Author Topic: Berlin History -- The Victory Column  (Read 694 times)

Offline Alfred Keitzer

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Berlin History -- The Victory Column
« on: 10-Nov-2018, 17:04:32 pm »
Anyone who has studied Germany and Berlin is familiar with the Brandenburg Gate, which stands at the east end of the Tiergarten.  For those unfamiliar with the Tiergarten, it is a 520 acre forested park in the middle of downtown Berlin.  One of the main roads in Berlin passes east-west through the Tiergarten, whose original name was Charlottenburger Chaussee because it lead to the adjacent independent city of Charlottenburg just to the west of the Tiergarten.  Charlottenburg was named after Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, Queen consort of Prussia, and the city remained independent until 1920, when the area was incorporated as a borough of Berlin.

Far fewer are probably familiar with the Berlin Victory Column, which currently resides near the west end of the Tiergarten along the main drag approximately 2.5 kilometers from the Brandenburg Gate.

The Berlin Victory Column today looks much different from its original design, which was drafted shortly after 1864 to celebrate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War of that year.

Before construction on the monument could begin, the design was changed to celebrate the more recent Prussian victories against Austria (Austro-Prussian War of 1867) and France (Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71) in what became known as the Prussian Unification Wars.  In addition to changes in the original base, a column was added with three tiers representing each war. Surrounding each tier of the column were enemy cannons, taken from the battlefield after each victory, and plated in gold with an interwoven gold garland. 

At the top of the column was added the gold statue of Victoria.  It was very common in German art and statuary to represent the nation as a woman despite the common reference to the country as the Fatherland.  WAR (or national might) was often depicted as a woman with shield and sword; VICTORY as a woman in robes with the spear of victory in one hand and wreath of returning peace in the other; PEACE as a woman wearing the wreath but a weapon nearby as a sign of vigilance; MEMORIUM (or sorrow) as a bereaved woman holding an urn with the ashes of the dead who had fallen in defense of the nation, etc.

The very base of the Berlin Victory Column contains scenes of Prussians marching off to war and in battle, while the upper portion of the base contains mosaics representing the wars’ unification of Germany.

The column was originally erected 1500 meters (one Roman mile) in front of the German Reichstag building, where it remained until 1939.

The Third Reich’s chief architect, Albert Speer, who was given responsibility for the complete redesign of the Berlin capital (to be renamed Welthauptstadt {World Capital} Germania when complete) ordered the Victory Column moved to its current location and Charlottenburger Chaussee was renamed Victory Avenue during the Reich’s short reign.  The street circled the column and Speer designed four entrances at the east and west corners of the intersections with underground tunnels leading to the monument in the middle of the round-about. During the relocation, the Reich added a fourth tier to the column decorated with golden garlands to commemorate its rise to power. This relocation is credited with saving the Victory Column from total destruction as the Reichstag was a common aiming point for allied bombers and the primary target of the Russian advance into Berlin during WWII.

During the occupation after the war, the Victory Column was in the British-controlled sector of Berlin.  The French wanted the monument demolished but was vetoed by the American and British contingencies.  The French did take possession of many of the cannons and garlands, which were only recently returned to Germany during the column’s restoration. Despite restoration, you can still see remnants of small caliber bullet strikes on the monument incurred during the Battle of Berlin.

The street between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column was renamed “Straße des 17. Juni” by West Berliners to commemorate the Workers’ Revolt in East Berlin, which took place on that date in 1953, and retains that name to this day.  17 June was even declared a national holiday in West Germany, but is now celebrated on October 3rd to coincide with the reunification of East and West Germany, often referred to as the Second Unification.  Now you know.

« Last Edit: 17-Dec-2019, 00:11:54 am by Alfred Keitzer »