic. In the next months Berlin became a theatre of violence to decide which political system would win.

During the Weimar Republic

End December 1918 the German Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschland, KPD) was founded in Berlin. In January 1919 it tried to seize power (the Spartacist revolt). The coup failed and at the end of the month right wing forces killed the communist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. In March 1920 Wolfgang Kapp, founder of the right wing German Fatherland Party (Deutschen Vaterlands-Partei), tried to bring down the government. The Berlin garrison chose his side, and the building of the government, that had left Berlin already, were occupied. Only a general strike could stop this putsch. In 1922 the foreign minister Walter Rathenau was murdered in Berlin. The city was in a shock: half a million people attended his funeral.

The economic situation was bad. Germany had to pay large sums of reparation money after the Treaty of Versailles, and the government reacted by printing so much money that the inflation was enormous. Especially workers and pensioners were the victim of this policy. From 1924 onwards the situation became better because of newly arranged agreements with the allied forces, american help and a sounder fiscal policy.

The heyday of Berlin could begin. It became the largest industrial city of the continent. People like the architect Walter Gropius, physic Albert Einstein, painter George Grosz and writers Arnold Zweig, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Tucholsky made Berlin the cultural center of Europe. Night life was blooming.

In 1922 the S-Bahn was electrified a year later the airport Tempelhof was opened. Berlin was the second inland harbour of the country. It was all needed to transport and feed the over 4 million Berliners.

But not all was well. Even before the 1929 crash, 450 thousand people were unemployed. In the same year Hitler's Nazi Party won for the first time seats in the city parliament. July 20, 1932 the Prussian government under Otto Braun in Berlin, was by military coup taken over. The republic was nearing it's breakdown, under the influence of extreme forces from the right and the left. Four years later January 30, 1933 Hitler became the chancellor, after doing away with the Social Democrats.

During the Third Reich

Berlin had never been a center of the national socialist movement, which had it's roots in Bavaria. As the capital of the Weimar Republic, it constituted what the nazis were fighting. But now it became the capital of the Third Reich.

On February 27 the Reichstag building was set on fire. It did give Hitler the opportunity to set aside the constitution.

Around 1933 160 thousand Jews were living in Berlin, a third of all German Jews. They constituted four percent of the population. A third of them were poor immigrants from Eastern Europe, who lived mainly in Scheunenviertel near Alexanderplatz. The Jews were persecuted from the beginning. In March all the Jewish doctors had to leave the Charité hospital. A month later, Nazi officials ordered the German population not to buy at Jewish shops.

In 1936 the Summer Olympic Games were held in Berlin. They became a show case for Nazi Germany. The 'forbidden for Jews' signs were removed.

Around 1939 still 75 thousand Jews were living in Berlin. 50 thousand of them were deported to the concentration camps, where most were murdered. Over 1200 Jews survived in Berlin by being hidden.

Thirty kilometers north west of Berlin, near Oranienburg was Sachsenhausen, where mainly political opponents and Russian prisoners of war were incarcerated. Tens of thousands would die there. Sachsenhausen had sub camps near industries, where the prisoners had to work. A great part of these camps were in Berlin.

In 1943 the allied bombardments of Berlin started. On April 30, 1945 Hitler killed himself in the bunker underneath the chancellery. On May 2 the city capitulated to the Soviet army.

The destruction was nearly 100% in parts of the inner city business and residential sectors. The outlying sections received relatively litle damage. This averages to a fifth of all buildings (50% in the inner city) for overall Berlin.

Divided city

During the Cold War of the 20th Century Ost-Berlin, the east part of Berlin was the capital of the German Democratic Republic, while Berlin (West), the western part of the city was de jure still under allied rule, but for most practical reasons a part of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

>>> Blockade Luftbruecke <<<

In 1953 East Berliner workers walked to the Brandenburg Gate unarmed, and took down the communist Soviet Union red flag. Over 200 were gunned down by Soviet tanks. On August 13, 1961 the communist East German government started to built the Berlin Wall, consolidating the division. According to most Westerners, the reason for it was to prevent East Germans from immigrating to the West, although the East German government called it the anti fascist protection wall.

When the first stone blocks were layed down at the Potsdamer Platz in the early 13th of August hours,US troops stood ready with ammunition issued and watched the wall being built, stone by stone. US Military with Berlin police kept Berliners 300 meters away from the border. Congress did not want to interfere ,but instead sent protest notes to Moscow. Massive demonstrations took place for a long time.

John F. Kennedy gave a speech about the Berlin Wall in which he said, "Ich bin ein Berliner" -- at that time it meant much to a city that was an island in enemy territory. Much of the Cold War was fought in Berlin, with espionage and counter-espionage.

Nuclear weapons from the communists were set to hit " the West". Nuclear weapons from the Americans were set to hit "the East". Both sides had their weapons set for a range to hit Germany.

In 1968 and the following years, Berlin became one of the centers of the student revolt, especially its district Kreuzberg was the center of many riots.


Reunited

After the breakdown of Communism in Europe the city, like the whole country, was united in 1991 and soon became capital of all of Germany once again.

At the anniversary celebration of the communist GDR in East Berlin Mikhael Gorbashov attended. By him answering the East Berliners and East Germans directly it came as a lightning bolt. This time there would be no Soviet tanks rolling through Berlin.

/Talk