The Reichstag – Heart of Modern Germany

The Reichstag, or German Parliament, was built in response to the foundation of the new German Empire in 1871. After a series of architectural competitions, work on the winning design began in 1884 and was completed in ten years. The building was constructed in a conventional Neoclassical style, with a suitably imposing facade and a magnificent cupola engineered in glass and steel.

With the collapse of the German monarchy in 1918, the Reichstag had a new, short-lived importance as the debating chamber of the German Republic. In 1933 it burned down in suspicious circumstances, a disaster that suited the new Nazi government. It had no need for a parliament building and used the fire as an excuse to suppress the communists who were blamed for starting the blaze. Repairs were made to the building, although it was extensively damaged again by Allied bombing and by Soviet artillery in the 1945 battle for Berlin .

Although located in the western part of Berlin, the Reichstag was not used as a parliamentary building post-1945 because the Parliament (Bundestag) of West Germany was moved to the new capital of Bonn. After the reunification of Germany, the Bundestag moved back to Berlin, when the city was reinstated as the capital of Germany. In 1995 work began on the rebuilding of the Reichstag under the direction of Norman Foster. Completed in 1999 the new Reichstag features a vast glass dome over the main debating chamber. Visitors are able to look down on the proceedings, a hopeful symbol of the “transparency” of the new German government.