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The Berlin Sportpalast (built 1910, demolished 1973) was a multi-purpose winter sports 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 Berlin. The Sportpalast is most known for speeches and rallies that took place during the Third Reich, particularly Nazi Propaganda Minster Joseph Goebbels's 1943 "Total War" speech.
Built at Potsdamer Straße 172, 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 enclosed skating facility in the world. In later years, the Sportpalast also hosted non-winter sporting events such as six-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 '20s and early '30s, the Sportpalast was used for the mass meetings of the major German political parties; within its walls, speakers from 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, including Adolf Hitler and 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 Sportpalast was the site of Hitler's Winterhilfe address of September 4, 1940, in which he announced a shift to bombing of British cities rather than only military targets, heralding the beginning of the London Blitz. But the most significant of many Nazi speeches and rallies at the Sportpalast was Goebbels's Total War speech on February 18, 1943 – two weeks after the disastrous German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad. In his fanatical appeal to "totaler Krieg" before a select Nazi audience, Goebbels sought to rally the German people to heightened support for the war, which had begun to turn against Germany and was producing ever-growing casualty lists.
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.
With the division of the city between East and West in the Cold War, the Sportpalast was situated in West Berlin. Although it was no longer the city's preeminent meeting hall, the Sportpalast in the postwar years hosted varied sorts of events, including 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 – providing an ironic contrast to the venue's function during the Nazi years.
By the '70s, the operation of the hall was no longer profitable; the Sportpalast closed in 1973 and was torn down and replaced by a high-rise apartment complex, dubbed by Berliners the "Sozialpalast".
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sportpalast Berlin.|
- Berlin Observer article
- Picture from 1973
- Adolf Hitler's first speech as Reich Chancellor in Berlin's Sport Palace 1933-02-10