A Bismarck tower (German: Bismarckturm) is a specific form of a Bismarck monument, built according to a more or less standard model across the former German Reich to honour the first chancellor Otto von Bismarck. A total of 240 of these towers were built between German unification and the Nazi takeover, i.e. between 1869 and 1934. Some 173 remain.
The world's first Bismarck tower now stands in Poland. It was erected by private initiative in 1869 in the village of Ober-Johnsdorf, Silesia, then part of Prussia (today Janówek, Wrocław County). It stands on top of the hill now called Jańska Góra (German: Johnsberg), 253 m above sea level. The tower itself is 23 m in height. The sponsor was a retired Prussian officer Friedrich Schröter (1820–1888), a wealthy landowner in nearby Wättrisch.
One year after Bismarck's death, German Studentenverbindung fraternities chose one of the designs submitted by the architect Wilhelm Kreis in an 1899 architecture competition. The award-winning Götterdämmerung fire column design of granite or sandstone was selected as a standard model for all Bismarck towers. The massive and squat design could be built to different heights and widths depending on the amount of money donated for the particular monument.
In manifestation of the Bismarck cult, they were built in various styles in locations across the German Empire, including its colonies in New Guinea (Gazelle Peninsula), Cameroon (near Limbe) and Tanzania, as well as in areas of Europe that, at the time, were part of Germany, but now lie within the borders of Poland, France, Denmark or Russia. Bismarck towers were also built in Austria, in the Czech Republic, and in Concepción, Chile.
Every Bismarck tower was originally intended as a beacon. Their braziers were to be lit on specified days in honour of the former chancellor to commemorate his achievement in unifying Germany in 1871. Though most towers included firing installations, plans for a nation-wide beaconing failed and many local initiatives chose deviating designs. The architects of these towers included Wilhelm Kreis himself, who built 58 (47 to the Götterdämmerung design), and Bruno Schmitz.
- Aachen, finished in 1907
- Bad Kissingen, 1930
- Ballenstedt, 1930/31
- Hanover, finished in 1904, dismantled in 1935
- Janówek (Ober-Johnsdorf), Poland - the first Bismarck tower, finished in 1869
- Metz, Le Ban-Saint-Martin - the only preserved Bismarck tower in France
- Porta Westfalica, 1902, dismantled in 1952
- Salzgitter, 1900
- Szczecin (Stettin), Poland
- Viersen, 1901
- Wiesbaden, 1910 - with 50 m (160 ft) the highest tower, dismantled in 1918
- Zielona Góra (Grünberg), Poland
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