The Siegesallee (German for "Victory Avenue") was a broad boulevard in Berlin, Germany. in 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered and financed the construction and expansion of an existing alley with a variety of marble statues, which was finalized in 1901.
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 the former site of the Berlin Victory Column at the Königsplatz, close to the Reichstag. 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).
The marble monuments and the neobaroque ensemble were ridiculed even by its contemporaries. Berlin folkore dubbed the Kaiser Denkmalwilly (Monument Billy) for his excessive historicism. Moves to have the statues demolished were thwarted after the end of the monarchy in 1919.
The Siegessäule and the figures were moved by the Nazi government to the Große Stern in 1939 to allow for larger military parades and conventions.
Some of the monuments were lost in the aftermath of the Second World War. The allied forces (the area later belonged to the British sector) had the alley erased and the area replanted. The Soviet War Memorial (Tiergarten) was erected there, deliberately crossing the former Victor Avenue of its foes in a symbolic act immediately after the end of the war.
Currently the remaining figures are being repaired and exhibited in Spandau. They will be part of the exhibition Enthüllt – Berlin und seine Denkmäler. The track itself has recently (2006) been reconstructed as a footpath.
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.
The term Puppen has been used before. 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. Just one woman has been depicted, Elisabeth of Bavaria ("Schöne Else" or beautiful Beth) praying on her knees before her husband. The lack of women was already noted by the contemporaries.
Some of the protests turned on the fact that Italian artisans in Berlin did the actual sculpting while artists of the Berliner Bildhauerschule just provided models in plaster or clay. Wilhelm's opening speech, the infamous Rinnsteinrede, portrayed Modernism and Impressionism as a descent of art into the gutter (Rinnstein).
Karl Scheffler wrote a devastating criticism in 1907, comparing the Siegesallee to an overly patriotic out of tune amateur brassband concerto. The Siegesallee was still a popular place to stroll or relax, however.
The figures were used to teach the history of Brandenburg to pupils. A series of essays in a prestigious school, the Joachimsthalsche Gymnasium, reached the Kaiser. On behalf of Professor Otto Schroeder, the pupils had to interpret the contrapposto; the leg position of the marble leaders, and from that deduce their personalities. The Kaiser gave better marks than the teacher and provided some ironic notes. The whole affair was made public 1960 by an Eastern German writer, Rudolf Herrnstadt under a pseudonym. Herrnstadt, a moderate communist of Jewish origin had been ousted from political power as a scapegoat for the 1954 uprising.
After the monarchy
In 1918 and 1919, among others, Hans Paasche asked to have the statues being destroyed. The soldiers and workers council of Berlin decided to keep them. Kurt Tucholsky had written a poem, asking to keep the figures silent, as monuments of a great era.
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. In the 1948 movie The Berliner, Otto Normalverbraucher ('Otto Average-Consumer'), played by Gert Fröbe, as a former German soldier returning to civilian life, who gives an ironic salute to the figures.
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 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 disinterred, and many of the survivors were relocated in Berlin’s first sewage pumping station, which had since its closure in 1972 been restored and installed 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. The building was put up for sale with a future gastronomic function envisaged for it, and the remaining 26 Siegesallee statues and 40 sidebusts (and numerous others housed there) were moved in May 2009 to the Spandau Citadel.
Sculptors who worked on the project
- Helmut Caspar (ed.): Die Beine der Hohenzollern, interpretiert an Standbildern der Siegesallee in Primaneraufsätzen aus dem Jahre 1901, versehen mit Randbemerkungen Seiner Majestät Kaiser Wilhelm II.. Berlin Edition, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-8148-0086-9.
- Die Berliner Moderne 1885–1914. Hrsg. Jürgen Schütte, Peter Sprengel, Reclam Verlag, Ditzingen 2000, UB 8359, ISBN 978-3-15-008359-8.
- Jan von Flocken: Die Siegesallee. Auf den Spuren der brandenburgisch-preußischen Geschichte. Kai Homilius Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89706-899-0.
- Richard George (Ed..): Hie gut Brandenburg alleweg! Geschichts- und Kulturbilder aus der Vergangenheit der Mark und aus Alt-Berlin bis zum Tode des Großen Kurfürsten. Verlag von W. Pauli’s Nachf., Berlin 1900
- Uta Lehnert: Der Kaiser und die Siegesallee. Réclame Royale. Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-496-01189-0.
- Otto Nagel: H. Zille. Veröffentlichung der Deutschen Akademie der Künste. Henschelverlag, Berlin 1970.
- Max Osborn: Berlin. Mit 179 Abbildungen. In der Reihe: Berühmte Kunststätten Band 43, Verlag von E. A. Seemann, Leipzig 1909.
- Die Siegesallee, Amtlicher Führer durch die Standbildgruppen. Mit Situationsplan und einem Vorwort von Kaiser Wilhelm II. Text von Koser unter Mitwirkung von Sternfeld. Herausgegeben auf Veranlassung des Königlichen Unterrichtsministeriums, Berlin, Oldenbourg um 1900.
- Cornelius Steckner: Die Sparsamkeit der Alten. Kultureller und technologischer Wandel zwischen 1871 und 1914 in seiner Auswirkung auf die Formgebung des Bildhauers Adolf Brütt. Verlag Peter D. Lang, Frankfurt/M und Bern, 1981, S. 47 - 52, ISBN 3-8204-6897-8
- Cornelius Steckner: Der Bildhauer Adolf Brütt. Schleswig-Holstein. Berlin. Weimar. Autobiografie und Werkverzeichnis. (Schriften der Schleswig-Holsteinischen Landesbibliothek. Hrsg. Dieter Lohmeier. Band 9), Westholsteinische Verlagsanstalt Boyens & Co., Heide 1989. ISBN 3-8042-0479-1 (S. 182–191; S. 172–176).
- Peter Hahn & Jürgen Stich, Friedenau-Geschichte & Geschichten, Oase Verlag, 2015, ISBN 978-3-88922-107-0.
- Helmut Caspar (Hrsg): Die Beine der Hohenzollern, interpretiert an Standbildern der Siegesallee in Primaneraufsätzen aus dem Jahre 1901, versehen mit Randbemerkungen Seiner Majestät Kaiser Wilhelm II.. Berlin Edition, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-8148-0086-9, 128 S., p.22
- "Die Männergeschichte der Siegesallee. Dynastische Selbstdarstellung im wilhelminischen Deutschland | L.I.S.A. - Das Wissenschaftsportal der Gerda Henkel Stiftung". L.I.S.A. - Das Wissenschaftsportal der Gerda Henkel Stiftung. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
- Karl Scheffler: Moderne Baukunst. Leipzig 1907. Quoted in Helmut Caspar Die Beine der Hohenzollern …, p. 103
- Originally R.E. Hardt: Die Beine der Hohenzollern. Rütten & Loening, Berlin 1960, see the edition of Caspar 2001
- "Ulk. Wochenbeilage zum Berliner Tageblatt (47.1918)". digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
- List on de-wp List with all Siegesallee-monument-groups and detailed information (German)
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