29th May 2020

In_pictures Berlin monument to 1989 democracy heroes – in pictures

In_pictures Berlin monument to 1989 democracy heroes – in pictures


in_pictures Architects' aerial view of monumentImage copyright
Milla & partner

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The slogan of the 1989 protesters will be on the monument: “We are the people. We are one people”

Little remains of the Berlin Wall, but a new monument in the German capital will honour the protesters who defied the communist state in 1989 and led the divided nation to reunification.

A groundbreaking ceremony has just taken place for the Monument to Freedom and Unity, in central Berlin. The 50m-long (164ft) bowl will move gently up and down when enough people stand on it, and it should be completed by the end of next year.

In a guide to the design, architects Milla & Partner, who won a competition called “Citizens in Motion”, say “freedom and unity aren’t static conditions, they require participation and interaction”.

“When there are at least 30 more people standing on one half of the bowl than on the other, the bowl will start to move, slowly and gently.”

in_pictures Officials at groundbreaking ceremony, 28 May 20Image copyright
Getty Images

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German Culture Commissioner Monika Grütters (C) took part in the ground-breaking ceremony with designer Johannes Milla (far left) and architect Sebastian Letz (far right)

In 1989 protesters in communist East Germany chanted “Wir sind das Volk!” (We are the People), which later became “Wir sind ein Volk!” (We are one People). The second slogan captured the desire to reunite Germany and remove the Cold War border.

The two slogans will be inscribed on the bowl in big letters.

in_pictures Architects' view of monument at nightImage copyright
Milla & partner

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The architects’ vision of the monument by night

There is also political symbolism in the federal government’s backing for the project – in a city already rich in monuments and reminders of Germany’s turbulent, violent past.

Far-right nationalism, contemptuous of liberal democracy, has made a comeback, with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) now the biggest opposition party in parliament.

German unity has also been put under stress by the coronavirus crisis, with federal and regional politicians often in dispute.

in_pictures Architects' side view of monumentImage copyright
Milla & partner

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The bowl and surrounding pedestrian space will cover 700 sq m

Part of the monument’s site was formerly the plinth of an equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, king of Prussia in the 19th Century and then first emperor of a united Germany.

The architects say “the chequered history of the location is still there to see – but now Kaiser Wilhelm will be replaced by the people”.

in_pictures Area of monument construction, 20 May 20Image copyright

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The monument will overlook a stretch of water. The old Prussian royal palace is being turned into a huge exhibition space called Humboldt Forum.

The project – with an estimated cost of €17m (£15m; $19m) – was granted German parliamentary approval in 2007 but was delayed for budgetary reasons and also because bats were found to be sheltering at the site.

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Read more about Germany’s 1989 upheaval:

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Media captionArchive: Brian Hanrahan reports on the rapid developments that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall

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At Thursday’s ceremony German Commissioner for Culture Monika Grütters said the monument would honour “the civil courage of those people who raised their voices for democratic rights and freedoms”.

“The unity of Germany and a united Europe would have remained, without the ‘citizens in motion’, what they were for a long time: utopian hopes for a distant future.

“Remembrance of the peaceful revolution therefore deserves to have this prominent place in the heart of the German capital.”

in_pictures Officials at groundbreaking ceremony, 28 May 2020Image copyright

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A copy of the facade of the Berlin Palace (Stadtschloss), originally built in 1845, has been constructed and the new monument will stand in front of it.

in_pictures Johannes Milla (L) and Sebastian Letz of Milla & Partners, 28 May 20Image copyright

Image caption

Johannes Milla (L) and Sebastian Letz of Milla & Partners won a design competition.

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