- Steel road sign. 500mm x 410mm.
The Reich Chancellery (German: Reichskanzlei) was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany (then called Reichskanzler) in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945. The Chancellery's seat from 1875 was the former city palace of Prince Antoni Radziwiłł (1775–1833) on Wilhelmstraße in Berlin. Both the palace and a new Reich Chancellery building (completed in early 1939) were seriously damaged during World War II and subsequently demolished.
In late January 1938, Adolf Hitler officially assigned his favourite architect Albert Speer to build the New Reich Chancellery around the corner on Voßstraße, a western branch-off of Wilhelmstraße, requesting that the building be completed within a year. Hitler commented that Bismarck's Old Chancellery was "fit for a soap company" but not suitable as headquarters of a Greater German Reich. It nevertheless remained his official residence with its recently refurbished representation rooms on the ground floor and private rooms on the upper floor where Hitler lived in the so-called Führerwohnung ("Leader apartment"). Old and New Chancellery shared the large garden area with the underground Führerbunker, where Hitler committed suicide at the end of April 1945.
Speer claimed in his autobiography that he completed the task of clearing the site, designing, constructing, and furnishing the building in less than a year. In fact, preliminary planning and versions of the designs were already being worked on as early as 1935. To clear the space for the New Reich Chancellery, the buildings on the northern side of Voßstraße No. 2–10 had already been demolished in 1937.
Hitler placed the entire northern side of the Voßstraße at Speer's disposal assigning him the work of creating grand halls and salons which "will make an impression on people". Speer was given a blank cheque — Hitler stated that the cost of the project was immaterial — and was instructed that the building be of solid construction and that it be finished by the following January in time for the next New Year diplomatic reception to be held in the new building.
Over 4,000 workers toiled in shifts, so the work could be accomplished round-the-clock. The immense construction was "finished" 48 hours ahead of schedule, and the project earned Speer a reputation as a good organiser, which, combined with Hitler's fondness for Speer played a part in the architect becoming Armaments Minister and a director of forced labour during the war. Speer recalls that the whole work force — masons, carpenters, plumbers, etc. were invited to inspect the finished building. Hitler then addressed the workers in the Sportpalast. However, interior fittings dragged on well into the early 1940s.
In the end it cost over 90 Million Reichsmark, well over one billion dollars today, and hosted the ministries of the Reich.
In his memoirs, Speer described the impression of the Reichskanzlei on a visitor:
"From Wilhelmsplatz an arriving diplomat drove through great gates into a court of honour. By way of an outside staircase he first entered a medium-sized reception room from which double doors almost seventeen feet high opened into a large hall clad in mosaic. He then ascended several steps, passed through a round room with domed ceiling, and saw before him a gallery 480 feet (150 m) long. Hitler was particularly impressed by my gallery because it was twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
Hitler was delighted: "On the long walk from the entrance to the reception hall they'll get a taste of the power and grandeur of the German Reich!" During the next several months he asked to see the plans again and again but interfered remarkably little in this building, even though it was designed for him personally. He let me work freely."
The series of rooms comprising the approach to Hitler's reception gallery were decorated with a rich variety of materials and colours and totalled 220 m (725 ft) in length. The gallery itself was 145 m (480 ft) long. Hitler's own office was 400 square meters in size. From the outside, the chancellery had a stern, authoritarian appearance. From the Wilhelmplatz, guests would enter the Chancellery through the Court of Honour (Ehrenhof). The building's main entrance was flanked by two bronze statues by sculptor Arno Breker: "Wehrmacht" and "Partei" ("Armed Forces" and "Party"). Hitler is said to have been greatly impressed by the building and was uncharacteristically free in his praise for Speer, lauding the architect as a "genius". The chancellor's great study was a particular favourite of the dictator. The big marble-topped table served as an important part of the Nazi leader's military headquarters, the study being used for military conferences from 1944 on. On the other hand, the Cabinet room was never used for its intended purpose.
The New Reich Chancellery was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945. After World War II ended, the remains in what was now East Berlin were demolished by orders of the Soviet occupation forces. Parts of the building's marble walls were said to be used to build the Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park or to renovate the nearby war-damaged Mohrenstraße U-Bahn station. Some of the red marble was used in the palatial Underground stations in Moscow.Also a heater from Hitler's rooms was placed in a Protestant hospital.
While the western half of the premises were seized for the "death strip" of the Berlin Wall in 1961, a Plattenbau apartment block and a kindergarten were built on the eastern corner with Wilhelmstraße in the 1980s.