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The Old Reich Chancellery, ca. 1895
The annex of the Old Reich Chancellery, August 1938

The Reich Chancellery ( ) was the traditional name of the office of the Germanmarker Chancellor (Reichskanzler). Today the office is usually called Kanzleramtmarker (Chancellor's Office), or more formally Bundeskanzleramt (Federal Chancellor's Office).

The term Reichskanzlei also refers to various buildings that housed the upper echelons of Germanymarker's government.

Old Reich Chancellery

When the military alliance of the North German Confederationmarker was reorganised as a federal state with effect from July 1, 1867, the office of a Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler) was implemented at Berlinmarker and staffed with the Prussianmarker Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck. After the unification of Germany on January 18, 1871 by accession of the South German states, Bismarck became Reich Chancellor of the new German Empiremarker.

In 1869 the Prussian state government had acquired the former city palace of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł on Wilhelmstrassemarker No. 77, which from 1875 was rebuilt as the official building of the Chancellery and inaugurated with the meetings of the Berlin Congress in July 1878. It was significantly enlarged by the construction of a modern annex finished in 1930. When in 1935 the architects Paul Troost and Leonhard Gall redesigned the interior as the domicile of Adolf Hitler, they added a conservatory in the garden with a shellproof cellar, which from 1936 was continuously enlarged as the Führerbunkermarker.

New Reich Chancellery (1938)

In 1938, Hitler assigned his favourite architect Albert Speer to build the New Reich Chancellery, requesting that the building be completed within a year. Near the complex was the underground Führerbunkermarker, where Hitler committed suicide at the end of World War II in 1945. The New Reich Chancellery had the address No. 6 Voßstrasse, a branch-off of the Wilhelmstrasse, where the Old Reich Chancellery was located.

Hitler commissioned Speer to build the New Chancellery in late January 1938, although preliminary planning had begun four years earlier. Hitler commented that the Old Chancellery from Bismarck was "fit for a soap company" but was not suitable as headquarters of the German Reich. The Old Chancellery remained the official residence of the chancellor with its refurbished representation rooms on the groundfloor and private rooms on the upper floor where Hitler lived in the so called Führerwohnung ("Führer apartment"). He assigned Speer the work of creating grand halls and salons which "will make an impression on people".

Location of the Old and New Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker

Hitler placed the entire northern side of the Voßstrasse at Speer's disposal. Speer was given a blank cheque — Hitler stated that the cost of the project was immaterial — and was instructed that the building be of solid construction and that it be finished by the following January in time for the next annual diplomatic reception to be held in the new building. In the end it cost over 90 Million Reichsmark, well over one billion dollars today.

Speer claimed in his autobiography that he completed the task of clearing the site, designing, constructing, and furnishing the building in less than a year. In fact, versions of the designs were already being worked on as early as 1935. Over 4,000 workers toiled in shifts, so the work could be accomplished round-the-clock. This immense construction project was finished 48 hours ahead of schedule, and the project earned Speer a reputation as a good organiser, which, combined with Hitler's fondness for Speer played a part in the architect becoming Armaments Minister and a director of forced labour during the war.
The New Reich Chancellery, as seen in January 1939 from the Court of Honour.
In his memoirs, Speer describes the impression of the Reichskanzlei on a visitor:

From Wilhelmsplatz an arriving diplomat drove through great gates into a court of honour. By way of an outside staircase he first entered a medium-sized reception room from which double doors almost seventeen feet high opened into a large hall clad in mosaic. He then ascended several steps, passed through a round room with domed ceiling, and saw before him a gallery long. Hitler was particularly impressed by my gallery because it was twice as long as the Hall of Mirrorsmarker at Versaillesmarker.

Hitler was delighted: "On the long walk from the entrance to the reception hall they'll get a taste of the power and grandeur of the German Reich!" During the next several months he asked to see the plans again and again but interfered remarkably little in this building, even though it was designed for him personally. He let me work freely.

The series of rooms comprising the approach to Hitler's reception gallery were decorated with a rich variety of materials and colours and totalled 725 feet (220 m) in length. The gallery itself was 480 feet (145 m) long. Hitler's own office was 400 square metres in size.

From the exterior, the chancellery had a stern, authoritarian appearance. From the Wilhelmplatzmarker, visitors would enter the Chancellery through the Court of Honour (Ehrenhof). The building's main entrance was flanked by two bronze statues by sculptor Arno Breker: "Wehrmacht" and "Partei" ("Armed Forces" and "Party").

Hitler is said to have been greatly impressed by the building and was uncharacteristically effusive with his praise for Speer, lauding the architect as a "genius". The chancellor's immense study was a particular favourite of the dictator.

The large marble-topped table in Hitler's study served as an important part of the Nazi leader's military headquarters, the study being used for military conferences from 1944 on. On the other hand, the Cabinet room was never used for its intended purpose.

Some 4000 workers were employed in the construction of the New Reich Chancellery. Speer recalls that the whole work force — masons, carpenters, plumbers, etc. were invited to inspect the finished building. Hitler then addressed the workers in the Sportpalastmarker.

The New Reich Chancellery was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin at the end of World War II in 1945.

After the war, the remains of the Chancellery were demolished by orders of the Sovietmarker occupation forces. Parts of the building's marble walls were said to be used to build the Soviet war memorial in Treptower Parkmarker or to renovate the nearby war-damaged Mohrenstraßemarker U-Bahn station which is an early version of an urban legend. Some of the red marble was used in the palatial Underground stations in Moscow. Also a heater from Hitler's rooms was replaced in a Protestant hospital.

See also


  • Allied Intelligence Map of Key Buildings in Berlin (Third Edition, 1945)

Further reading


25fps-filmproduction GmbH & Co. KG (3D Computer Animation "Construction History and Street Facades" and "Garden Facades and Court of Honor")

External links

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