: Politicians decide to preserve Nazi-era buildings, but want to ensure "appropriate" usage.: A Difficult History
Architecture was not exempt from the process of denazification. In May 1946, the Allied Control Commission ordered the "complete destruction" of all buildings and memorials linked to the military and National Socialists. The order was to be carried out by January the 1 st 1947. But just as it proved impossible to rid the political world of all traces of Nazism, so it was difficult to extinguish every last remnant of Nazism s architectural legacy.Large swathes of Berlin had been flattened, and intact buildings were a valuable resource. The directive was not applied to buildings considered "of public importance, or of great architectural value".Hitler s Reichskanzlei was torn down and the half-finished Hochschulstadt on the Reichsportfeld buried under rubble. The Haus des Fremdenverkehrs, a monumental building on the broad North-South axis the Nazis had planned for Germania, their world capital, wasn t torn down until the 1960s, when it had to make way for the Kulturforum By contrast, Tempelhof airport proved vital to the Allies during the Berlin airlift. The British established their headquarters next to the Olympic Stadium, and the constitution of the German Democratic Republic was passed in Göring s Luftfahrtministerium.In other words, most of the buildings constructed in Berlin between 1933 and 1945 have survived. As a rule it was considered sufficient to remove all Nazi insignia and works of propaganda - works by artists like Arno Breker or Josef Thorak.But the imperial eagle was often left intact, even the excessively triumphant examples - such as the one that adorns the Arbeitsamt, or labour office, in Friedrichstrasse. Of course, the swastika was removed from its claws. The eagle on the façade of the tax office in Bismarckstrasse in Charlottenburg embraces the house number instead. One wonders what it is hiding.The West Berlin administration took over the Deutsche Arbeitsfront building on Fehrbelliner Platz. The Reichsbank became the Finance Ministry, and later the headquarters of the Central Committee of the East German Communist Party. The GDR s National Council met in Joseph Goebbel s propaganda ministry.The city s difficult architectural heritage was ignored in both West and East Berlin. Even buildings that were of no use - such as the monumental embassies of the former Axis powers, Italy and Japan - were left standing because demolishing them would have been too much trouble.Preserving Bullet Holes Then the Berlin wall fell and it was decided that the city should again be the capital of a united Germany. Nazi architecture was back on the agenda. A debate began about whether the ministries of a democratic state could be housed in buildings contaminated by totalitarian ideology. Or should they be torn down? After all, the equally tainted German Democratic Republic had used them as well.The construction ministry under Irmgard Schwaetzer favoured demolition. Many of her ministerial colleagues wanted to move into tailor-made structures. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel wasted no time in claiming the Schlossplatz for his Ministry. The tide turned in 1994, when Klaus Töpfer succeeded Irmgard Schwaetzer. New buildings began to look too expensive. People began to argue that it was wrong to simply dispose of a piece of history, however unpopular. That attitude was encouraged by the decision to bid for the 2000 Olympics - a bid that included the stadium in which Adolf Hitler watched Jesse Owens run to victory in the 1936 Olympics.From that point on, existing buildings were considered a valuable resource. The idea was to engage with their history and carefully reflect on how to make use of Nazi-built structures.Criticism of the Decision Berlin s state conservationist, Jörg Haspel, called what followed "perhaps the largest ever investment project aimed at ensuring the continued usage of historical buildings". Hans Kollhoff restored the Reichsbank for the Foreign Minister - almost lovingly so. Josef Paul Kleihues took on the propaganda ministry, adapting it for use by the Ministry for Labour and Welfare. The government of the GDR used the gigantic Luftfahrtministerium, as did the Treuhand, the agency charged with privatising state run-industries in the former eastern states. It was carefully renovated by Düsseldorf architects HPP.In 1986, a decision was made to restore the Japanese Embassy, built in 1942 by Ludwig Moshamer, for use by the German-Japanese Society. When the architects realized what a poor condition the building was in, it was torn down and rebuilt with a replica façade. There was no question of the Japanese Ambassador not being able to move back in. Italy and Spain followed suit.The Mediterranean pink of the Italian Embassy now shines through the green of the Tiergarten again, its restoration almost complete. The bullet scars in the façade have been preserved, and the fascist symbols inside will probably be left intact. All that remains of the Spanish Embassy is its severe façade and the portico, adorned with the Spanish coat of arms instead of Franco s. Jesús Velasco Ruiz is reconstructing the rest, with an eye on the past.There has of course been criticism of the decision to re-occupy former Nazi buildings. Not that those critics want to see them demolished. It s more that the sometimes over-pedantic restoration to their original condition makes some people a little uneasy. After all, it was from these buildings that the National Socialists managed their terror apparatus. The everyday life of a Ministry, say some, obscures the buildings function as a memorial, and minimizes the horror of Hitler s concept of these buildings as an "architectural Weltanschauung"."The job of remembering the past is being delegated to the neighbouring Topography of Terror and the Holocaust Memorial," complains art historian Tilmann Buddensieg. Peter Zumthor is currently working on a permanent home for the documentation centre of the Topography of Terror.This site is to be a reminder of where the Gestapo and SS tortured their prisoners and coordinated their campaign of murder across Europe. But construction work has been halted for some time now. Bare elevator shafts rise into the sky as the arguments over some 10 million euros of funding rage on. And yet opposite the site is Göring s Ministry, freshly renovated for a cool 250 million Euros. In the sunshine, its Muschelkalk façade looks almost welcoming.Helmut Weihsmann, Bauen unterm Hakenkreuz. Architektur des Untergangs, Promedia, Vienna 1998, 1166 p. , Euro 51. 90.Wolfgang Schäche, Architektur und Städtebau in Berlin zwischen 1933 und 1945, Gebr. Mann Verlag, Berlin 1993, 655 p. , Euro 99.Wolfgang Schäche, Olympiastadion Berlin. Panorama eines Bauwerks, Jovis-Verlag, Berlin 2001, 143 p. , Euro 39. 80.ANDREAS TEICH Hitler built the Olympiastadion for the 1936 games - and a thousand years more. Now steel girders have to prop it up. It should be modernised by 2006.