The Berlin journalist Christian Walther faced a small question – and got an answer that was followed by an entire book: Who were the subsequent tenants in the palace when Kaiser Wilhelm II left his residence in 1918?
After all, there were 32 years between going into imperial exile (to Doorn in the Netherlands) and the demolition of the castle in 1950. Then, on behalf of SED leader Walter Ulbricht, the old castle was blown up to create a parade ground, later the Palace of the Republic.
Christian Walther, born in 1956, presents in his exciting book how the palace became a center for culture and science after the First World War.
Because instead of the Hohenzollern, their servants and maids, many women worked in the “Castle of the Republic” until 1933, including Marie-Elisabeth Lüders and Lise Meitner.
After the revolution, Wilhelm II had his things fetched. In September 1919, 50 railway wagons with fully loaded moving vehicles were sent to the Netherlands. But who should use the 1000 Berlin rooms now?
First there was the Museum of Applied Arts, which opened in 1921 as the “Castle Museum”. In 1926 the emperor’s former private apartments became accessible, in 1925 a museum for physical exercise was added, the world’s first sports museum!
As early as 1920, scientific organizations, university institutes and a day care home for female students had moved in. Walther: “Even since the 1920s, the former ‘Hohenzollern Palace’ was anything but a haunted house, it was more like a dovecote.”
In 1937 a museum was devoted to Berlin’s theater history, albeit without the major contribution made by Jewish artists. In 1944 all museums were closed, on February 3, 1945 the castle was hit by numerous high explosive and incendiary bombs.
Rebuilding would have been possible after the war and there were also plans, but in 1950 it was blown up, nine years earlier the last German emperor had also died.
Christian Walther’s conclusion: “The SED did not destroy the palace of the Hohenzollern, but the palace of the republic – and thus public property.”