Layers of Time
At no other Prussian palace are the traces of time from German history so visible and in such close proximity to one another.
The palace was used from 1740–97 as the summer residence of the Prussian queen Elisabeth Christine. Frederick the Great’s wife, who stayed at the palace regularly for over fifty years, significantly shaped its development. Outstanding 17th and 18th century interior décor has been preserved in many areas. The magnificent ballroom and elegant stairways survive as do valuable wall coverings and luxurious furnishings in the queen’s living quarters and state rooms. The richly stuccoed ballroom is the only late Rococo space in Berlin preserved in its original form.
During the National Socialist period Schönhausen served as a main depot for so-called “degenerate art.” Several thousand works of art confiscated by the National Socialists were stored here, before being sold abroad to acquire foreign currency.
After World War II the palace served as the official residence of East Germany’s (GDR) head of state, Wilhelm Pieck. The office of president was abolished after Pieck’s death in 1960 and replaced with a state council based on the Soviet model. Schönhausen Palace remained the preeminent government building in the GDR under Walter Ulbricht until 1964. After the palace’s conversion to a state guest house, it accommodated high-ranking official guests of the GDR government, such as Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, Fidel Castro and Mikhail Gorbachev. Wilhelm Pieck’s office and a guest apartment convey an authentic impression of the self-image practiced by the Socialist Unity Party (SED) dictatorship.
Additional information on the division of Germany can be found at the Berlin Wall Memorial website www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de.