The Reichstag - History and Facts | History Hit

The Reichstag

Berlin, Germany

The Reichstag Building was the seat of the German Government from 1894-1933 and is now the seat of the German Bundestag.

Amy Irvine

16 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Reichstag

The Reichstag is one of Berlin’s most significant historical buildings, having borne silent witness to the turbulent history of Berlin and indeed Germany itself. It is also the current home of the German parliament.

History of The Reichstag

Designed by architect Paul Wallot during the reign of Emperor Wilhelm I, the Reichstag contained several pioneering architectural elements, including a steel and glass copula – the first of its kind. Wilhelm I was succeeded by Kaiser Wilhelm II by the time the Reichstag was completed in 1894 and, despite his opposition to the institute of parliament (and regarding the building as “the pinnacle of bad taste”), the Reichstag survived his reign, serving as the seat of the German Parliament from 1894-1933.

It acquired its iconic dedication to “the German People” in 1916 when the words ‘Dem Deutschen Volke’ were inscribed on its façade. The Reichstag was also the site where politician Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the institution of the German Weimar Republic in 1918. In 1933, a fire tore through the Reichstag, causing severe damage. The ruling National Socialist German Workers Party, the Nazis, blamed the fire on communist Marinus van der Lubbe, and used the incident as an excuse to suppress dissent.

Under Nazi dictatorship, the building fell into neglect. The Reichstag was heavily bombed during World War Two and emerged as a ruin, having become one of the primary targets for the Red Army in 1945 due to its perceived propaganda value. (Cyrillic graffiti left by Soviet soldiers in 1945 can be still seen).

Further neglect during the Cold War led to parts of the original Reichstag building, including its famous copula, being destroyed, though a partial renovation was undertaken in 1961 in the shadow of the newly erected Wall.

The Reichstag was the venue of the German Reunification Ceremony on 3 October 1990, after which, architect Norman Foster restored the building. Since its completion in 1999, the Reichstag once again became the home of the new German national parliament – who convened there for the first time on 19 April 1999.

The Reichstag today

In addition to housing the German parliament, the Bundestag, the Reichstag is also one of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions. Admission and guided tours are free but require advance registration using the online form on the Reichstag’s website.

The Reichstag’s dome and roof are open daily between 8am and midnight. Bookings are accepted at service points at the Berlin Pavillon up to 2 hours prior to a desired admission time.

Getting to The Reichstag

Located in central Berlin, the Reichstag is close to the German Chancellory and Brandenburg Gate, and a short distance from Berlin’s main rail station, the Hauptbahnhof. The number 100 bus stops nearby, as does the M41. The nearest U-Bahn station is the Bundestag. Many boat trips through Berlin pass the Reichstag and government district.

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