Sunday, 30 November 2008

The 'selective dismantling' of history

While Dr B was attending a conference on dealing with the past of East Germany, that past was -quite literally- being dismantled less than a kilometre from where the conference was taking place. This was all that was left on Friday of the "Palast der Republik", the 'palace of the republic' constructed by the GDR authorities in 1976 on the site of the Berlin Schloss that they had demolished in 1950. Not only did the palace house the GDR parliament (which in communist times met only a few times each year to approve what had already been decided by the Politburo) but a confpalast2erence centre, a theatre, concert hall, restaurants and even a bowling alley. It was here that the first freely-elected East German parliament in 1990 voted for the unification of Germany. Three days before the unification on 3 October 1990 it was discovered that the palace was contaminated by asbestos and the lights went out on tmarxengelshe people's palace. Since then a political and ideological battle has raged as to what to do with the site: while some wanted the palace of the republic to be rebuilt, others wanted the site to be cleared and the Berlin Schloss to be rebuilt. Still others wanted a completely new contemporary building to mark the site at which German unity was decided. The political constellation of forces decided to rebuild the Schloss, or more precisely to rebuild the facades of the schloss as part of a complex housing museums, hotels and leisure facilities. The Berlin state government has a whole web site (in English) devoted to the process of dismantling the palace, with an updated web cam photo of the building site.The winner of tmarxengelschristmashe architectural competition was announced on Friday, the day the last remnants of the palace of the republic were to have been cleared away. Unfortunately, the last "tooth" of the building couldn't be removed in time. Probably no other square in Germany has been the subject of such an ideological debate about architecture. One example of this is that the Palace of the Republic, in official terminology, has not been "demolished" but is being "selectively dismantled". Meanwhile, Marx and Engels, whose statues are in the nearby "Marx-Engels-Forum" have turned their backs to the palace.