This was our second visit to this church. On our first visit in the early nineties I really did not like it, but this time for some reason I did .
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is located on the Kurfürstendamm. The original church was built in the 1890s. It was badly damaged in a bombing raid in 1943 and half of its spire is now missing. The damaged spire of the old church has been retained and its ground floor has been made into a memorial hall, because of the broken spire the church is nicknamed the broken tooth.
On May 9th 1959 the foundation stone was laid for a new church next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Old Church.
The new church was to be in complete contrast with the old one and include a new stand alone 53m (174ft) high belfry.
Consecrated on Dec 17th 1961, the new octagonal church was designed by Egon Eiermann and made of steel, glass, and concrete and became an icon of West Berlin.
Modern and futuristic buildings have a habit of dating pretty quickly, and this is no exception. What would have been iconic in the 1960s isn’t necessarily the case now, and from the outside at least, you couldn’t say that it was jaw-dropping architecture - but step inside and you may well feel differently.
As soon as you walk inside you’ll be hit by a wall of blue light with a statue of the ‘resurrected Christ’ hanging above the altar. The blue light comes from the panes of stained glass which varies with intensity according to the ambient light coming through the inner and outer walls from the outside.
Although modern in concept the church has many thought provoking elements to it, but there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss - The Stalingrad Madonna. It was drawn by a German clergyman and doctor by the name of Kurt Reuber.
Kurt Reuber was one of thousands of German troops trapped during the Siege of Stalingrad. It’s well known that the local civilian population suffered untold hardship during the siege, but it was also tough for the German 6th Army who were ill equipped for the Russian winter. As Christmas 1942 approached medical supplies were running out and the doctor turned to his inner beliefs for help. He took an old Russian map, turned it over and used a charcoal pencil to draw the Madonna and Baby Jesus. It was meant to be a message of hope to all those who were trapped with him. Around the drawing were the words Licht (Light) - Leben (Life) - Liebe (Love). He hung it up on the bunker wall over Christmas.
The battle for Stalingrad ended on 2nd Feb 1943 and Kurt Reuber, along with another 90,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner by the Soviet army. Before he was captured however, he managed to smuggle his drawing out of Russia, but although the Stalingrad Madonna survived, Kurt Reuber didn’t, and was buried in Yelabuga prison camp.
Reuber lived through a time of darkness, death and hatred, but kept his, and other people’s hopes alive, through the words - light, life and love. Pause for a minute before you leave the church and take a look at those words and the charcoal drawing.
One of the starkest reminders of the bombing raids on Berlin during WWII is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
Situated in Breitscheidplatz, the remains of the protestant church dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm I has been joined by a modern church and belfry, which combined together, would make it on most people’s top ten list of places to see in Berlin.
The original church was built in memory of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s grandfather, with the foundation stone being laid on what would have been Wilhelm I’s birthday - 22nd March 1891.
The monumental church was designed in a neo Romanesque style by Franz Schwechten. The spire rose to a height of 113m (371ft) and was able to accommodate 2,000 worshippers.
It was consecrated in 1895, but the entrance with its superb mosaics making the connection between the ‘throne and the altar’, wasn’t completed until 1906.
On the night of 23rd November 1943 allied air raids virtually destroyed the church, leaving just part of the spire and the entrance memorial hall.
After the war the area was cleared, leaving just the remains standing as a poignant reminder of the horrors of war.
The spire was reduced to a height of 71m (233ft), but now stands proud as a symbol of peace.
The Memorial Hall still has its mosaics, partly damaged, but in pretty good condition all the same.
Entry to the Memorial Hall is free and it’s also worth seeking out the Coventry Cross of Nails.
Coventry Cathedral was also badly damaged in an air raid by the Luftwaffe in 1940. Nails from the cathedral’s burnt out roof timbers were used to make a cross, and since then similar crosses have been given to other places to promote reconciliation. The one here was given in January 1987, and each Friday at noon a prayer of reconciliation is said at Coventry. At the same time (1pm in Berlin), the prayer is said at the Cross of Nails here at the Wilhelm Memorial Hall.
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, colloquially called Gedachtniskirche, is located in Kurfurstendamm avenue and is definitely the main landmarks of Berlin. The original church was built in 1890 by order of Kaiser Wilhelm II who decided to name the church in honor of his grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I. The church was badly and irreparably damaged in bombing raid in 1943, but part of the spire and much of the entrance survived. The new church was added, next to the remains, but it is not a good solution, at least it isn't to me. The new church is confusing with its appearance, looking more alike to medieval towers which could be seen all over Tuscany.
It was called as Memorial, it is a place, a symbol of destruction of Second World War. Church was damaged and left the same condition, a new modern church was built nearby.
Old Kaiser Wilhelm church was fully build in 1906. The church was named in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm I. The old church is now like a museum, inside you can see mosaic of the Archangel Michael fighting the dragon, in vault paintings you can recognize members of Hohenzollern members.
New church was built in around 1960, when I visited it, nice concert took place here. Actually it was hard to see all view of both churches, it was under reconstruction during my visit.
It was by accident that we stumbled onto this beautiful Kirche. We had been walking along Kurfursten Strasse and surrounding streets enjoying the sights when the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtinis Kirche appeared in front of us.
What a sight to see, such a large building that I had to walk backwards to take photos on my Canon DSLR.
The 19th century church was damaged during World War 11 and lost its roof.
Free entry to the building, however we did not enter due the the number of people waiting.
Would be absurde not to agree that Hitler's regime was ultimate evil and a very sick idea. Nazism was founded on idea of supremacy of one race over another and by allowing all neccessary means in order to terminate those who are "wrong numbers". For most of Nazi followers "different" people weren't humans but numbers only. Mental alienation is a process which could lead to a delirium and it is what happened in Hitler's mind, but crimen is strictly individual and shouldn't be generalized.
Berlin, as a capital of the Nazi-regime, suffered of a huge bombing raids during which allies never made distinguishings between military and civilian targets. Is it worth of killing a cow for one steak only?
This sculpture is located in the middle Tauentzienstrasse close to KaDeWe and is accessible from all sides. It is called ‘Berlin’ but is also known as the Wiggly Statue, Broken Chain and the Friendship Statue. It was one of 8 statues in the street, that were put up in 1987 to celebrate the 750th anniversary of the city. This is one of 3 sculptures that were kept from the original eight. Constructed of steel with a concrete base it looks like a broken chain and symbolised, at the time, the division of the city. THERE IS CONSTRUCTION WORK IN THE AREA AT THE MOMENT.
No other sight symbolises Berlin’s traumatic 20th century so vividly as the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. One of my most abiding memories from our 1985 visit, when photo 4 was taken, is of its jagged ruined spire, left just as the Allied bombers left it, as a constant reminder of the destruction of war.
Rather than demolish the ruin, in 1961 a new, octagonal church designed by Egon Eiermann was built alongside the old tower. This church is a stark contrast to the old one, being of reinforced concrete, but its interior glows with thousands of blue glass panes. A freestanding hexagonal bell tower was also constructed, on the site of the former main nave of the destroyed church.
This was high on my list of sights I wanted to revisit on this trip. We both remembered it so well, but when we emerged from the Zoologischer Garten station we were for a while disorientated – the tower was not where we expected it to be. Then we realised that it was hidden beneath a tall scaffolding structure. I was so disappointed not to be able to see and photograph it again, and also concerned that maybe a decision had been taken to after all fully restore the building. But no – instead they are simply strengthening the ruin so that it will remain for future generations as Berlin’s memorial to the futility of war.
And despite the scaffolding we were at least able to go into the vestibule area of the tower, where we could admire the ornate mosaic ceiling (photo 2) and see various bits of sculpture rescued from the bombed church. There is also a crucifix made from two crossed nails (photo 3), a gift from also-bombed Coventry Cathedral to this church as a symbol of reconciliation.
We also of course went into the modern church to see again the wonderful blue light and the giant statue of Jesus which seems to float in front of it (main photo).
This is probably the best-known church in the city. The ruin in combination with the new building became the symbol of post-war West Berlin and its will to survive as “an island in the Red Sea”.
The original Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche, a memorial church for Emperor Wilhelm I, was a neo-Romanesque building with five spires. It was designed by Franz Heinrich Schwechten who followed medieval examples in the Rhinelands. The support of Emperor Wilhelm II and donations from all over Germany allowed the execution of such a huge building and the decoration of the interior in all possible splendour in 1891-1895.
All World War II left was the ruin of the largest steeple. It was to be torn down but public protest enforced its preservation. The architect Egon Eiermann designed the new church, steeple and parish centre with their uniform facades of glass and concrete.
Berliners are famous for their, errrm, particular sense of humour. The ruin is usually referred to as “the hollow tooth”, the new steeple and church as “lipstick and powder tin”.
Do not miss entering the modern church. The little squares of the facades are filled with coloured glass, predominantly blue with splashes of red and yellow. The interior receives a dim, mystic blue light. The effect is impressive. The golden statue of Jesus Christ above the altar seems to fly.
Photo hint: Turn your flash off. The flash not only annoys everyone around you (this is a place of worship, after all), it also ruins your photos. If you want to catch the blue light, use a tripod or lean onto something.
Dates: 1891-1895 / 1960-1961
Architect: Franz Heinrich Schwechten / Egon Eiermann
Location: Kurfürstendamm / Bahnhof Zoo
How to get in: open daily 9:00-19:00
The bombed out tower ruins stand out among the contemporary architecture in the surrounding area. The tower ruins stand, at 63 meters, are barely half the original heighth. There was a lot of scaffolding that obstructed the views of the towers while I was there in 2010.
The original church on the site was built in the 1890's. The present building, which consists of a church with an attached foyer and a separate belfry with an attached chapel, was built between 1959 and 1963. The damaged spire of the old church has been retained and its ground floor has been made into a memorial hall. I recommend going inside the church. One can see the ravages of war from the outside but also from the inside. You will see some beautiful frescoes and notice the cracks on them due to bombing of Berlin during WW2 but it was beautifully redone. Entrance is free and it is about a 5 minute walk from Zoo station.