Visiting the Marschallbrücke, Berlin, Germany: Northern Entry to Dorotheenstadt, Honouring Field Marshall Blücher
Who was Field Marshall Blücher, and to whom?
Berlin's Marschallbrücke is a bridge over the Spree River which, as did its predecessor structures, forms the traditional entrance from the north to Dorotheenstadt, the central suburb which contains many of the historic landmarks of Germany's capital, including the Brandenburg Gate, Unter den Linden and the Reichstag Building.
As well as a 1896 photo of the Marschallbrücke, I have supplied (below) a photo of the Berlin skyline taken from the roof of the Reichstag Building which shows the Spree spanned by the Bridge. To the left of the Bridge runs the Luisenstrasse; to the right runs the Wilhelmstrasse.
The original Marshcallbrücke dates from 1882, and underwent a major rebuilding in 1997-1998. Some of the original structure remains, but the 1882 structure was a two-hinged arch bridge, while the road bridge completed in 1998 is a rigid frame construction which is a composite of steel and pre-stressed concrete. The original bridge was wrought in iron, some of which material is still partly visible.
The original architect was E A P Gottheiner (1839-1919), while Benedict Tonon (1) was the architect responsible for the 1998 structure.
It is named in honour of Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742-1819).
To the question: Who was Field Marshall Blücher? the sub-question is: Who was he to whom?
The answers are surprisingly complex.
Blücher began his military career as a soldier in the Swedish army (for some centuries Sweden held possession at various times of certain territories in Germany).
Subsequently he served Prussia, rising to the rank of Field Marshall — hence the title of the Berlin bridge named in his memory. He participated with distinction in the Seven Years' War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, at the end of which Blücher joined British General Wellington in finally defeating the French Emperor at Waterloo, in 1815; remarkably for those days, at Waterloo he was already aged 72, by which time he had acquired a considerable reputation, especially in Prussia and Continental Europe.
But in the English-speaking world, Blücher is chiefly known as the Prussian military leader who helped Wellington defeat Napoleon I.
Thus already, Swedes, Germans and English-speaking peoples might have somewhat different collective memories of the life and military career of Field Marshall Blücher.
In Germany itself, matters of collective memory become more complex still. The grace of an 18th century birth and an early — as opposed to mid or late — 19th century death meant that Blücher cannot be directly linked with the rise of militarism, which led to Wilhelmine Germany's widely apportioned sharing of responsibility for World War One. So if bridges or monuments continue to be named for Blücher in the historically hyper-sensitive Federal Republic, this cannot be interpreted as some kind of oblique assertion of militarism.
Interestingly — and perhaps in a slightly macabre manner — Nazi Germany named a rather effective U-Boat Wolfpack for Blücher (2). This somewhat unappetizing posthumous naming has naturally not prevented the name of Blücher from being held in honour in the Federal Republic of Germany. Indeed, after Germany Unification following the country's post-World War Two division, Deutsche Bundespost issued in 1992 a postage stamp to commemorate the Field Marshall.
To an overwhelming extent, thought and historical memory are geographically bound: this is part of the human condition.
Germany's capital is in some ways a vivid illustration of the idea that, while ideologies may wax and wane, it is so often that geography and real estate that prove to be the constants. It may also demonstrate that historical personalities can eclipse the allegiances and varied national perceptions with which they may be bound in their lifetimes.
May 5, 2017
(1) Architect Tonon has also been responsible for other noted bridges in Germany and Japan.
(2) The cruiser 'Blücher' also briefly served Nazi Germany before being sunk in 1940.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Berlin itself, a few of the many visitor attractions include: the Brandenburg Gate; the Reichstag building; the Fernsehturm (TV Tower); Charlottenburg Palace (German: Schloss Charlottenburg); Berlin Cathedral (German: Berliner Dom) and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Berlin Tegel Airport (Flughafen Berlin-Tegel), where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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