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Monday, October 4, 2021

German division and reunification - The Brandenburg Gate as national symbol


More than just a landmark in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate is a national symbol. Like no other building, it stands for Germany’s division and reunification. But while everyone recognizes the Brandenburg Gate, hardly anyone knows much about it.

Built in 1793, the Brandenburg Gate received little attention at first. That changed when Napoleon triumphantly entered the city through the gate after his victory over Prussia in 1806 - and took its Quadriga to Paris as a spoil of war. 

After the charioteer returned to Berlin in 1814, the Brandenburg Gate became a national symbol of triumph. 

Following the Second World War, the gate stood at the place where two opposing political systems met. Here, East and West confronted each other, from either side of the Wall. That changed in 1989, when people from East and West crossed the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate to embrace each other.

More than any other German monument, the Brandenburg Gate has been exploited again and again for the politics of power; its symbolism has been reinterpreted numerous times; and it has been used and abused as a backdrop by countless political groups.

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