Berlin and Warsaw team up to preserve socialist heritage

Though reconstruction efforts after the devastation of war differed wildly between the two cities, the dialogue will be vital to conservation efforts


The directors of the state conservation departments of Berlin and Warsaw have decided to establish a continuous “dialogue” between the two capital cities. The director of State Conservation Authority Berlin, Jörg Haspel, and his Warsaw counterpart, Ewa Nekanda-Trepka, hope the discourse will help form conservation strategies for maintaining their shared socialist heritage.

Berlin and Warsaw underwent similar reconstructions after the second world war, although with markedly different results. “Berlin created the Mitte under a Socialist influence, while Warsaw rebuilt its centre following tradition,” said Haspel, adding: “Both sides can learn from each other about their inner cities. Warsaw was given a cultural palace named after Stalin, while Berlin got the Soviet Embassy [on] Unter den Linden and military monuments to Stalin. This socialist heritage keeps stirring up emotions and requires strategies of conservation to maintain ‘undemocratic monuments’ in a democracy.” He added that Warsaw is also interested in Berlin’s industrial and technological buildings.

“Both cities will provide the basic financing,” said Haspel, adding that expertise will come from the Goethe-Institut Warsaw and the Polish Institute Berlin, with additional support from German-Polish foundations and the Landesdenkmalamt Berlin (conservation department). “In the future we hope to be sponsored by the EU as well,” said Haspel.

As part of Poland’s activities to mark its six-month presidency of the EU beginning in July, the exhibition “Karl-Marx-Allee and Marszałkowska Quarter (MDM): the Urban Heritage of Socialist Realism in Berlin and Warsaw” will be staged in August in both cities. In September, “Poland-Germany: 1,000 Years” will open at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau.