The Bebelplatz is a public square located in the Mitte district of Berlin. The square is to the south of Unter den Linden boulevard. The square, originaly laid out between 1741 and 1743 was named “Platz am Opernhaus”, then in the August of 1910 it was renamed “Kaiser-
The square was designed for Frederick the Great, who became ruler of Germany in 1740, to be a centre for the the arts and sciences. His plans were to create the square which he hoped would expand his political influence. The area became known as Frederick’s Forum.
The earliest building on the site was the State Opera House, designed by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. It was completed in 1743 but with the rest of the square it was destroyed during the Second World War. In the 1950’s the building was reconstructed using Knobelsdorff’s original plans. It is possible to get a guided tour of the opera house,and a number of concerts are held throughout the year.
On the west side of the Bebelplatz stands The Old Library, which was formally the Royal Library. The Old Library was gutted by fire in 1945 with only the outer walls surviving. The building was later reconstructed to maintain its original appearance, but interior was fully modernised for its new use as part of the Humboldt University. Both Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels attended the university, and for almost 20 years Albert Einstein taught here.
St. Hedwig’s Cathedral which sits on the edge of the Bebelplatz, and was Modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. It was built in 1747 and was the first Catholic church constructed in Germany after the Protestant Reformation. Reconstructed but with a modern interior, its green dome is visible from areas throughout the city.
The Bebelplatz is also the site where, on 10th May 1933, the Nazi minister for propaganda Joseph Goebbels, organized a burning of books written by Jews, Communists, and Pacifists. In all about 20,000 books were destroyed.
Visitors today can peer through a glass plate window set in the ground, and view rows of empty bookshelves as a reminder of that terrible day.