Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks. The ruin of the old church has been converted into a war memorial.

The Gedächtniskirche or Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is the symbolic centre of West Berlin, an anti-war memorial to peace and reconciliation. Following allied bombing during WWII, the original west Tower has remained standing as a ruin and is hauntingly named the “hollow tooth” as it is literally an empty husk. Immediately recognizable and located on the Breitscheidplatz at the start of the busy shopping district which includes Tauentzienstraße and Ku’damm, this is the only building on the square which was spared by the bombing and deliberately preserved as a part ruin.

Heavy war damages

Built between 1891-95 in memory of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first German Emperor (1861-1888), by Franz Schwechten in neo-romanesque style, it was damaged on December 23rd, 1943 and subsequently almost completely destroyed during the April 1945 air-raids.

The Gedenkhalle (Memorial Hall) contains photographic exhibits of the Church and the surrounding area before and after the War. Other exhibits of interest are liturgical objects from bygone days and mosaics.

New church building

The Church remained heavily damaged until 1956 when the new building was built following Egon Eiermann’s winning project for an adjacent modern church including an octagonal hall and a bell tower. This was erected between 1957 and 1963 and the nave had to be removed. The modern tower, which is not to everyone’s liking, consists of an octagonal structure and a six-sided bell tower. Its peculiarity is blue shimmering light, which was achieved by leaving an inner cavity of 2 meters between the inner and outer walls with lamps which give-off a blue hue to the inside and outside of the structure. Over 20,000 panels of stained glass make up the walls of the modern Church, consecrated on May 25, 1962 – the same day as the new Coventry Cathedral in the UK, also a victim of WWII bombs.

Inside the new church

Inside the Church is an aluminium baptismal font filled with Carrara marble pebbles, an organ from the Schuke workshop in Berlin-Lichterfelde with over 5000 pipes, a suspended brass figure of a resurrected Christ, a martyr’s memorial commemorating Protestant martyrs of the Nazi regime and the Cross of Nails from Coventry and the icon cross from the Russian Orthodox Church to keep alive the theme of reconciliation. The chime in the old tower was composed by Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia and can be heard every hour.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz

A foyer and a Chapel are also used by the active parish for regular children and family services, christenings and weddings. The shop sells postcards, guides and souvenirs. The surrounding Breitscheidplatz is a place to sit around in open-air cafés, and the nearby 22-storey Europa Center erected in 1965 by Helmut Hentrich and Hubert Petschnigg, is a popular shopping and leisure centre.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Information:

10789 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 2 18 50 23
Internet: www.gedaechtniskirche-berlin.de 
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 9-19 (Church)
Services on Sunday 10 and 18
Guided Tours: Mon-Sat 13.15, 14 and 15; Mon, Fri and Sat additionally at 10.15, 11 and 12
Guided tours by arrangement:fuehrungen@gedaechtniskirche-berlin.de
Architect: Franz Schwechten, Egon Eiermann
Style: neo-romanesque, historism
Train (S-Bahn)

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