Essential Architecture-  Berlin

Neue Wache (formerly Hauptwache)


Karl Friedrich Schinkel


Unter den Linden, between the Humboldt University and the Zeughaus




Greek Revival




  This building interestingly reflects the mood of society. I visited it in 1989 (2 weeks before the collapse of the wall) and it was very formal, guarded by fierce East German soldiers.  It had an eternal flame and was known as the Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism. I was there again in`1990 and it was deserted, the flame had gone out and it was full of garbage. When I last visited it it had the statue of the mother and son and was guarded by a kindly old verteran covered with happy badges and wearing a red beret. I wonder what's next?
  The Neue Wache, Berlin, showing the classical facade
   The interior of the Neue Wache, showing the Käthe Kollwitz sculpture and the oculus, which exposes the sculpture to the elements

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The Neue Wache (New Guard) was originally a royal guard house erected in 1816. It became a war memorial in 1931, and was the focus of many parades down Unter den Linden during the Third Reich era. The building to the right is the Zeughaus (Arsenal), which houses a history museum today.


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Two different armies at the Neue Wache. On the left, Austrian soldiers parade following the Anschluß of March 1938 (the Berlin Arsenal (Zeughaus) appears in the background). On the right, East German honor guards keep watch in the 1980s.  (photo on left from Gerd Rühle, ed., "Das Dritte Reich," Berlin, 1938 ed.; photo on right courtesy R. Fogt).


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On the left is a postcard of the Neue Wache from 1912 (author's collection); the other photo shows the ceremonial guard from the 1st Company of Hitler's bodyguard Leibstandarte at the Neue Wache.  (Hans Quassowski, ed., "Zwölf Jahre: 1.Kompanie  SS Adolf Hitler," Rosenheim, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989). For another period photo of the Neue Wache, see
  With special thanks to the excellent website
Neue Wache

The Neue Wache (The New Watchhouse) is a building in central Berlin, the capital of Germany, dating from 1816. It is located on the north side of the Unter den Linden, a major east-west thoroughfare in the centre of the city. The Neue Wache was designed by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and is a leading example of German classicism. Originally built a guardhouse for the troops of the Crown Prince of Prussia, the building has been used as a war memorial since 1931.

King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia ordered the construction of the Neue Wache as a guard house for the nearby Palace of the Crown Prince, to replace the old Artillery Guard House. He commissioned Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the leading exponent of classicism in architecture, to design the building: this was Schinkel's first major commission in Berlin.

The building has a classical portico of Doric columns. Schinkel wrote of his design: "The plan of this completely exposed building, free on all sides, is approximately the shape of a Roman castrum, thus the four sturdier corner towers and the inner courtyard." The statuary in the pediment of the building is intended as a memorial to Prussia's role in the Napoleonic Wars (known in Germany as the Wars of Liberation). It shows Nike, the goddess of victory, deciding a battle.

The building served as a royal guard house until the end of World War I and the fall of the German monarchy in 1918. In 1931 the architect Heinrich Tessenow was commissioned by the state government of Prussia to redesign the building as a memorial for the German war dead. He converted the interior into a memorial hall with an oculus (circular skylight). The Neue Wache was then known as the "Memorial for the Fallen of the War." The building was heavily damaged by bombing and artillery during the last months of World War II.

The Unter den Linden was located within the Soviet zone of occupation of Berlin, and after 1949 was part of the communist German Democratic Republic. In 1960 the repaired Neue Wache was reopened as a Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism. In 1969, the 20th anniversary of the GDR, a glass prism structure with an eternal flame was placed in center of the hall. The remains of an unknown German soldier and of an unknown concentration camp victim from World War II were enshired in the building.

After German reunification in 1991, the Neue Wache was again rededicated in 1993, as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany." The GDR memorial piece was removed and replaced by an enlarged version of Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture Mother with her Dead Son. This sculpture is directly under the oculus, and so is exposed to the rain, snow and cold of the Berlin climate, symbolising the suffering of civilians during World War II.

Die Neue Wache (ehem. Hauptwache) -  in einem Kastanienwäldchen eingebettet. 1816-18 nach Plänen von K. F. Schinkel erbaut, als Unterkunft für die Wachen, die das gegenüberliegende Kaiserpalais schützen sollten.

Nach der französischen Besetzung Berlins (1806-1813) entstand die Neue Wache als erster staatlicher Repräsentationsbau, zwar nur als einfaches Wachhaus, war aber auch als Denkmal für die "Befreiungskriege" gedacht.
Zwei Standbilder der Generäle Bülow und Scharnhorst (von Christian Daniel Rauch), die links und rechts neben der Wache aufgestellt waren, gehörten damals zur Ursprungsplanung Schinkels. Sie stehen heute in der gegenüberliegenden Grünanlage (östlicher Bebelplatz) am Prinzessinnenpalais (Opern Café).

Ab 1929 diente die Neue Wache als Gefallenen-Ehrenmal der vergangenen Kriege, umgestaltet durch Heinrich Tessenow.

Seit 1960, in der ehemaligen DDR, Mahnmal für die Opfer des Faschismus und Militarismus.

Nach der Wiedervereinigung (3. Oktober 1990),
ab dem 14. November 1993 (Volkstrauertag), dient sie der
Deutschen Bundesregierung
als Mahnmal gegen den Krieg und die Gewaltherrschaft.

Seit dem befindet sich im Innern die überlebensgroße Darstellung
Trauernde Mutter mit toten Sohn -
von Käthe Kollwitz.