Königsplatz (German: [ˈkøːnɪçsˌplats], King’s Square) is a square in Munich, Germany. Built in the style of European Neoclassicism in the 19th century, it displays the Propyläen Gate and, facing each other, the Glyptothek (archeological museum) and the Staatliche Antikensammlungen (art museum). The area around Königsplatz is home to the Kunstareal, Munich’s gallery and museum quarter.
The Führerbau in 2007
The square was designed as part of the representative boulevard Brienner Straße by Karl von Fischer working for Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and laid out by Leo von Klenze. Fischer modeled the Königsplatz on the Acropolis in Athens. The concept was classical rigor embedded in living green, and so an expression of urban ideas of Ludwig I. who wanted to see cultural life, civic ideals, Catholic Christianity, royal administration and the military all together and embedded in green.
Klenze framed the square with the Glyptothek and the Propylaea (created as memorial for the accession of Otto of Greece). The Staatliche Antikensammlungen was erected by Georg Friedrich Ziebland, on its back St. Boniface’s Abbey is situated. The Glyptothek was built from 1816, the Propylaea were only completed in 1862.
The Lenbachhaus is situated at the north-west side of the square.
Königsplatz during the Third Reich
As a beautiful and monumental place, the Königplatz was used during the Third Reich as a square for the Party’s mass rallies. The Brown House, the national headquarters of the Party in Germany was located at 45 Brienner Straße close to the square.
Two Honor Temples (Ehrentempel) were erected at the east side of the Königsplatz in severe neo-Greek style to echo the architecture of the older buildings; they “enshrined” the remains of the sixteen National Socialists killed in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, who were worshipped by National Socialists as martyrs. Both temples were demolished by the US Army in 1947, although their platforms remain to this day. Two buildings of the National Socialist party constructed by Paul Troost next to the temples still exist; in the one north of Brienner Strasse, the Führerbau, the Munich Agreement was signed in 1938. Today it is a school for music and theatre called the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München. The other one south of said Boulevard nowadays houses a couple of minor museal institutions within the wider context of the Kunstareal.
The National Socialist book burnings occurred at Königsplatz in 1933.
After the war the Königsplatz was restored to its pre-war appearance.
Ehrentempel in November 1936.
The Honor Temples (German: Ehrentempel) were two structures in Munich, erected by the National Socialists in 1935, housing the sarcophagi of the sixteen members of the party who had been killed in the failed Beer hall putsch (the Blutzeugen, “blood witnesses”). On 9 January 1947 the main architectural features of the temples were destroyed by the U.S. Army as part of denazification.
The first memorial
On 8 November 1933 Hitler addressed the party’s old guard at the Bürgerbräukeller (where the putsch had begun) and the next day unveiled a small memorial with a plaque underneath at the east side of the Feldherrnhalle. Two policemen or the SS stood guard on either side of the memorial’s base and passers-by were required to give the Hitler salute.
The memorial could be circumvented, and the salute avoided, by choosing a small nearby side street, which came to be known as Drückebergergasse (“Shirker’s Alley”).
In 1934 no commemorative march was made on the anniversary because of Hitler’s purge of the SA’s ranks in the Night of the Long Knives. The next year on 8 November the putschists were exhumed from their graves and taken to the Feldherrnhalle, where they were placed beneath sixteen large pylons bearing their names. The next day, after Hitler had solemnly walked past from one to the next, they were taken down the monument’s steps and taken on carts, draped in flags to Paul Ludwig Troost’s new Ehrentempel monuments at the Königsplatz, through streets lined with spectators bustling between 400 columns with eternal flames atop. Flags were lowered as veterans slowly placed the heavy sarcophagi into place. In each of the structures eight of the martyrs were interred in a sarcophagus bearing their name.
The martyrs of the movement were in heavy black sarcophagi in such a way as to be exposed to rain and sun from the open roof. When Gauleiter Adolf Wagner died from a stroke in 1944 he was interred metres away from the north temple in the adjacent grass mound in between the two temples.
At the temples visitors were required to be silent, not wear hats and keep children from running over the centre of the temples. The Ehrentempel was made of limestone except for its roof which was made of steel and concrete with etched glass mosaics. The pedestals of the temples, which are the only parts remaining, are 70 feet (21 m). The columns of the structures each extended 23 feet (7.0 m). The combined weight of the sarcophagi was over 2,900 pounds (1,300 kg).
On 5 July 1945 the American occupying army removed the bodies from the Ehrentempel and contacted their families. They were given the option of having their loved ones buried in Munich cemeteries in unmarked graves or their family plots or having them cremated, common practice in Germany for unclaimed bodies. The columns of the structures were recycled into brake shoes for municipal buses and new material for art galleries damaged in the war. The sarcophagi were melted down and given to the Munich tram service who used it for soldering material to repair rail and electrical lines damaged by the war.
On 9 January 1947 the upper parts of the structures were blown up. The centre portion was subsequently partially filled in but often filled with rain water which created a natural memorial. When Germany was reunited there were plans made for a biergarten, restaurant or café on the site of the Ehrentempel but these were derailed by the growth of rare biotope vegetation on the site. As a result of this, the temples were spared complete destruction and the foundation bases of the monuments remain, intersecting on the corner of Briennerstrasse and Arcisstrasse. In the intermittent period of the 1947 destruction and 1990 handover, basements (hitherto unknown to the Americans) were uncovered beneath the structures. A small plaque added in 2007 explains their function.
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