The Historic Site after 1945

Repressed History

After the Second World War, the buildings that had been used until 1945 by the central institutions of Nazi terror were either destroyed or damaged. Although deemed “rebuildable,” they were blown up and razed. The terrain, located directly at the border between the Soviet and American sectors, was leveled and then left to a construction recycling firm and an “Autodrom” (driving practice area). The division of the city relegated the terrain to the periphery of West Berlin where it had been bordered on the north side by the Berlin Wall since 1961. The history of the site was gradually forgotten.

Public interest in this site emerged gradually in the 1970s. In 1979/80, the International Building Exhibition (IBA) spoke out repeatedly against plans to have a street built right through the grounds. Associations of former persecuted persons and civil rights organizations pointed out the site’s historical significance. Attention was also drawn to the site in 1981 when the neighboring former Museum of Industrial Arts and Crafts was restored to create the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition space. The new museum opened with a major exhibition on Prussian history titled “Preußen – Versuch einer Bilanz” (Prussia – Attempt at a Balance).

After Berlin’s parliament debated the site’s future for the first time in 1982, the Berlin Senate opened a nationwide competition calling for international submissions for “a design of the site of the former Prinz Albrecht Palais” in 1983. Of the 194 designs submitted, the jury awarded first prize to the design by the Berlin landscape architects Jürgen Wenzel and Nikolaus Lang. But the Senate decided not to realize the project in 1984. Instead, following further intense public debate about the use and design of the grounds, the terrain was “temporarily” arranged. It opened to the public for the first time in 1987 as part of Berlin’s 750th anniversary celebrations.