the victims of symbolic destruction

Seven examples of symbolic destruction in chronological order beginning with the oldest show the tradition of this form of destruction.

Bastille, Paris

enlightenment against despotism
1383 - 1789

The Bastille of Paris was a symbol of despotism. After loosing its function as a part of the city fortification it served as a private prison for rich prisoners. The actual storming took place for the practical reason that arms and gunpowder were stored in the Bastille. Anyway, the place became a symbol for freedom and the new republic afterwards.

Immediately after the storming, a businessman took advantage of the symbolic value, organizing the deconstruction, taking entrance fees to the area and selling pieces of rubble as souvenirs.

Bastille, Paris

fascism against religion
1912 - 1938

The synagogue in Fasanenstrasse in Berlin -like other synagogues- was destroyed by the nazis because of its symbolic value to the jewish population. It was the first synagogue outside the old city centre that was visible in the street, thus showing the self-confidense of the jewish community.

During the „Reichskristallnacht“ on November 10, 1938 the synagogue was destroyed. Joseph Goebbels personally gave the orders to burn this synagogue, at the time, the largest in Berlin. Finally in 1943 the remaining ruin was destroyed by bombs.

Stadtschloss, Berlin

socialism against monarchy
1453 - 1950

The Stadtschloss (city castle) in Berlin was a symbol of the german monarchy, which was seen as the origin of the fascist regime by the soviet occupants.

The castle was damaged by bombs during World War II but still mostly intact and reconstructable. In spite of western protest the East German authorities decided its demolition to make way for a new symbolic building of the socialist regime: The Palace of the Republic.

Berliner Mauer, Berlin

democracy against socialism
1961 - 1989

The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the socialist regime of East Germany by seperating the whole country, locking in their population.

After the Fall of the Wall people began to destroy the wall with hammers to take out pieces as souveniers. Business with the pieces began to florish. The East German firm that was in charge of the marketing sold the segments for up to 500,000 $. The official destruction by the East German border-police began on June 13, 1990 right after the first free elections under East German control. Historians opted for the protection of large areas of the Wall as a monument but until the reunification in October 1990 the inner city border was mostly gone.

Buddhas, Afganistan

religion against religion
500 - 2001

The Buddha-Statues of Bamyan in Afghanistan were the biggest statues of standing Buddhas in the world. They were World Cultural Heritage.

After buddhism was ruled out by islam in Afghanistan, the statues were altered and partly destroyed. Because strict interpretations of the Koran forbid pictures of living beings, at first the faces of the statues were destroyed.
On order of Mullah Mohammed Omar Taliban forces completely demolished the two biggest statues using dynamite on March 12, 2001. It took them four days.

World Trade Centre, New York

religion against capitalism
1973 - 2001

The World Trade Centre in New York was a symbol of capitalistic America. After its completion it was the highest building in the world. 50,000 people worked there every day.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 two planes were flown into the towers. They were burning for one hour before they collapsed. The image of the cloud of smoke and ashes spreading over Manhattan is known all over the world.
The suicide attack was explained as a warning to the land of the infidel by al-Qaeda. It became the beginning of the war against terrorism.

Palast der Republik, Berlin

capitalism against socialism
1976 - 2008

The Palace of the Republic was the symbol of the East German Republic. It was both the seat of the East German parliament and a huge amusement complex for the GDR population.

After the reunification the German parliament decided to destroy the building and reconstruct the Stadtschloss (city castle). Despite of the protests and the high costs the Palace of the Republic was dismantled slowly starting in 2006. The destruction was completed in 2008.