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The Berliner Sportpalast (built 1910, demolished 1973) was a multi-purpose winter sport venue and meeting hall in the Schöneberg section of Berlin. Depending on the type of event and seating configuration, the Sportpalast could hold up to 14,000 people and was for a time the biggest meeting hall in the German capital. The Sportpalast is most known for speeches and rallies that took place during the Third Reich, particularly Joseph Goebbels' 1943 "Total War" speech.
Built principally as an indoor ice rink for ice hockey and skating events, the Sportpalast was a sensation at the time of its opening in November 1910, and was at the time the largest such facility in the world. In later years, the Sportpalast was used for other sporting events such as 6-day bicycle races and professional boxing matches in which well-known German boxer Max Schmeling fought. The Sportpalast was also used as a meeting hall for a variety of events, including political rallies and the Bockbierfest (Bock beer festival) with Bavarian bands, dancing, and roasted meat.
During the tumultuous years of the Weimar Republic in the Twenties and early Thirties, the Sportpalast was used for the mass meetings of the major German political parties; within its walls, the Social Democrats, Communists and National Socialists outlined their programs and strategies to capacity crowds.
Third Reich and World War II years
Even after the Nazi Party gained power in 1933 and outlawed the other German political parties, the Sportpalast continued to be a popular venue for party rallies and important speeches by party leaders such as Adolf Hitler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Because of the size and propaganda potential of the Sportpalast, Goebbels is said to have labeled the hall as Unsere große politische Tribüne — "our big political grandstand".
The most significant of the many political speeches and rallies within the halls of the Sportpalast was propaganda minister Goebbels' Total War speech on February 18, 1943. The Sportpalast was also the site of Hitler's Winterhilfe address of September 4, 1940, in which he formally announced the terror bombing of English cities (a tactical decision he had reserved for himself in Directive No. 17 on August 1, 1940), and which thus heralded the beginning of the London Blitz. A vivid eyewitness account of this speech is given by William L. Shirer in both Berlin Diary and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
At war's end in 1945, the Sportpalast was in badly damaged condition with its roof destroyed. The building did not reopen for public ice sports until 1951, but these events were not popular because the rink was open to the elements and thus too cold for spectators to enjoy. A new roof was constructed later, with the building reopening in 1953. Among the notables who performed at the Sportpalast in its postwar years was world-famous figure skater Sonja Henie.
Although it was no longer the preeminent meeting hall of Berlin, the Sportpalast in the postwar years hosted different sorts of crowds as it became used for rock concerts. Artists such as Bill Haley, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and The Nice performed at the Sportpalast during the building's final decades.
By the Seventies, the operation of the hall was no longer profitable, so the Sportpalast closed its doors in 1973 and was torn down and replaced by a high-rise apartment complex, dubbed by Berliners as the "Sozialpalast".
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