New Guard

New Guard (11)

The New Guard, ´Neue Wache` in German, is located in Unter den Linden.

It was built between the years 1816 and 1818, according to designs made by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and is one of the finest examples of German neo-classicism. In its early days it was used by troops of the Prussian Court as a guard point but in 1931 it was turned into a commemorative monument. 

It is a small, simple construction, with the columns of its gate designed in the Doric style. Its creator’s aim was to make it look like a Roman fort, with four towers in the corners, and this is exactly the impression it gives.  

In 1931, the architect Heinrich Tessenow was handed the task of redesigning the building and converting it into a monument to those Germans killed in the First World War. It was at this point that Tessenow added to the structure’s ceiling the circular skylight that you can see today.     

During the Nazi occupation, the building was used by the Reich. And like many others in the city, it was severely damaged in the Second World War. 

After the war, the building was carefully restored and re-inaugurated in 1960. From then on, the government used it as a symbol with which to hail the German Democratic Republic and also as a monument to the victims of fascism and militarism. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the GDR, a glass prism structure was erected in the centre of the entrance way, featuring a symbolic flame that never went out. Great symbolism comes from the fact that under this hall lie the remains of an unknown soldier and anonymous victim of a Nazi extermination camp, together with soil taken from nine European battle fields and concentration camps. 

After German reunification, the New Guard became a monument dedicated to the victims of the war and despotism. When this happened, the glass prism with its permanently burning flame was removed. 

In 1993 the sculpture titled ´Mother with her dead son` was placed here. It is also known as ´The Mercy of Kathe Kollwitz`, and shows a heart-wrenching scene: a mother cuddling her dead son. The sculpture is right under the circular hole in the roof, making it completely exposed to rain, snow and the cold. This is meant to symbolize the suffering experienced by civilians during the war. 

The dark interior and figure in the centre makes this an imposing and startling place.

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