A place of meditation and remembrance right in the middle of the busy city – the Neue Wache is the memorial for the victims of war and dictatorship.
A mother embraces her dead son, helpless and turned to stone in silent pain: the statue Mother with her Dead Son by Käthe Kollwitz will touch you too. It stands in the Neue Wache, Germany's central memorial for the victims of war and tyranny.
The history of the Neue Wache
The building on the boulevard Unter den Linden has always been a memorial. Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Prussia’s most important and famous architect, designed the building as a memorial to those who had fallen in the Napoleonic Wars and the Wars of Liberation. It was his first work in Berlin. At the same time, the building served as a guardhouse for the royal troops – and did so until the end of the monarchy in 1918.
The Neue Wache was built entirely in the Neoclassical style: a row of columns and a gable frieze with the goddess of victory decorated the sandstone-coloured building. However, only the frontage was real sandstone; in the notoriously cash-struck Prussia, the rear and side walls were merely painted in the same colour
In 1931 Heinrich Tessenow created a Memorial to the Victims of the Great War. Shortly before the end of the Second World War, the Neue Wache was hit by bombs and severely damaged.
From 1960, the GDR used the restored building as a Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism, with an eternal flame burning in the middle of the room. In 1969, the mortal remains of an unknown soldier and a nameless concentration camp victim were interred, surrounded by soil from Second World War battlefields and concentration camps. They still remain under the new memorial plaque today.
Until 1990, every week there was a changing of the guard at the memorial, with soldiers marching up and down in goose step.
Since 1993 the Neue Wache has been the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Victims of War and Dictatorship. In the centre of the bare, simple, top-lit room is an enlarged replica of the statue Mother with her Dead Son by Käthe Kollwitz. Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s choice of Kollwitz’s Pietà gave rise to a lengthy and lively discussion on whether it was a suitable memorial to the actual victims of the Nazis.