Final Blog Post – Reflection, Similarities and Differences

Part A

Reflecting on the Reichstag

Initially, we chose to blog about the Reichstag because of its unique appearance as a government building as well as the rich history of Berlin that this building represents. We first saw the Reichstag building on our tour of the Spree River. It appeared to be rather modern featuring a glass dome, yet it also had older architectural elements, which date back to the 19th century. As we continued along the Spree River we noticed memorials for the people who lost their lives while entering the Spree River during the Cold War (see picture below). When children fell in the river they were unable to be saved since they were entering the East section; additionally, many people tried to flee the East by swimming across the Spree. This reminds us of the time period during the Cold War when the Reichstag was unable to be the government building for the West, not only because it was attacked during the Second World War but also because they were not allowed to have their seat of government in Berlin.

Visiting the Reichstag

A few weeks into our trip we visited the Reichstag and we had a wonderful opportunity to tour the plenary chamber, the reflection and prayer room, and the Archive of German Members of Parliament.  We even touched the handle that leads to Merkel’s office. During the trip we saw graffiti that the Soviet troops left when they captured the Reichstag and the city of Berlin. One particular piece that stood out was a love symbol that a soldier left for his partner. He is still with that woman today. The display of the graffiti left by the Soviet soldiers signifies Berlin’s acceptance of its history as well as artistically combining its past with its present. Another art piece that we noticed was a large pillar with a screen that constantly shows the words of famous government speeches. In the basement we saw the tunnel that was believed to have aided in the burning of the Reichstag in 1933. Hitler used the burning of the building as propaganda, claiming that is was the communists who burned the building. Nevertheless, the cause of the burning remains a mystery. We concluded our tour in the Reichstag dome where we could walk around the dome with an audio guide and hear about Berlin’s rich history and famous sites while viewing the entire city.

Sites Near the Reichstag

Something that is truly fascinating about the Reichstag is the history of the area surrounding it. For example, the Tiergarten and Brandenburg Gate are very close to the Reichstag. Both of these locations date back to a time when royalty ruled the area. As a matter of fact, the Tiergarten was originally used as a hunting ground for the Elector of Brandenburg, and later Friedrich the Great turned the area into a public garden. The Brandenburg Gate also represents the time of Prussian rule. Furthermore, the Brandenburg Gate reminds us of the time when Berlin was separated between the East and West; however, today it is a symbol of unity and a famous tourist attraction. Visiting this area is highly recommended because you can experience the rich history of this country simply by visiting such a small area. The area around the Reichstag will take you on a trip from Prussia to Parliament in a matter of a few hours. Also, I would highly recommend taking a boat tour on the Spree River. It is very beautiful and informational.

Part B

In order to fully understand the structure and function of Germany’s Reichstag Building, we will compare and contrast this building with the United States Capitol Building, a landmark that is well-known to all American citizens.

Similarities and differences between the architecture of the Reichstag Building and the United States Capitol Building

There are various similarities between these two buildings, particularly regarding the architecture and the use of the space inside the buildings. First off, both buildings have a prominent architectural feature that can be seen from the exterior – a dome. Both buildings are very recognizable to tourists and locals because of their dome, which is the tallest part of each of the government buildings. However, the domes differ significantly both structurally and visually: the Reichstag’s dome is newly constructed and made of glass, whereas the US Capitol’s dome is over 150 years old and made of cast iron. In addition, both buildings are similar because grand pillars are a very prominent feature of the front of each of the buildings. Furthermore, parts of the Reichstag’s exterior are sprayed with bullet holes from the Battle of Berlin, which still remain today as a reminder of the evils Germany overcame. On the contrary, the US Capitol Building has no exterior bullet holes and remains in near perfect condition. Pictured below is an overall visual comparison of the exterior architecture of each building.



There are also a couple similarities and differences in the interior architecture of the two buildings. For example, the Plenary Chamber of the Reichstag Building is very similar to the House Chamber of the US Capitol Building. Both areas have similar seating arrangements for their members of parliament or congress in which they have unassigned seats arranged in a semicircle on tiered platforms facing the front of the room. I find it interesting that the representative bodies in the US and Germany both have unassigned seats because it encourages members to arrive to work early if they want a good seat for the day’s meeting. The interior of the buildings are different, however, in that the Reichstag has various modern art projects such as the Archive of German Members of Parliament, whereas the Capitol Building focuses more on the aesthetically pleasing architecture and design of grand rotundas and chandeliers (pictured below to the right of the Archive of German Members of Parliament).


Similarities and differences between the function of the Reichstag Building and the United States Capitol Building

Aside from architecture and design, these two landmarks have many similarities regarding the use of the space inside. First of all, it is pretty obvious by now that both the Reichstag and the United States Capitol Building serve the purpose of housing their representative bodies – the Bundestag in Germany and Congress (House of Representatives and Senate) in the United States. However, the composition of each nation’s parliament or congress differs in that they are made of different political parties. In the United States, the House of Representatives consists only of two parties in which there are 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats. On the other hand, the Bundestag consists of many different parties. Currently, there are 311 seats occupied by the Christian Democratic Union, 193 by the Social Democratic Party of Germany, 64 by the Left Party, and 63 by the Alliance 90 and The Greens. I feel that a diverse parliament such as Germany’s is very important for a country because it offers opposing viewpoints so that all the parties are more inclined to work together to find solutions to their problems, whereas in the US House of Representatives, there is too much arguing between the two parties and not many successful compromises.

In conclusion, the Reichstag Building, although similar to the US Capitol Building in some ways, is a unique landmark with a rich history and an important current function. It is undeniably one of the most historically significant government buildings in the entire world.


Photos from:


Post 3: Significance and Uniqueness of Reichstag Building

Significance of the Reichstag Building

The Reichstag building has played an extremely significant role in German history, and it has continued playing a significant role in the everyday life of German citizens. As discussed in detail in the previous two blog posts, the infamous fire at the Reichstag was important because it gave the National Socialist Party and Adolf Hitler the opportunity to take total control of the government by blaming the communists in parliament and inspiring hatred and fear among Germany’s people. Once in control of the government, the Nazis were able to carry out their atrocious acts of violence and racism throughout Europe, ultimately leading to World War II.

Although the Reichstag fire is perhaps the most well-known historical event that occurred at the building, there are other events that are important to the history of Germany and Berlin in particular. For example, nearing the end of the war in 1945, the Soviet army was advancing on the city of Berlin. On April 29, the Soviets began fighting for control of the Reichstag building. For the Soviets, the parliamentary building represented the birth of the Nazi dictatorship, so they saw it as a very important location to capture. On May 2, the Soviets finally overpowered the Nazis and took complete control of the Reichstag. After capturing the building, hundreds of Soviet soldiers wrote their signatures on the walls, and a group of four soldiers hoisted a red flag to the top of the building. At that time, these actions were representative of Soviet victory and pride. Today, the signatures and photo of the red flag being raised (pictured below) both symbolize the end of the Nazi dictatorship for the Germans, which is very significant to Germany’s national identity and its current democratic government.


The Reichstag building has, in addition to its historical significance, much current significance because it houses the German parliament called the Bundestag. The Bundestag is very important because it is the only federal institution in which members are elected directly by the citizens of Germany. The Bundestag has numerous crucial responsibilities and tasks, such as acting as a legislative body. In this role, the Bundestag is the only legislative body that can make laws that all the people of Germany have to obey, therefore exhibiting a broader significance on the entire country. Another role of the national parliament is electing the Chancellor, who has a lot of power in the government and determines policy guidelines in addition to suggesting candidates for office. The final major role of the Bundestag is to scrutinize the government, which includes determining the budget and any other government policies that are either proposed or already in place. All in all, the Bundestag is without a doubt crucial to the representation and well-being of the German citizens.

Uniqueness of the Reichstag Building

The Reichstag building has many unique features that allow it to stand out from other parliamentary buildings. When we visited the Reichstag, the first unique feature that we noticed was the large plenary chamber, featuring 631 blue seats organized in a semi- circular fashion around the chair for the president of the Bundestag. In the back of the plenary chamber is the large Bundestag eagle with his head to the side, weighing two and a half tons, hanging from only two cables. The eagle represents the Federal Republic of Germany. The plenary chamber is also unique because the seats are divided amongst the four parties elected into parliament. Currently, these parties (from right to left) are The Christian Democratic Union (310 seats), The Green Party (63 seats), the Social Democratic Party (193 seats), and The Left Party (64 seats). Additionally, members of parliament vote on bills in the plenary chamber in several different ways – standing up, raising hands or the Hammelsprung system. The Hammelsprung system is used when the results of the previous methods such as standing up or raising hands is unclear. In this case, everyone must leave the chamber and re-enter through one of three doors to cast their vote – Ja, nein, or Enthaltung (abstention). Above the members of parliament is a viewing gallery with 430 seats for visitors, journalists and official government guests. A photo of the plenary chamber is shown below.

Another unique feature in the Reichstag is the reflection and prayer room. This room accommodates all of the beliefs of the members of parliament: Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Atheist. There is a stone raised section identifying the east of the room allowing members to turn 90 degrees to face Mecca and Jerusalem which are towards the south. There is a cross on a table at the front of the room for members of the christian religion. Atheist members can simply put away the cross and use the room for reflection. Below is a photograph of the room.

The Reichstag building is also environmentally friendly. It has a cone shaped funnel that extends from the glass dome to the plenary chamber (pictured below). The funnel reflects daylight into the chamber with 360 angled mirrors. It also lets waste air exit the chamber as fresh air enters it. The energy from the waste air is used to heat the building. The south area of the roof has 300 square meters of solar panels which provide electricity for the building. They also have thermal power plants fueled by biodiesel.


Many other features of this building are also unique such as the rooftop restaurant, the memorial for murdered members of parliament and the archive for members of parliament. The Käfer Dachgarden-Restaurant, located at the top of the Reichstag, is the world’s only public restaurant in a parliament building. Furthermore, the basement of the Reichstag displays the Archive of German Members of Parliament, featuring 5,000 metal boxes of everyone elected between 1919 and 1999 when the renovated Reichstag was inaugurated. Infamous members including Adolf Hitler also have their own box, although it is frequently attacked by visitors. A single black box is shown to symbolize the years from 1933 to 1945 when Germany lacked a democratic parliament. In addition, near the southwest area of the Reichstag features a Memorial to the Murdered Members of Parliament. 96 broken tablets symbolize the members of the Weimar Republic who were sent to concentration camps and murdered by the National Socialists.

Personal Importance of the Reichstag Building
The Reichstag building interests us not only because it is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, but also because it is environmentally friendly. We believe that it is important to protect the environment, and it is imperative for the government to set an eco-friendly example for its citizens. In general, Germany appears to be a green country, recycling glass, paper and even paying customers for their recyclables such as water bottles. The Reichstag symbolizes the government’s commitment to the environment through the use of solar panels, biofuels and the cone which filters air while directing sunlight into the chamber. The biodiesel is extracted from rapeseed and allows the thermal power plants to meet 80 percent of the building’s energy requirements. As a matter of fact, the Bundestag approved a plan in 2008 to power the building with 100 percent renewable resources. In our next blog post we will continue discussing our personal interests in the Reichstag.

Sources of information and photos for this post can be found below, including books that we got from our Reichstag Building tour.


Red flag raising photo:

Reflection and prayer room photo:

Plenary chamber photo:

Reflecting mirror cone photo:


Facts: The Bundestag at a Glance

A Walk Round Parliament and its Buildings

History of the Reichstag Building

Early History of the Reichstag Building

The Reichstag’s first location in Berlin was in the Prussian House of Lords which is now home to the Bundesrat. The larger Reichstag needed a new home after the foundation of the German Empire on January 18, 1871, the end of the Franco-Prussian war. The current Reichstag building was originally designed by Paul Wallot and built for the Imperial diet of the German Empire. The construction of the Reichstag took ten years to complete, beginning in 1884 and finished on December 5, 1894. The building was paid for using 30 million Reichsmarks from the Franco-Prussian War reparations. It was the home of the Imperial Diet from 1894 to 1933. The Imperial Council was a bicameral legislature that consisted of the Reichstag and the Bundesrat. The Reichstag represented the people and the Bundesrat represented the 25 states until 1933.

Fire at the Reichstag Building

An important event in the history of the Reichstag building is the fire that engulfed it. On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building caught fire around 9:45 pm, and the fire quickly spread from the Assembly Hall to many other areas of the building. By the time firefighters had arrived on scene, the building was engulfed in flames, and significant damage was done before the fire could be controlled. After an investigation, it became obvious that the fire was intentionally set – separate fires were set in 5 different corners of the hall, ultimately combining to form the massive blaze. Below is a photograph that shows the extreme devastation the fire caused.

In order to fully understand why the fire was set and who set it, it is important to know the chaotic political situation in Germany in the early 1930s. At this time, Germany had a democratic government mandated by the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I; however, the largest party in the Reichstag in 1932 was the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party’s sudden emergence was a result of the terrible economic conditions that arose in the late 1920s: mass unemployment crippled and demoralized the working middle classes. Using anti-Semitic rhetoric and promising to revive the struggling economy, Adolf Hitler and his party quickly became extremely popular. Despite the party’s considerable size, it did not hold a majority of seats in the Reichstag in 1932, so it could not single handedly take control of the government yet.

Throughout the year 1932, there were numerous unsuccessful attempts by the Nazi Party at forming a new government to replace the democratic one that was in existence. On January 30, 1933, however, Germany’s President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. This was exactly what the Nazi Party needed: it finally had a legitimate source of power in the German government. However, the Nazis were still looking for more ways to increase their power within government, and setting the Reichstag on fire helped them achieve this.

The Nazi’s Secret Plan

In the hours after the Reichstag burned, Adolf Hitler and the government claimed that they caught one of the men who set the fire – a communist from the Netherlands named Marinus van der Lubbe (pictured below at his trial). However, after World War II, it was discovered that the fire at the Reichstag may have been a setup by the Nazis (planned by Joseph Goebbels and Herman Goering) to frame the communist party in order to turn the population against the communists and unite under the Nazi Party. This setup was immediately successful, since Hitler blamed the communists for the fire and then ordered the communists of the parliament to be arrested. This ultimately removed the communist party from holding any power in Germany and turned the citizens against communism, leading the Nazi Party to become more powerful than ever. 

With no major opposing political party remaining, the Nazi Party controlled the parliament. About one month after the devastating fire, Hitler asked the Reichstag to transfer its powers to him, and now that Hitler had so much support, the Reichstag enthusiastically agreed and dissolved. This left the citizens of Germany without a representative parliament that could speak for their needs and desires, and turned Germany’s government into a dictatorship with Adolf Hitler in charge. The following year, the German citizens voted to allow Hitler to remain dictator of their country, with ninety percent of votes supporting the dictatorship. This was very significant because it revealed the great amount of support Hitler had among the Germans, but it also gave him the power that he would later abuse.


Note: The following websites were used as sources of information for this blog post:

Reichstag fire aftermath picture from

Marinus van der Lubbe photograph from


Introduction to the Reichstag


The Reichstag is the building where the German parliament, known as the Bundestag, holds its meetings. It is also one of the most visited parliaments in the world, and one of the top attractions in Germany.  Since its reconstruction, approximately 39 million people have visited the Reichstag. The modern Bundestag has held its meetings here since 1999, when restoration was finally finished to repair the damage caused by bombs during World War II. It was originally built in 1874 to function as the meeting place for the Imperial Diet, which was the German parliament from 1871 to 1918. In 1933, during the Nazi period, the building was set on fire. During the Cold War, the Reichstag was located in West Berlin; however, it was near the wall dividing the East and West. Perhaps as a result of this and the devastating damage caused to the Reichstag, West Germany established their seat of government in Bonn, the nation’s new capital. The building was used in 1990 for the German Reunification ceremony. Prior to this the building was periodically used for representative meetings and other random events. For example, Michael Jackson performed in front of the Reichstag with a crowd of 50,000 people during his tour in 1988. His performance was during the final day of a 3 day long rock festival in Berlin.

The Reichstag has a dome, rooftop garden, and garden restaurant that guests can visit for free daily from 8:00 AM to midnight with advanced registration. Guided tours of the Reichstag are also available when parliament is not sitting. The tours provide information about the history and architecture of the building as well as information about the parliament. When parliament is sitting you can watch a live Bundestag debate for one hour in the public gallery. The other day we walked by the Reichstag and saw about one hundred people excitedly awaiting their visit to learn about this building’s significance. Below is a picture I took of the Reichstag on May 13th.



The Reichstag is clearly a building with much historical significance, which will be discussed further in a later blog post. In addition, the Reichstag is undoubtedly significant in the present day because of its current function as the meeting place of the Bundestag, where important legislative decisions are made for the entire country. Members of the Bundestag are elected by the German citizens, and this is important because it gives the citizens control over the laws that they are required to follow. Furthermore, the Bundestag is significant because it has the power to create the federal budget and decide when to deploy armed forces to foreign countries.


-Alex Krasnoschlik and Katrina Henderson