- The Reichstag, the parliament building
which has such strong associations with the country's tumultuous modern
history, will officially reopen on Monday.
- For a tour of the new Reichstag click
- A four-year renovation under the guidance
of British architect Norman Foster has transformed the building which dates
back to 1894. The parliament is in the course of moving from Bonn back
to Berlin and the government will follow in the autumn.
- But ever since MPs narrowly voted for
a return to the Reichstag, shortly after German reunification in 1990,
the plan has courted controversy.
- For some the $11bn cost of the project
is too much to swallow, while others feel the Reichstag's close ties to
the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich make it an inappropriate venue for
- Caroline Wyatt reports: "Berlin
is keen to put the past behind it"When parts of the building were
burned down in 1933, Adolf Hitler, the newly-installed chancellor, put
the blame on communists. Most historians believe either the governing National
Socialist party itself was responsible or that a Dutch hitchhiker, Marinus
van der Lubbe, committed the arson attack independently.
- Nevertheless, Hitler used the crime as
a pretext to push through an emergency law to disempower parliament and
outlaw all political opposition.
- In 1945 the Reichstag was shelled by
the Russian Red Army, before soldiers planted its flag on the roof of the
forum in a potent image of victory.
- Peace-time Germany was carved into East
and West, with two respective capitals established on East Berlin and the
small town of Bonn, on the Rhine.
- Prof Wende: "Bonn had to be replaced
by a permanent capital""The German Bundestag, the German Parliament,
was placed in Bonn because it was a clear sign that this was a provisionary
institution as long as Germany was divided," says Professor Wende,
Director of the German Historical Institute.
- "The modern German constitution
had, so to speak, the (goal) of re-unification as a political task for
the German Republic, and when this had been achieved in 1990, of course
Bonn had to be replaced by a permanent capital."
- Although there was significant opposition
to the plan, supporters remember the Reichstag as a highly charged emblem
- The neo-renaissance building, designed
by the acclaimed architect Paul Wallot, had been the cradle of German democracy
during the Bismarck era of Prussian rule.
- The glass dome allows visitors to look
down on MPsThe acclaimed architect Sir Norman Foster, who won the commission
to rebuild the Reichstag, pledged that the history of the building should
not be sanitised.
- "From the beginning we said it was
about history, about renewal, regeneration, it was about the working of
parliament, it was about ecology, symbolism," said Sir Norman.
- "And I think it's really quite remarkable
that all these radical ideas have found a concrete form."
- The most spectacular feature of the new
Reichstag is a modern, 22 metre-high, modern glass dome, with a viewing
gallery allowing visitors to look down on their politicial representatives.
- Former BBC correspondent Oliver Berlau:
"The current eagle is rather odd, rather fat"The symbolism is
intentional says Foster, who sees the glass embodying the spirit of transparency
and democracy in much of post-war Germany. He wanted to show the people's
power over the MPs working below.
- The no-holds-barred approach means visitors
will see examples of jubilant, anti-German graffiti that victorious Soviet
soldiers had scrawled across the walls in 1945.
- The fat eagle stays. But some controversies
still linger on, such as the shape of the German eagle to be displayed.
The current eagle is considered fat and efforts have been made to slim
down the bird which has been Germany's symbol for 1,000 years.
- But new designs have been rejected because
of a copyright question hanging over the existing image.
- There is also disquiet about the name
"Reichstag" - "reich" means empire in German. A group
of German MPs have demanded the historic name should be replaced by a more
neutral sounding phrase such as "plenary area" or "Deutscher
Bundestag" since Germany no longer has an empire.
- This opposition is misplaced says Prof
- "One has to make clear that when
the German parliament, the parliament of the German Federal Republic, moves
to a building which is called Reichstag, it is actually moving into a building
where one can find one of the important roots of German democracy,"