Germany. According to Countryaah.com, Angela Merkel had a tough year. Only by a slight margin did it look as if the Chancellor could form a government after the September elections. Long into December, the government negotiations were ongoing. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party CDU/CSU declined sharply but still became the largest party with 33.0% of the vote. That is –8.5 compared to the election in 2012. For Martin Schulz, who in March became Social Democratic SPD party leader, things did not go much better. SPD received 20.5% (–5.2). Things went better for right-wing populist and xenophobic Alternatives for Germany (AfD), which now entered the Bundestag by a wide margin, 12.6% (+7.9). The Liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) also advanced strongly, reaching 10.7% (+5.9). Left Party and Environment Party The Greens both increased marginally, ending at 9.2 and 8.9%, respectively. The turnout was not very high: 76.1%. Despite the success of the AfD, one of the foreground figures in the party, Frauke Petri, chose to leave the party in September, a day after the election, which she thought had moved too far to the right. After the election, 75-year-old Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also announced that he would step down. In October, he was named President of the Bundestag.
It was not easy for Angela Merkel to form a government. The Social Democratic SPD initially chose to go into opposition, and the AfD was not a conceivable partner for Merkel’s CDU/CSU. In early October, government negotiations began with liberal FDP and the Greens. This possible government cooperation was nicknamed the Jamaica Coalition because the party colors were the same as on the flag of the island nation. However, the negotiations broke down in mid-November, after the Greens realized that the political differences were too great. Only in December did SPD and Martin Schulz open the door for cooperation. But by the end of the year, nothing was clear. However, for Merkel there are other alternatives: minority government or new elections.
It was intended that the SPD would get a fresh start with the newly elected Martin Schulz, but that was not the case. At the Saarland state elections in March, the SPD received 30% of the vote while Merkel’s CDU received 41%; in Schleswig-Holstein in May, it was 26% for the SPD and 33% for the CDU; a week later in North Rhine-Westphalia, the SPD dropped substantially, from 39.1 to 30.5%, while the CDU advanced strongly, from 26.3 to 34.5%. The Schulz effects did not occur.
The German car industry suffered a great deal during the year. In the wake of the “Dieselgate”, Volkswagen was forced to pay the equivalent of almost SEK 40 billion in damages to the United States. The entire festival with the exhaust cheat will cost Volkswagen the equivalent of SEK 190 billion. It was in September 2015 that it was revealed that several German car manufacturers had manipulated emission data during their exhaust tests. Faced with a threat of a total ban on diesel cars from 2030, the German car manufacturers in early August agreed to update the software in 5.3 million cars. This would reduce nitric oxide emissions by up to 30%. In July, it was revealed that German car giants such as Audi, BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen have worked together in a cartel for 20 years to have a common technology for exhaust gas purification in the cars. If companies are dropped for cartel formation, the EU could theoretically distribute a fine of 10% of revenues, which would mean a total fine amounting to a breathtaking equivalent of SEK 500 billion. In October, representatives of the European Commission showed up at BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen, among others, to secure evidence of this cartel formation.
Last year, 280,000 asylum seekers came to Germany. This is a substantial reduction from the 890,000 who came to the country in 2015. To speed up the expulsions of those without asylum reasons (in 2016 80,000 were rejected), asylum legislation was tightened in May. Among other things, it should be easier to lock in, or provide footwear, people who are considered a security risk. The German Migration Agency (Bamf) was now also given a legal opportunity to search computers and mobile phones of persons without passports or ID documents. Due to the increased turmoil in Afghanistan, Germany in June suspended the return of Afghans who had been deported. It was now decided to carry out only “voluntary home broadcasts and deportations of violent extremists and criminals in individual cases”.
Relations with Turkey were not the best. In January, some 40 high-ranking Turkish military sought asylum. The militants, who worked at a German NATO facility, feared being imprisoned in their home country after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. At a survey in early May, it turned out that over 400 Turkish military, diplomats and officials had sought asylum in Germany after coup.
In June, Germany withdrew its military forces from an air base near Syria in southern Turkey. This is due to the deteriorating relations between countries. Among other things, several German MPs had been stopped from visiting the base – in response to the large number of Turks receiving asylum in Germany. The 300 soldiers were moved to an air base in Jordan. Relations may have mainly deteriorated in connection with the Turkish electoral movement abroad prior to the referendum on the constitutional amendments when, of course, Germany would also be visited. In February, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım visited Germany to vote, but after the Turkish Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ was stopped from voting in early March, Germany decided that Turkey should not hold any elections in the country.
In late January, Chancellor Merkel visited Sweden. Among other things, with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, issues were discussed about refugees and “harmonized legislation” within the EU. The two countries also decided to enter into a partnership for innovative social solutions. Merkel’s visit to US President Donald Trump in March became a rather frosty event between free-trade-Merkel and isolationist-Trump – at a photo shoot at the White House, Trump did not want to take Merkel in hand.
In April, the Bundestag voted yes to a proposal for a ban on comprehensive veil for some civil servants, including in the military and the judiciary. On June 30, the Bundestag voted yes to the legalization of same-sex marriage – 393 for and 226 against. Chancellor Merkel was one of those who voted against the proposal.
Berlin – architecture and museums
The city center, Berlin Mitte, consists of medieval Berlin, the area around Unter den Linden and the former East Berlin city area around Alexanderplatz, which was heavily destroyed during World War II.
Central to the district is the Nikolaikirche, Berlin’s oldest sacred building from 1230. One of the city’s most beautiful baroque palaces, the Ephraimpalais (1761-1764), has been rebuilt on Mühlendam.
In Klosterstrasse is the Parochialkirche, Berlin’s first baroque sacred building (Johann Arnold Nering, 1695-1714). Behind the church are remains of the original city wall from the 13th and 14th centuries. Just here the ruin of a Franciscan monastery, founded in 1254.
The Marienkirche is located as an island of the past by the Fernsehturm and Alexanderplatz. The church is known for a 22.6 m death dance fresco from 1485.
The Spreeinsel, the original medieval Cölln, was formerly dominated by the Berliner Schloss, which was blown up in 1950 and replaced by the Palast der Republik (1973-1976, demolished in 2008). The Baroque castle was built after drafts by Andreas Schlüter and Johann Friedrich Eosander von Göthe from 1698 to 1716.
To the castle belonged the Lustgarten, originally a utility garden, later an exercise area; here is today the Berliner Dom, a central building in neo-baroque from 1894-1905.
The church’s crypt, Hohenzollerngruft, contains about 100 sarcophagi (including a sarcophagus by Peter Vischer from 1530).
Museum Island, north of the Lustgarten between the Spree and the Kupfergraben, is Berlin’s oldest exhibition center and world-famous.
Schloßbrücke over the western arm of the Spree with its eight classicist groups of figures (1822-1824) is built after a draft by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and begins the magnificent street Unter den Linden, which was originally a riding route from the castle to Tiergarten.
Unter den Linden was laid out in 1647 under Elector Frederik Vilhelm with six rows of linden trees. The first buildings were smaller residential buildings, public buildings and mansions. These were largely demolished around 1770 and replaced with magnificent buildings with the intention of making the street a representative boulevard.
The first baroque building was the Zeughaus arsenal, built after a draft by Johann Arnold Nering 1695-1706. The façade facing the courtyard is adorned with 22 powerful sculptures of dying warriors made by Andreas Schlüter, a masterpiece of German Baroque building sculpture. Today, the Zeughaus is the setting for an important museum of German history, the Deutsches Historisches Museum.
Under Frederik II the Great, the architect GW von Knobelsdorff created the “Forum Fridericianum” in the eastern part of Unter den Linden, a cultural center with Königliche Hofoper (1741-1743, today Deutsche Staatsoper), the Catholic St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale (1747-1773) and Prince Henrik’s Bypalæ (1748-1766), which in 1810 became the setting for the traditional Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, since 1949 Humboldt University.
An equestrian monument by Frederik II the Great, made by CD Rauch and erected in 1851, was erected in 1980 in its original place in the middle of Unter den Linden. In conclusion, the gate building Brandenburger Tor (Carl Gotthard Langhans, 1788-1791) was erected, a symbol of freedom and a symbol of Prussia’s power. Today, the Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of the new Berlin and the reunited Germany.
The architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel left his mark on Berlin. On Unter den Linden, the classicist guard building, the Neue Wache (originally Königswache), was erected in 1816-1818, which from 1969, in the GDR era, stood as a monument to victims of fascism and militarism; from 1993 inaugurated as Zentrale Gedenkstätte der Bundesrepublik.
On the Werderscher Markt, Schinkel’s Friedrichwerdersche Kirche, built 1824-1830 in a bare wall, enthrones an interesting fusion of medieval Gothic mysticism and classicist spirit. The church today houses a Schinkel museum and classicist sculpture.
The baroque square Gendarmenmarkt was originally called Friedrichstädtischer Markt and was the main market square in Friedrichstadt, founded in 1688. The distinguished square forms a closed whole, flanked by two monumental church buildings, Deutscher Dom (1701-1705) and Französischer Dom (1701-1708).
The latter was originally intended for the Huguenot worship services, and the church has been a Huguenot Museum since 1930. 1780-1785 the square was restructured and both churches were provided with slender dome towers.
In 1818-1821, Schinkel’s Schauspielhaus was built over the foundations of Carl Gotthard Langhals’ National Theater, which had burned out in 1817. Schinkel’s House is one of the main works of romantic classicism and is used today as a concert hall. In the square in front of the Schauspielhaus, a monument to Friedrich Schiller was re-erected in 1986.
On the Spreebogen is the Reichstag building, built in 1884-1894 with Paul Wallot as architect in pompous New Renaissance style; it burned down in 1933, but was rebuilt in 1958-1972 without being used as a parliament building.
Following the decision that Berlin should be the seat of government and that the Reichstag building should house the Bundestag, in 1992 a decision was made to rebuild after a project by Norman Foster.
Tiergarten’s original affluent quarter, the Hansaviertel, was partially uninhabitable after World War II. In 1953, the area was declared an international architectural competition with the construction of bungalows and high-rise buildings around a core of shopping malls, a cinema and a library. The building became a symbol of the 1950’s West German Wirtschaftswunder and was created by leading architects such as Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Oscar Niemeyer, Kay Fisker and others.
Berlin’s western city district is intersected by the Kurfürstendamm, which began as a magnificent street in 1882 with the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (1891-1895) as the central point.
In Berlin’s development since reunification, the so-called Planwerk Innenstadt, in which an attempt was made to set a common goal for the merging of the two districts, has not succeeded in creating holistic thinking. The discussion of the reconstruction or renewal of historic towns has at times assumed farcical dimensions.
The traditionalists have wanted to rebuild the symbol-laden monuments that were demolished in the GDR era, such as the Berliner Schloss and Schinkel’s Bauakademie.
After 12 years of debate, the Riksdag decided in 2003 to rebuild the castle’s baroque façade around a new building. In November 2008, the Italian architect Franco Stella’s draft of the castle’s restoration was unanimously adopted. The traditionalists got what they wanted: a retrospective, historic building, not only equipped with a baroque façade, but built in the spirit of baroque architecture and also provided with a reconstruction of the dome construction of the former castle.
The project is oriented towards the original Berlin Castle and its architects Andreas Schlüter and Eosander von Göthe and is a tribute to Prussian history. The building will house the Humboldt Forum, a collaboration between the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, the Staatsbibliothek and the Humboldt University. Humboldt Forum is expected to be inaugurated in 2020.
The rebuilding of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Bauakademie has until 2006 resulted in a model reconstruction of one of the building’s corners; in front of this one has again placed the three monuments, among others by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who before World War II stood in a facility in front of the building. From 2016, a forthcoming reconstruction of Schinkel’s Bauakademie is planned, with an expected completion in 2019.
Likewise, the building that housed the GDR’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for which the Bauakademie had to die 1961-1962, was demolished in 1995.
Paris Platz on the Brandenburg Gate has been built with buildings in a style that quotes the characteristic Prussian classics in a variety of variants, from the almost folkloristic Hotel Adlon (Patzsche & Klotz, 1995-1997) to the academically strict Haus Sommer and Haus Liebermann (Joseph Paul Kleihues, 1996-1998); the Academy of Fine Arts Akademie der Künste is remarkable for integrating the historic building into a transparent new building (Günter Behnisch and Werner Durth (b. 1949), started in 1998).
Frank O. Gehry surprises with his DZ Bank (1996-2001) in an externally calm traditional and restrained building style, challenged by the expressive atrium construction inside the building.
Friedrichstraße, the city’s resurgent commercial artery, has been built with complexes by Joseph Paul Kleihues, Hans Kollhoff (b. 1946), Jean Nouvel (department store Galerie Lafayette, 1998), Oswald Mathias Ungers and Philip Johnson, a motley series of architectural performances, which by critics have been called “the uniformed boredom”.
At Unter den Linden, the rebuilding of Deutsche Bank (Benedict Tonon (b. 1944), 1994-1997) and Haus Pietzsch (Jürgen Sawade (b. 1937), 1993-1994) can be highlighted.
Potsdamer Platz, the new symbol of Berlin’s self-understanding as a metropolis, is one of the most ambitious projects on the urban planning and architectural level in modern times. The space has re-emerged in a style one might call high tech futurism; a big capitalist anarchy of business headquarters, offices, shopping malls and priceless residential properties. The building initiative was taken by the Daimler-Benz group and started in 1994. The site consists of 19 different complexes, where Daimler-Benz (Renzo Piano, 1994-1998), Sony (Murphy/Jahn Architects, 1996-2000) and A&T (Giorgio Grassi (b. 1935), 1996-1999) are the largest.
After Berlin became the seat of government, the Regierungsviertel – also known as the “Band des Bundes”, was listed on the Spreebogen: First and foremost the Bundeskanzleramt (Axel Schultes (b. 1943) and Charlotte Frank (b. 1959), 1997-2001) and the architecturally clarified parliament buildings Alsenblock/Luisenblock (Stephan Braunfels (b. 1950), 1997-2001).
Particular attention has been paid by the public to the redevelopment of the Reichstag building (Norman Foster & Partners, 1994-1999). Foster’s huge elliptical glass dome is equipped with ramps so that it is accessible to visitors, and a system of mirrors casts natural daylight into the Bundestag’s plenary hall. The Danish artist Per Arnoldi has been responsible for the color composition of the hall and 19 other rooms. In 1995, the building was the subject of the visual artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s wrapping in shiny polypropylene.
The Bundesratsgelände, housed in the now rebuilt Prussian country house (1892-1904) on Leipziger Straße, features bronze sculptures by Per Kirkeby (2000) in the outer complex.
The government district will be served by the new fashionable railway station concept Berlin Hauptbahnhof – Lehrter Bahnhof, which was inaugurated in May 2006. The railway station has been under construction since 1996 and is Europe’s largest transit station. The covered railway hall is a steel and glass construction, designed by Gerkan, Marg & Partners.
The surrounding urban area is called the Stadtquartier Lehrter Bahnhof. The squares north and south of the station are called Europaplatz and Washingtonplatz. The development plan follows a proposal by OM Ungers (1994) and consists of offices, housing and shops.
The embassies of the five Nordic countries, Skandinavische Botschaften, have been built in the southern Tiergarten. Each country has its own architectural expression, but the buildings are gathered under a common concept, so that you also achieve a varied urban environment and your own individual character. The Danish embassy was made by the design studio Nielsen, Nielsen & Nielsen (1997-1999).
With the division of Berlin, the old center came to lie in the east, and a new one grew up around the Kurfürstendamm and the zoo in the west. Several other business centers have sprung up, for example in Wedding, in Neukölln and in Steglitz.
To the east, in the 1950’s, as some of the first new construction, Stalin Allee (from 1961 Karl-Marx-Allee), built in the “wreath cake style” of the Stalin era, emerged. The neighborhood around and towards Alexanderplatz is characterized by high-rise buildings from the 1970’s and 1980’s.
At Alexanderplatz are several of East Berlin’s typical landmarks, the 365 m high TV tower, Fernsehturm, built 1965-1969, Erich Johns (b. 1932) Urania-Weltzeituhr from 1969 and the listed fountain, Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft, by draft by Walter Womacka (1925-2010). Womacka is also the author of the mosaic frieze Unser Leben, one of the largest of its kind in Europe (125 m long, 7 m high), which adorns the Haus des Lehrers, the first high-rise in East Berlin, built 1962-1964 after drawings by Hermann Henselmann (1905-1995). The old town center houses a number of rebuilt monumental buildings, former government buildings from the GDR era as well as the foreign representations.
The former central area on the west side has lain for many years with large building plots as it was close to the wall. After the fall of the wall, the area has become attractive again, and a lot of new construction is underway.
Potsdamer Platz, which for a number of years lay completely undeveloped as it lay on the demarcation terrain between east and west, is once again taking on its central function. Here Daimler AG headquartered, and the square is part of the new comprehensive city area established between Alexanderplatz in the east and zoo area at Kurfürstendamm in the west.
Friedrichstraße is once again becoming a fashionable business street with numerous newly built shop passages. The Reichstag building, which was a few meters from the wall and for many years since the war could not be used for its real purpose, is now once again the seat of the German parliament and is part of the new large government quarter, which is built on the Spreebogen.
Southwest Berlin is a high-status area with many upscale residential neighborhoods, while the south and southeast are mostly inhabited by the middle class and the north and east predominantly by the working class.
In the district of Kreuzberg, a large area is strongly dominated by Turks. In the former East Berlin, the working-class neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg is home to many Asians who came as guest workers in the GDR era.
Nowhere in Europe are so many important names in art and culture buried in such a limited and manageable area as at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof or Friedhof der Dorotheenstädtischen und Friedrichswerderschen Gemeinden, located on the Chausseestrasse in Berlin-Mitte and whose history dates back to 1700- century. The cemetery was closed for new burials when Bertolt Brecht, who lived from October 1953 and later died with a view of it, through connections ensured that he could rest there. It appealed to him to lie in the same cemetery as the philosopher GWF Hegel, who is accompanied by his contemporary colleague JG Fichte.
Bertolt Brecht was buried on August 17, 1956, and his example formed the school. Over the years, the GDR’s cultural elite gathered here, the authors Johannes R. Becher, Arnold Zweig and Anna Seghers, the composers Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau, the theater directors Erich Engel (1891-1966) and Wolfgang Langhoff (1901-1966), the film director Slátan Dudow, the actor Helene Weigel and the visual artist John Heartfield. In 1961, the author Heinrich Mann’s urn was transferred here from the United States. Most recently, in December 2011, the author found Christa Wolf, which represented both the GDR era and the transition to a united Germany, quite logically its grave among older colleagues and role models.
After the war, the extensive collections were divided, and the heavily damaged Museum Island was, after partial reconstruction, taken into use as the GDR’s museum center.
In West Berlin, older European art was housed in the Museum Dahlem, Egyptian and ancient art in the Stüler pavilions at the Baroque castle Charlottenburg, while 19th and 20th century art was given its own building in the Neue Nationalgalerie at Kulturforum.
After the reunification in 1990, the state collections in the east and west were united in three museum centers: Museum Island, Kulturforum Tiergarten and Museumszentrum Dahlem.
The idea of a new cultural center in the western part of the city on the ravaged plots in the zone between the southeastern part of Tiergarten and the Landwehrkanal goes back to the architect Hans Scharoun. The intention was to create a “cultural bond” from Charlottenburg to Museum Island, but historical developments have made this thinking superfluous.
The new center at Kulturforum and Museum Island, which is organized and restored according to the so-called Masterplan Museum Island, create large collective units for the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz’s extensive collections. If a Humboldt Forum is held on the Spreeinsel, the large non-European collections from Dahlem will be located in the rebuilt Berlin Stadtschloss.
Together with Museum Island’s ancient and oriental collections, a gathering place for world culture will thus emerge, and Museum Dahlem will have played its role as a museum center.
From 1996, an interesting setting was created for the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz’s collections of art after 1945 in the Museum für Gegenwart in the former Hamburger Bahnhof on Invalidenstraße, one of Berlin’s formerly large classical railway station buildings, built 1845-1847.
An exciting museum is also the deconstructivist Jüdisches Museum, designed by Daniel Libeskind (inaugurated 2001).
In 2004, the Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografi und Architektur opened in its own house in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The museum displays modern art related to the city of Berlin.