Reichstag

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The Reichstag building (German: Reichstagsgebäude; officially: Plenarbereich Reichstagsgebäude) is a historical edifice in Berlin, Germany, constructed to house the Reichstag, parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire. After World War II, the building fell into disuse; the parliament (Volkskammer) of the German Democratic Republic met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin, while the parliament (Bundestag) of the Federal Republic of Germany met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.
The ruined building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after German reunification on October 3, 1990, when it underwent a reconstruction led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag.
The term Reichstag, when used to connote a parliament, dates back to the Holy Roman Empire. The building was built for the Reichstag of the German Empire, which was succeeded by the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. The latter devolved into the Reichstag of Nazi Germany, which left the building (and ceased to act as a parliament) after the 1933 fire and never returned; the term Reichstag has not been used by German parliaments since World War II. In today's usage, the German word Reichstag refers mainly to the building, while Bundestag refers to the institution.
Construction of the building began well after the unification of Germany in 1871. Previously, the parliament had assembled in several other buildings in Leipziger Straße in Berlin but these were generally considered too small, so in 1872 an architectural contest with 103 participating architects was carried out to erect a new building. After a short survey of possible sites, a parliamentary committee recommended the east side of the Königsplatz (today, Platz der Republik), which however was occupied by the derelict palace of a Polish-Prussian aristsocrat, Athanasius Raczyński.
Work did not start until ten years later though, owing to various problems with purchasing the property and arguments between Wilhelm I, Otto von Bismarck, and the members of the Reichstag about how the construction should be performed. After lengthy negotiations, the Raczyński Palace was purchased and demolished, making way for the new building.
In 1882, another architectural contest was held, with 200 architects participating. This time the winner, the Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot, would actually see his Neo-Baroque project executed. Decorative sculptures, reliefs, and inscriptions were by sculptor Otto Lessing. On 29 June 1884, the foundation stone was finally laid by Wilhelm I, at the east side of the Königsplatz]]. Before construction was completed in 1894, Wilhelm I died (in 1888, the Year of Three Emperors). His eventual successor, Wilhelm II, took a more jaundiced view of parliamentary democracy than his grandfather. The original building was acclaimed for the construction of an original cupola of steel and glass, considered an engineering feat at the time. But its mixture of architectural styles drew widespread criticism.
In 1916 the iconic words Dem Deutschen Volke ("[To] the German people") were carved above the main façade of the building, much to the displeasure of Wilhelm II who had tried to block the adding of the inscription for its democratic significance. After World War I had ended and Wilhelm had abdicated, during the revolutionary days of 1918, Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the institution of a republic from one of the balconies of the Reichstag building on 9 November. The building continued to be the seat of the parliament of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), which was still called the Reichstag.
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