Neue Wache in Berlin

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The Neue Wache (New Guard House) is a building in central Berlin, the capital of Germany. It is located on the north side of the Unter den Linden, a major east-west thoroughfare in the centre of the city. Dating from 1816, the Neue Wache was designed by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and is a leading example of German neoclassicism. Originally built as 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 Schinkel, the leading exponent of neoclassicism in architecture, to design the building: this was Schinkel's first major commission in Berlin.

The building has a 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 the unknown soldier and of an unknown concentration camp victim from World War II were enshrined in the building.

After German reunification, the Neue Wache was again rededicated in 1993, as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny." 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.

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