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Obama Speaks in Front of Berlin Monument

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Barack Obama’s speech in front of Berlin’s Victory Column is about to begin. Here’s an open thread for it; the crowd looks enormous.

The history of the Victory Column makes it a rather peculiar choice for this speech.

The Victory Column originally stood in Königsplatz (now Platz der Republik), at the end of the Siegesallee (Victory Avenue). As part of the preparation of the monumental plans to redesign Berlin into Welthauptstadt Germania, in 1939, the Nazis relocated the column to its present site at the Großer Stern (Great Star), a large intersection on the city axis that leads from the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) through the Brandenburg Gate to the western parts of the city. At the same time, the column was augmented by another 7.5 meters, giving it its present height of 70 meters. The monument survived World War II without much damage. The relocation of the monument probably saved it from destruction, as its old site in front of the Reichstag was destroyed.

Surrounded by a heavily trafficked street circle, pedestrians can reach the column through four tunnels, built in 1941 to plans by Albert Speer.

UPDATE at 7/24/08 10:32:09 am:

How in the world do you give a speech about the fall of the Berlin Wall … and not even mention Ronald Reagan?

UPDATE at 7/24/08 10:36:57 am:

Obama’s only comment about the American presidents who have spoken in Berlin before him: “I know that I don’t look like the other Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.”

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