Bebelplatz in Berlin

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The Bebelplatz (formerly Opernplatz) is a public square in the central Mitte district of Berlin, the capital of Germany.

The square is located on the south side of the Unter den Linden boulevard, a major east-west thoroughfare in the city centre. It is bounded to the east by the State Opera building (hence its prewar name), to the west by buildings of Humboldt University, and to the southeast by St. Hedwig's Cathedral, the first Catholic church built in Prussia after the Reformation. The square is named after August Bebel, a founder of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the 19th century.


Early history

The square, then called Platz am Opernhaus, was laid out between 1741 and 1743 under the rule of King Frederick II of Prussia. On 12 August 2010 it was named Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Platz, in honour of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria on the occasion of his 87th birthday. The buildings surrounding the square were largely destroyed in World War II by air raids and the Battle of Berlin. The ensemble was restored in the 1950s and the square renamed on 31 August 1947.

Nazi book burnings

The Bebelplatz is known as the site of the infamous Nazi book burning ceremony held in the evening of May 10, 1933 by members of the SA ("brownshirts"), SS, Nazi students and Hitler Youth groups, on the instigation of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. The Nazis under the leadership of Adolf Hitler burned around 20,000 books, including works by Thomas Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx and many other authors.

Some days earlier, on May 6, the students had also dragged the contents library of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft into the square, burning them on May 10.

Today a memorial by Micha Ullman consisting of a glass plate set into the cobbles, giving a view of empty bookcases, commemorates the book burning. Furthermore, a line of Heinrich Heine is engraved, stating "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen" (in English: "Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people"). Students at Humboldt University hold a book sale in the square every year to mark the anniversary.

Recent history

In 2012 an underground carpark serving the attendees of the opera will be erected under the square and around the subsurface memorial, which caused several protests. In 2010 an exhibition of "United Buddy Bears" was held in the square, for the third time in Berlin. The exhibition consisted of more than 180 bear sculptures, each two metres high and designed by a different artist. Due to its difficult past the use of Bebelplatz remains disputed, recently sparked off by a wintery skating rink and a party tent of the Berlin fashion week.

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