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B96, 10557 Berlin, Germany
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The Siegesallee (German for "Victory Avenue") was a broad boulevard in Berlin, Germany. About 750 m in length, it ran northwards through the Tiergarten park from Kemperplatz (an intersection of roads on the southern edge of the park near Potsdamer Platz), to Königsplatz, in which stood the Berlin Victory Column, in its original position in front of the Reichstag (German Parliament building). Along its length the Siegesallee cut across the Charlottenburger Chausee (today's Straße des 17. Juni, the main avenue that runs east-west through the park and leads to the Brandenburg Gate). First laid out in 1873, the Siegesallee had existed, with this name, for more than two decades before the sculpting of the marble construction that became synonymous with it.
It was on 27 January 1895, the 36th birthday of William II, German Emperor (1859–1941), that the Siegesallee took on a whole new meaning with the commissioning by the Emperor of almost 100 white marble statues. Intended as a personal gift to the city, supposedly to make it the envy of the world, the statues were created by 27 sculptors under the direction of Reinhold Begas over a period of five years, starting in 1896. Dedicated on 18 December 1901, they consisted firstly of 32 "main" statues, each about 2.75 m tall (4 to 5 m including their pedestals), of former Prussian royal figures of varying historical importance, in two rows of 16, evenly spaced along either side of the boulevard, while behind each one were two busts of associates or advisors mounted on a low semi-circular wall, making 96 sculptures in all.
The whole construction was widely derided by art critics, and regarded by many Berliners as grossly over-indulgent and a vulgar show of strength. It was dubbed the 'Puppenallee' (Avenue of the Dolls), as well as the Avenue of the Puppets, Plaster Avenue, and other unsavoury titles. Even the Emperor’s own wife Augusta Viktoria (1858–1921), had reportedly been unhappy about it and had tried to persuade him not to go ahead with it, but all to no avail. The Siegesallee was still a popular place to stroll or relax, however.
The statues remained in place until 1938, when they got in the way of the grand plan by Adolf Hitler to transform Berlin into the Welthauptstadt Germania, to be realised by Albert Speer. The avenue was set to disappear under the new North-South Axis, the linchpin of the plan, and so on Speer's direction the entire construction was dismantled and rebuilt in another part of the Tiergarten, along a south-east to north-west running avenue called "Großer Sternallee" that led to the Großer Stern itself (literally "Large Star"), the main intersection of roads in the centre of the Tiergarten, one of the other roads being the Charlottenburger Chausee. In its new location it was given a new name - "Neue Siegesallee" (New Victory Avenue). The Berlin Victory Column was moved also, to the middle of the Großer Stern (and increased in height in the process), where it remains to this day.

Many of the statues were damaged in World War II, while a few were smashed completely. Generally though, the avenue survived, more or less, while all around was a scene of devastation. Most of the Tiergarten's 200,000 trees were shattered by bombs and artillery shells and finally cut down for fuel by desperate Berliners. However, the statues were seen by the Allied powers as a symbol of Imperial Germany, and in 1947 the British Occupation Forces dismantled the Siegesallee’s remains, these apparently being bound for the Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), the largest of the eight huge rubble mountains around Berlin’s perimeter. State curator Hinnerk Schaper intervened, however, and buried most of the statues in the grounds of the nearby Schloss Bellevue, today the official residence of the Federal President of Germany, in the hope that one day, when Germany could be more accepting of monuments to its past, they might resurface. In 1979 they were duly rediscovered and dug up, and many of the survivors were relocated in Berlin’s first sewage pumping station, which had since its closure in 1972 been restored and turned into a museum called the Lapidarium, at Hallesches Ufer, along the north bank of the Landwehrkanal, near the site of the former Anhalter Bahnhof. In October 2006 however the museum closed and the building put up for sale with a future gastronomic function envisaged for it, and the remained 26 Siegesallee statues and 40 sidebusts (and numerous others housed there) moved in May 2009 to the Spandau Citadel. Here they will be restored and in 2015 presented as a part of the new permanent exhibition „Enthüllt – Berlin und seine Denkmäler“ (Inaugurated – Berlin and its monuments).

The photograph to the right, taken in December 2003, shows the view looking north from near Kemperplatz, of the original site of the Siegesallee as it is now. All vehicles are prohibited; the broad boulevard of yesteryear has long since vanished. The Siegesallee's first route today is this wide gravel path through the trees, still a popular place to stroll or relax (its later relocation after 1938 is very similar in appearance). It seems that Berlin has turned its back entirely on this aspect of its past; neither path is now called the Siegesallee and the name does not appear on any of the public information signs in the area. The original route seems not to have any name at all nowadays, while the later Neue Siegesallee has reverted to its pre-1938 name "Großer Sternallee." Looking at this scene it is difficult to believe that under Hitler's grand design this quiet woodland way would now be the North-South Axis, 100 m wide and lined with Nazi edifices on a gargantuan scale. A short distance to the left (west), a post-war main road through the Tiergarten has recently been superseded by a tunnel running beneath it.

Where the Siegesallee's original route meets Straße des 17. Juni (the former Charlottenburger Chausee), its erstwhile northern continuation up to Platz der Republik and the Victory Column is blocked by the Soviet War Memorial erected in 1945, which neatly straddles its former route. Prior to its relocation, the Victory Column stood directly behind the Soviet memorial's location but with the Siegesallee itself having been destroyed in the way described above by the air raids during the Second World War. The Russian Empire, as it was at the time (the 19th century), was however not involved in the Prussian creation of the Second German Empire resulting in particular from victory in the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War, and this particular memorial (located on a Russian cemetery and which was opened in 1945 on the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution) must be held to relate more directly to the planned Avenue of Splendour or 'North-South axis' to the south with its Arch of Triumph upon which it was intended to record, as stated in Avenue of Splendour, with or without the permission of any concerned relatives, the names of the numerous German military casualties of the First World War, and thus reversing the entire system of First World War memorials as set up in western Europe.


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Address: B96, 10557 Berlin, Germany