Originally built between 1816 and 1818, the Neue Wache is a building in Berlin which used to be a guardhouse for the Royal Palace of King Frederick William III of Prussia; However, now it is the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny". Designed by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, this building is a leading example of German Greek Revival architecture. It is located on the north side of the Unter den Linden boulevard in the central Mitte district.
The history of this beautiful building is most interesting. As mentioned earlier, it was built between 1816 and 1818 and served as a royal guard house until the end of World War I and the fall of the monarchy in the German Revolution of 1918–19.
In 1931 the architect Heinrich Tessenow was commissioned by the Free State of Prussia to redesign the building as a memorial to commemorate those who died in the Great War. Tessenow converted the interior into a memorial hall centered around a black granite block with an oak wreath designed by the sculptor Ludwig Gies, situated under an unglazed oculus (circular skylight). The Neue Wache was then known as the "Memorial of the Prussian State Government". Sadly, The Neue Wache was heavily damaged by bombing and artillery during the Battle of Berlin in last months of World War II.
After the war, the Mitte district was located within the Soviet sector of Allied-occupied Berlin, and from 1949 was part of East Berlin, capital of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Beginning in 1957, the Communist authorities had the Neue Wache rebuilt and reopened in 1960 as a "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism". In 1969, the 20th anniversary of the GDR, a glass prism structure with an eternal flame was placed in the centre of the hall. The remains of an Unknown Soldier and of a nameless Nazi concentration camp victim were enshrined in the building. Two soldiers of the Friedrich Engels Guard Regiment served as permanent honor guards. A Guard Mounting ceremony was held every Wednesday and Saturday, becoming a major tourist attraction.
After German reunification, the Neue Wache was again rededicated in 1993, as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny." At the personal suggestion of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the GDR memorial piece was removed and replaced by an enlarged version of Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture Mother with her Dead Son.
Standing at the centre of the memorial’s stone-lined chamber, this pietà-style sculpture is placed directly under and lit only by the unglazed oculus thereby exposing it to the rain, snow and cold of the Berlin climate, thus symbolizing the suffering of civilians during World War II.