Notes on German Culture, Prussia...Northern Germany, Second Reich...1871 to 1918

Inauguration of the 1873 Berlin Siegessäule (Victory Column)

The inauguration of the Berlin Siegessäule (Victory Column) is depicted here in an 1873 artist’s rendering of the ceremony conducted by Kaiser Wilhelm I…the image in gold is a close up of the Victoria statue atop the column, as it appears today. 

1873

Originally, the Victory Column was designed by Heinrich Strack in 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. But the 1860’s were a busy decade in the Kingdom of Prussia. 

By the time the column was inaugurated on 2 September 1873, Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71).

And by 1871 the momentum of these victories gave Prussia the gravitas to finally unite all the individual German monarchies and states (except Austria) into a new Empire, a Second Reich. These additional accomplishments inspired the addition of more relief decoration and the addition of a bronze sculpture of Victoria, 8.3 meters high and weighing 35 tons, making the Victory column a major Berlin landmark.

Not very well known is that after WWII the relief decoration was removed by the French and taken to France, probably to prevent the Germans from being reminded of former victories, especially the defeat of the French in 1871. It was not returned until 1987, but just in time for the 750th anniversary of Berlin.

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