Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche is one of Berlin’s most haunting symbols; the tower of the original church –- destroyed during World War II –- stands in the centre of Breitscheidplatz, serving both as a memorial and reminder of the terrors of war. The ruins of this old church near the zoo railway station have been preserved as a reminder of the senseless destruction that did not even spare houses of God. Professor Egon Eiermann, the architect entrusted with the project, combined the ruins of the spire with bold modern church architecture, preserving a number of surviving mosaics. His design was the subject of long controversy.
Only the tower of the memorial church survived the destruction of 1943, which razed the city to the ground. Today only 63m high, it once rose to 113m. The hole in the tower’s roof has a sharply ragged edge which is why the tower was nicknamed "hollow tooth" by the Berliners. The Neo-Romanesque church was given the name of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in 1189, to honour Wilhelm I. Next to it, Eiermann erected a new church in 1957-63 where religious services are now conducted.
On the interior, one of the mosaics that has been preserved depicts Emperor Heinrich I on his throne, with imperial orb and sceptre. Originally decorated throughout with scenes from German imperial history, the church interior was meant to place the Hohenzollerns within this tradition and adorns the vestibules of the church ruins. It depicts Emperor Wilhelm I, together with Queen Luise of Prussia and her entourage.
A small crucifix, forged from old nails that were found in the ruins of the Coventry Cathedral, commemorates the bombings of Coventry, England, by the German Luftwaffe in 1940. There is another cross, a gift from the Russian Orthodox bishops of Volokolomsk and Yuruyev, given in memory of victims of Nazism.
The new hexagonal bell tower rises 53m high next to the tower ruins, on the site of the old church’s main nave. The golden figure of Christ created by Karl Hemmeter is suspended above the modern main altar in the new church. In the evening light, the windows behind the altar glow an overwhelming dark blue. The tower bears a clock based on a Classical design, with Roman numerals. At night, it is lit in blue by modern light, emitting diodes to match the lighting inside the new church.