Friday, May 06, 2011

"The Worst Conceivable Omen For The Next Twelve Years"

This evening's Mosquito raid was particularly disastrous for me because our Ministry was hit.

The whole lovely building on the Wilhelmstrasse was totally destroyed by a bomb. The throne-room, the Blue Gallery and my newly rebuilt theater hall are nothing but a heap of ruins.

I drove straight to the Ministry to see the devastation for myself. One's heart aches to see so unique a product of the architect's art, such as this building was, totally flattened in a second. What trouble we had taken to reconstruct the theater hall, the throne-room and the Blue Gallery in the old style! With what care had we chosen every fresco on the walls and every piece of furniture!

And now it has all been given over to destruction.

In addition, fire has now broken out in the ruins, bringing with it an even greater risk, since 500 bazooka missiles are stored underneath the burning wreckage. I do my utmost to get the fire brigade to the scene as quickly and in as great strength as possible, so as at least to prevent the bazooka missiles exploding.

As I do all this I am overcome with sadness. It is 12 years to the day—13 March—since I entered this Ministry as Minister. It is the worst conceivable omen for the next twelve years.

Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s Minister Of Public Enlightenment And Propaganda, writing in his diary on 13 March 1945


There were not to be another twelve years, either for Goebbels or for the Ministry. There were to be only another 49 days.


The bombing of the Ministry Of Public Enlightenment And Propaganda occurred on the night of March 12/March 13, 1945. When Goebbels, in his diary entry of March 13, wrote of “this evening’s Mosquito raid”, he was actually referring to the raid of the previous night.

The photograph below shows the bombed Ministry building on 13 March 1945, the day after the overnight bombing raid.

As may be seen in the photograph, much of the bomb damage had already been cleared from Berlin’s streets. Even in the very last days of the war, workers throughout Germany cleared city streets of rubble within hours of air raids; such efficiency was remarkable.

Goebbels’s Ministry occupied two buildings. The original Ministry building, Leopold Palace (also known as Ordenspalais), was the building destroyed on the night of March 12/March 13.

Leopold Palace had been purchased by the German government in 1919 to serve as a government press building. Leopold Palace previously had served as home to various princes of the Hohenzollern crown; with the collapse of the Hohenzollern dynasty in November 1918, the German government decided to make use of the structure, and turned it into a government building. This accounts for Goebbels’s unlikely references to a throne room, a blue gallery and a theater in his Ministry building—all were remnants of the building’s royal past.

A modern annex for the Ministry was constructed during the 1930s and was repeatedly enlarged, even during wartime; the modern annex only reached its final form under Goebbels in 1942 (and was to be enlarged yet again after the war by East Berlin authorities). The modern annex suffered damage during the same air raid that destroyed Leopold Palace, but the modern annex was neither destroyed nor burned out. The modern annex still stands, and remains in use; it today houses one of Germany’s many federal agencies.

Whenever persons encounter, in books or online, photographs of Goebbels’s Ministry, the photographs invariably depict the 1930s annex and not Leopold Palace.

The ruins of Leopold Palace were dynamited and bulldozed by the East German government in 1947. Nothing of Leopold Palace remains in present-day Berlin.

The photograph below shows one of the grand public rooms of Leopold Palace in 1926.

As Goebbels mentioned in his diary, his Ministry had restored Leopold Palace to a lavish standard while Goebbels was Minister. The photograph below, from 1940, shows the theater of Leopold Palace after the Nazi-era restoration.

Goebbels conducted press briefings and other public events in the theater.

It was a very handsome space, featuring design of the highest standard.

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