The Tumultuous History of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

A symbol of both division and unity

Ground level view of the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

The Brandenburg Gate was commissioned by the Prussian Emperor Frederick William II in the late 1700s. Its original name meant ‘Peace Gate’. For a time it divided East and West Berlin, but now it is an icon of peace that has shaped German identity throughout its turbulent past.  

A close up of the Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

In 1806 when Napoleon invaded Berlin, he took the bronze sculpture of a horse and chariot just above the Brandenburg Gate. After he was defeated, the statue was returned from Paris and an Iron Cross was added to signify victory.  

Hitler/Jaeger File (1939-04-20) by Hugo JaegerLIFE Photo Collection

This was quite the victory for Germany, which led to an increased sense of national pride. Over the next 100 years, this sense of nationalism grew to dangerous levels and led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and his Fascist government in 1933.  

Berlin 1945 (1945-07) by William VandivertLIFE Photo Collection

Berlin was bombed at the end of WWII. A symbol of victory, national pride, and the Nazis, the Gate was a frequent target. It was damaged but survived to see another tragedy when it was used to mark the border between Communist East Berlin and the Federal Republic of West Berlin.

Bewohner aus West- und Ostberlin auf der Mauerkrone am Brandenburger Tor (1989-11-09) by Klaus LehnartzGerman Federal Archives

The Gate saw a new era with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It was no longer a dividing line but a unified passageway, confirmed when West Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl walked through Brandenburg Gate to meet East Germany’s Prime Minister Hans Modrow on the other side.

Today the Brandenburg Gate is visited by tourists from all around the world. Look around a 360-degree panoramic image of the Brandenburg Gate.

CyArk scanning the Brandenburg Gate by CyArkCyArk

The Brandenburg Gate now represents the symbol of unity, hope and peace it was originally intended to be.  

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