“Die Reichskanzlei”- von Adolf Hitler
(The Reich Chancellery – essay by Adolf Hitler)
January 9, 1939
When, after the re-establishment of the Reich, Bismarck determined to purchase the Palace Radziwill, later to become the Reich Chancellery, he himself retained his office in the Foreign Office building. The proximity of this building to the Foreign Ministry was, in all likelihood, the reason for the purchase of this particular object. The structure afforded virtually no actual space. Dating from the first half of the 18th century, it had initially served as an ancient seat for nobility. Its facade was well preserved. Inside, repeated attempts at modernization had disfigured the building. The end of the 19th century witnessed further such embellishments and degraded the palace by bestowing on it a heavy-handed elegance. Bombastic plaster was to hide the deficit of real material and thereby, unfortunately, glossed over its well-balanced proportions.
Even the hall in which once the Congress of Berlin63 convened was not spared like “improvements.” Apparently, weak lighting along the walls and gigantic chandeliers of tin were then regarded as especially attractive. As concerns paintings in the house, these were mainly amateur copies of originals on loan from Prussian collectors. With the single exception of a portrait of Bismarck by Lenbach, the portraits of former chancellors were devoid of any artistic merit.
The Chancellery gardens were ill-tended and began to be overgrown by weeds. A superstitious fear of replacing old and dying trees led first to covering increasing numbers of their moldy trunks with shingles and then to filling them with cement. Had this process been allowed to continue, the park would undoubtedly have begun to resemble the Houthulster Wald64 after three years of bombardment by the English.
While Chancellors before 1918 strove to make more or less tasteful improvements, the condition of the house began to deteriorate steadily after the Revolution of 1918. When I determined to move into the Chancellery nonetheless in 1934, the roof was practically rotting away above us while the floors beneath us were engaged in similar activities. The police restricted access to the hall in which congresses and diplomatic receptions were held to a total of sixty persons at one time, for fear the floor might give way. A few months before this, on the occasion of a reception held by Reich President von Hindenburg, approximately 100 guests and servants had crowded one hall. As we began to tear out the floors, we came across beams which remained little more than brittle sticks disintegrating as we rubbed them between our palms.
During rain storms, water penetrated the building, not only from above, but from below as well. From the Wilhelmstrasse, a veritable flood spilt over into the first-floor compartments. Its flow was augmented by a back-up in the drainage throughout the house, including the toilets. As my predecessors could rarely count on remaining in office for more than three, four, or five months, they had neither motivation to clear away the dirt of those before them nor to improve conditions for those to succeed them. As the world took little notice of them in the first place, they were not generally troubled with appearances before foreign representatives.
By 1934, the entire structure exuded decay: ceilings and floors were giving way while wall and floor paneling was rotted out. An unbearable stench pervaded the house. Meanwhile, the new office space created for the Chancellery along the Wilhelmsplatz took on the appearance of a storage house or station for the municipal firefighters. Its interior suggested a sanatorium for those with lung disease, although this was not primarily the disease that those laboring inside were in fact suffering from. In an effort to restore the structure as far as possible, I decided to undertake a general renovation project in 1934. The expenses incurred were not to be assumed by the state, as I myself provided the financial means necessary.
Professor Troost himself was still able to draw up the blueprints for this project. His goals were:
1. to reassign living space as well as space for receptions to the lower floors of the building, and
2. to furnish the second floor for the practical exigencies of running a Reich Chancellery.
My office as Reich Chancellor up to this point had been located in a room facing the Wilhelmsplatz. Its size and interior decorating made it more appropriate to house a general salesman for cigarettes and tobacco in the office of a medium-sized enterprise. It was virtually impossible to work in this office: with the windows closed, the heat suffocated anyone inside; with the windows open, there was the noise rising up from the streets.
The upper floors had customarily been reserved for official receptions by the respective chancellors. In the days of the renovation of the Reich President’s Palace, the old Reich President had held various receptions there, too. This, however, meant that these rooms were not in use throughout most of the year and stood empty. This was the reason behind my relocating the reception rooms to the lower floors and remodeling the upper floors vacated thereby, to accommodate offices. The hall for Congresses, vacant throughout most of the year also and without any practical application, became the meeting room for Cabinet sessions.
Since there was no room of sufficient size to accommodate the large-scale receptions I had to give for diplomatic reasons as head of state, I instructed the architect Professor Gall to build a large hall to hold approximately 200 persons. At this point, it appeared as though the remodeling of the lower floor would suffice for this purpose. In the course of 1934, however, the merging of the offices of Reich Chancellor and Reich President necessitated rooms to house the presidential office and staff and provide space for the Wehrmacht secretariat within the building. Also, official receptions required an appropriate setting. The realization of these necessities led to the purchase of the Borsig Palace. Admittedly built in a style not looked on favorably in our age, its interior surpassed that of the miserable Chancellery building by far. Professor Speer was entrusted with the first remodeling of the Chancellery. Within a markedly short time and without altering the facade, the structure built by the architect Lucae was connected to the factorybuilding on the Wilhelmstrasse, and its interior design splendidly developed.
At least for the time being, it provided the presidential office, the Wehrmacht staff, and the SA leaders with office space. Under the guidance of Party Comrade Bouhler, the Council of the Party was accorded a few rooms, too.
The former office building of the Reich Chancellery was adorned with a balcony facing the Wilhelmstrasse. This was the first decent architectural element within the structure. Further building onto the existing structures, while providing temporary relief, did not represent a solution of the housing problem. Two further considerations were instrumental in bringing about my decision of January 1938 to seek an immediate solution.
1. In an effort to facilitate traffic flowing through the city from East to West, a lengthening of the Jagerstrasse had been determined on, to lead it through the Ministerial Gardens and the Zoo and thereby connect it to the Tiergartenstrasse. The Municipal Berlin Building Inspectorate of that time had drawn up these plans, which in my eyes did not represent a solution of the problem. Therefore I asked Professor Speer to come up with a more reasoned plan to relieve traffic flow along the Leipziger Strasse and the avenue Unter den Linden by securing a direct passage to the West of the Wilhelmsplatz. To this end it was necessary to transform the narrow passage along the Voss Strasse into a wide transit route. Since obviously this could not be realized at the expense of the Wertheim Department Store and would have been attended by construction difficulties in the first place, an attempt had to be undertaken on the opposite side of the street. Hence the necessity arose independently to tear down the entire housing front and to rebuild later.
2. Moreover, in the days of late December 1937 and early January 1938, I had determined to resolve the Austrian question and to erect a Greater German Reich. Hence the old Chancellery building could not possibly accommodate the additional administrative, as well as representative duties necessitated thereby. On January 11, 1938, I therefore instructed the General Building Inspector Professor Speer to undertake the construction of a new Chancellery building located in the Voss Strasse. The structure was to be completed by a January 10, 1939 deadline. On this day, I was to receive the keys for the building. While in fact we concerned ourselves with this topic mentally in a series of consultations, the physical nature of the task was an immense one. For on January 11, 1938, the construction of the new building could not even begin as the old houses along the Voss Strasse had to be torn down first. Therefore, actual construction work could not be started before late March at the earliest. This left a term of nine months at our disposal to carry out the project. That this was indeed feasible we owe to this genius of an architect, his artistic inspiration, and his enormous organizational talents, as well as to the enterprise of those assisting him. The Berlin worker has outdone himself in his performance at this site. I do not think that a similar task, purely in regard to the labor involved, could have been carried out anywhere else in the world. I need not expand on the fact that naturally everything possible was undertaken to insure the social welfare of those involved in this construction project. In light of the winter temperatures, the severe frosts, the completion of this building is conceivable only-as emphasized earlier-if one considers the enormous ability to perform demonstrated by the Berlin worker.
The blueprint for this project is of a clear and generous nature and easily understood if one considers the structure’s purpose and the space at the architect’s disposal. The solution found in the gigantic, long structure along the Voss Strasse was dictated by the circumstances, as well as artistically ingenious. The sequence of rooms inside not only satisfies practical exigencies, it has also a truly magnificent effect on the onlooker. The interior decoration is truly excellent, thanks to the combined talents of interior decorators, sculptors, painters, etc., involved in the project. This applies also to the achievements of German craftsmanship here. The landscaping in the park is complete with the exception of one section which still serves as a construction site. The short period of construction has not yet allowed the banquet room at the end of the great hall to become apparent in its full size and stature. This room, therefore, is a makeshift, so that the structure can be used. The banquet room will only be complete in two years.
This Reich Chancellery building-this edifice that, by the way, will serve a different purpose from the year 1950 on-represents a practical and no-less artistic achievement of the highest order. It speaks for its ingenious designer and architect: Albert Speer.