Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin: History of a Ruin!

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin: History of a Ruin!


The district of Kurfürstendamm and Zoologischer Garten in Berlin is dominated by high modern facilities, smooth buildings and buildings rebuilt after the war. However, there remains an emaciated silhouette on the horizon. With its roof almost torn off, its tower exposed and its walls pierced by the sun's rays, this ruined church hardly seems to be able to stand and swear in the Berlin landscape.

Built at the end of the 19th century, this church, known as the Memorial Church, was preserved in its state following the bombing of Berlin during the Second World War and was completed in 1961 by a new building designed by Egon Eiermann in memory of the destruction caused by the conflict. Together, the two buildings perpetuate the memory of the horrors of the War.

A neo-Romanesque church in honour of the first Kaiser

Also known as the "Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche", the building was commissioned in 1891 by Kaiser Wilhelm II in memory of his grandfather William I, the first German Emperor. Built in the neo-Romanesque style, the church is topped by a 113 m. high spire and the interior is decorated with numerous mosaics depicting the life of the emperor. It is a monumental construction which dominated Kurfürstendamm.

A church in ruins nicknamed "The hollow tooth"

At the end of the Second World War, the church was partially in ruins: the five majestic bells were melted down for the needs of the War, bombing ripped off roofs and walls. Totally disfigured, a plan was to have the building completely destroyed and a brand new building erected in its place - only many Berliners opposed this plan!

In order to never forget and to keep a record of the immense destruction suffered by the city, the church is carefully preserved as it is! Windows replace the missing walls and ceilings and the place serves as a War Memorial. Its emaciated silhouette - the Germans call it "der Hohle Zahn" (the hollow tooth) - can be seen from far away in Berlin.

Two churches, one memorial

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche Berlin

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche Berlin (Johann H. Addicks / addicks@gmx.net, Wikimedia Commons)

In 1961, a church of modern construction and with very geometrical forms was built on the site of the ruins of the nave and the choir of the old building which had been reduced to ashes by the War. It is a hexagonal building, covered with blue stained-glass windows, housing a golden Christ floating above the altar. Consecrated on May 25, 1962, the church is intended to be a symbol of reconciliation between peoples and houses a cross made of nails from the old cathedral of Coventry (destroyed by Nazi bombs in England), a cross from the Russian Orthodox Church and an illustration of the "Madonna of Stalingrad".

Address: Breitscheidplatz on Kurfürstendamm.

Source of image: Fred Romero from Paris, France Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, CC BY


Raphaëlle Radermecker

Raphaëlle Radermecker


With a curious personality and a passion for well-chosen words, writing and discovery are my two passions. Berlin intrigues and fascinates me, with its cultural and artistic richness, its modernity and its ability to constantly renew itself.