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Palast der Republik

I recently came across a postcard of the Palast der Republik* (Palace of the Republic), which was a building in the former East Berlin.

The Palast appears on the postcard, under a sunny sky, surrounded by people, streetlamps and trees. The clouds are scattered, the flowers in full bloom. Near the entrance of the building, barely visible, people are gathered on the steps outside. A hammer and compass hang on the facade.

It could be a Monday. It could be July. The Berlin Wall hasn’t yet fallen, but humans had already landed on the moon.

Clouds hang in the afternoon sky, a few people are walking towards the Palast. Its smoked glass is reflecting other buildings. The gardeners who tend to the flowers in the foreground have gone, leaving behind them the anomaly of a red-flowered plant in a plot of white-flowered plants.

Further beyond the Palast are some trees in the distance. Children are throwing a ball back and forth and a bird is sitting on top of a statue. Someone is tying his shoelaces. A traffic light is turning red.

Still further off a flag is waving in the wind, an architecture student is running to an exam session and a blood pump is being switched on. Someone is counting tomatoes. A crane is being assembled. A building is being demolished.

The postcard is skilled at keeping all of these events silently hidden while always showing the same woman in the red jacket with the same group of people, endlessly walking towards the Palast, which always remains removed from them at a fixed distance. The shadows in the foreground never shift, night never falls, no one replants the red and white flowers.

The postcard knows nothing about the time when the Palast der Republik’s physical existence will be reduced to thousands of pieces of steel and glass. It is too busy trapping the Palast and a sunny afternoon on a sheet of paper.


*The Palast der Republik housed a theatre, two auditoria, art galleries and a nightclub and was the seat of the Volkskammer, the parliament of the German Democratic Republic. It was constructed between 1973 and 1976 on the site of a Prussian-era Stadtschloß, which had been damaged during World War II. One of its nicknames included “Erichs Lampenladen” (Erich’s lamp shop). After the Palast was deconstructed in 2008 the steel that had served as its skeleton was sent to Dubai to be used for constructing the skyscraper Burij Khalifa.

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