Wider than the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Karl-Marx-Allee in Friedrichshain was East Germany’s most magnificent boulevard and is still impressive today.
If you want to see the most architecturally impressive street built by the GDR then go to the famous Karl-Marx-Allee with its workers’ palaces. Just stroll down from Alexanderplatz and get a feel for the GDR.
The monumental buildings of Karl-Marx-Allee are famous well beyond Berlin, because it was the flagship boulevard of East Berlin. It stretches for 2 kilometres through Friedrichshain from Strausberger Platz to Frankfurter Tor. Even if all the buildings have now been modernised, you can still feel the atmosphere of the east. The International cinema at Karl-Marx-Allee 33 is a listed building and looks just like it did in GDR times. The building with the glass dome not only houses the cinema, but also a public library and rooms for events.
Architecture and history
After the second world war, the boulevard, which was then still called Frankfurter Straße, lay completely in ruins. On 21 December 1949 (Stalin’s 70th birthday), it was renamed Stalinallee, and on 13 November 1961 renamed again to Karl-Marx-Allee.
Between 1952 and 1960, what were probably the most monumental buildings of the 20th century were built. On the instructions of the ruling party, the road was first widened to 90 metres (and thus 20 metres wider than the Champs-Élysées in Paris) before the seven- to nine-storey apartment blocks were built – in the classical socialist style of the 1950s. These buildings were also called “wedding-cake-style workers’ palaces”. Most famous of all were the two domed towers where the street meets Frankfurter Tor.
The East German government wanted to impress the world with the first ever socialist main street – and intimidate its own workers. But it was precisely here that the workers’ uprising of started on 17 June 1953, which was put down with the help of the Red Army. In 1989 there were demonstrations again, this time to tear down the wall.
The popularity of Karl-Marx-Allee today
After reunification, the apartment blocks were sold to various investors and most of them were extensively modernised, while retaining their harmonious exterior. The flats are now very much sought-after.
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