Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Image of the Brandenburg Gate on Coins and Medals

The Brandenburg gate decked out with swastikas in Nazi Berlin.
Commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II, the Gate was built by Karl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. The sculptures on the fa├žade were struck by Johann Gottfried Schadow. It was conceived as a symbol of peace, and stands at the end of the Unter den Linden, the famous boulevard of linden trees that led to the royal residence at the river Spree.

Twelve Greek Doric columns make up the Brandenburg Gate. The Quadriga, the triumphant goddess of peace driving a four-horse chariot, sits on top of the Gate. It was crafted by Schadow. Inspiration for the Gate came from the Propylea, the gateway to the Acropolis in ancient Athens.
Ironically the Brandenburg gate, the symbol of Berlin, first appeared on a French medal commemorating Napoleon's capturing the city in 1806.

"Napoleon in Berlin" by Charles Meynier (1806).

It was Adolf Hitler who first placed the Brandenburg gate on a German coin. It was a 100 RM gold coin with Hitler in profile on the obverse. This coin is considered a pattern.

The Nazi party’s dramatic, candlelit parade celebrating Adolf Hitler’s legal ascension to chancellor of Germany in 1933 culminated at the Brandenburg Gate. In fact, it was under Hitler that a German coin (or pattern) first depicted the massive structure, 142 years after it was completed. The 1933 gold 100 Reichsmark shows a swastika behind the quadriga, with rays above. Perhaps this symbolized the New Order that Hitler and Nazism promised the German people. The obverse carries a portrait of Hitler. Twelve years later, the gate was one of only two structures remaining in Pariser Platz amid the rubble, fire and smoke of the battered capital of Hitler’s “thousand year” empire. The grand city of the kaisers became two Berlins. East Berlin served as the capital of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), surrounding the capitalist ghetto of West Berlin. The Brandenburg gate was located in the GDR and thus appeared on several East German coins, tokens and medals.
A detailed photo of the reverse of the Hitler pattern coin.

The Brandenburg gate as it appeared on GDR coins.
In 1971, Erich Honecker became the leader of the GDR, and the Brandenburg Gate returned to German coinage that year on a 5-mark piece. Production of business strikes ceased for several years, but resumed in 1979 and continued until 1990, when the GDR was swallowed up by the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). Minted in an alloy of nickel and copper, the coin circulated in everyday commerce, and proof versions were struck every year except 1971, 1983 and 1985. The GDR also issued a commemorative coin in 1989 in honor of Johann Gottfried Schadow, whose sculptures grace the Brandenburg gate.

U.S. president John F. Kennedy visits the Brandenburg gate. He gave a famous speech in Berlin on June 26, 1963.
German 10-Mark proof coin commemorating the reunification of Germany in 1991 that reads, "The Brandenburg gate, symbol of German unity."
The Brandenburg Gate officially reopened on December 22, 1989. The GDR struck uncirculated and proof silver 20-mark coins on March 15, 1990, to commemorate the event. They would be the last issued by the German Democratic Republic. National elections took place three days later. The vote on German reunification: Ja!

The following year, a 10-mark commemorative coin celebrated German unity and the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Brandenburg Gate. The obverse legend translated SYMBOL OF GERMAN UNITY/THE BRANDENBURG GATE/1791/1991.

A German soldier lies dead in front of the Brandenburg gate during the Battle of Berlin (1945).

Copyright Eric Brothers (C) 2011. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I am trying to learn more about history for my college class. I just wanted to thank you for the great article! I can't wait to show my teacher this.

    Kurt | http://www.crunchinc.com/


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