The Wilhelmstraße is a street in the center of Berlin, the capital of Germany.[1] Between the mid 19th century and 1945 it was the administrative centre first of the Kingdom of Prussia and then of the unified German state, housing in particular the Reich Chancellery and the Foreign Office. For this reason the term "the Wilhelmstrasse" was used to signify the German governmental administration as a whole, much as the term "Whitehall" is often used to signify the British governmental administration as a whole.

The Wilhelmstraße runs south from the Unter den Linden, on a line slightly east of south, until its juncture with the Stresemannstrasse near the Hallesches Ufer, a distance of about two kilometres. It is crossed (as one heads south) by Behrenstrasse, Leipziger Strasse and Zimmerstrasse, which to the west of the Wilhelmstraße becomes Niederkirchnerstraße (known before World War II as Prinz-Albrecht-Straße).

A street along this line has existed since the early 18th century, and was known as Husarenstraße (Street of the Hussars) until 1740, when it, along with the Friedrichstrasse, which runs roughly parallel to the east, were given their current names to commemorate Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, who had done much to develop the area.

Originally a wealthy residential street, with a number of palaces belonging to members of the Prussian royal family, the Wilhelmstraße
developed as a government precinct from the mid 19th century. From 1875 the Reich Chancellery building stood at Wilhelmstraße 77. During the years of the Weimar Republic (1919-33), the Reich President's official residence was at Wilhelmstraße 73. It was from the balcony of this building that Reich President Paul von Hindenburg watched the torchlight parade on the night the Nazis came to power: 30 January 1933.

In 1938-39 a new Reich Chancellery was built for Adolf Hitler by Albert Speer. This building stood immediately south of the old Chancellery, on the corner of the Wilhelmstraße
and the Voss Strasse, and its official address was Voßstraße 4, but the balcony from which Hitler addressed crowds faced the Wilhelmstraße. The square opposite the building, known as the Wilhelmplatz, no longer exists. Also vanished is the Kaiserhof Hotel, which stood a few doors away and had been Hitler's favoured residence in Berlin before he came to power.

During the Nazi era, the German Foreign Office was situated in the former Reich President's palace at Wilhelmstraße 73, the old building being refurbished in grandiose style by the Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. The Finance Ministry stood at Wilhelmstraße 61. During the Nazi years Joseph Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry stood further south at Wilhelmstraße 8-9. The Agriculture Ministry stood at Wilhelmstraße 72, as it still does today - the only German government ministry now located on its prewar site, although in a reconstructed building. The British Embassy was at Wilhelmstraße 70. The original building was destroyed by bombing, and a new Embassy was built on the site after the reunification of Germany. Queen Elizabeth II officiated at the grand opening in July 2000.

The only major surviving public building in the Wilhelmstrasse from the Nazi era is the Reich Air Ministry building at Wilhelmstraße 81-85, south of the Leipziger Strasse, a huge edifice built on the orders of Hermann Göring between 1933 and 1936. This building escaped major damage during the war. As one of the few intact government buildings in central Berlin, it was occupied by the Council of Ministers of the new German Democratic Republic in 1949. As such it was at the centre of the popular demonstrations during the workers' uprising of 17 June 1953.

Apart from the Air Ministry, all the major public buildings along the Wilhelmstraße
were destroyed by Allied bombing during 1944 and early 1945. The Wilhelmstraße as far south as the Zimmerstrasse was in the Soviet Zone of occupation, and apart from clearing the rubble from the street little was done to reconstruct the area until the founding of the GDR in 1949. The communist GDR regime regarded the former government precinct as a relic of Prussian and Nazi militarism and imperialism, and had all the ruins of the government buildings demolished in the early 1950s. In the late 1950s there were almost no buildings at all along the Wilhelmstraße
from Unter den Linden to the Leipziger Strasse. In the 1980s, apartment blocks were built along this section of the street.

Parade for Hitler in the Wilhelmstrasse. This photograph I took of the Wilhelmstrasse on 14 July 2008. On the left the British ambassy.

Parade for Hitler in the Wilhelmstraße.

This photograph I took of the Wilhelmstraße on 14 July 2008. On the left the British ambassy.

Headquarters of the NSDAP at the Wilhelmstrasse

Aviation Ministry at the Wilhelmstrasse.

Headquarters of the NSDAP at the Wilhelmstraße.

Aviation Ministry at the Wilhelmstraße .

Aviation Ministry at the Wilhelmstrasse with even a parking garage. Swastika flags in the Wilhelmstrasse.
Aviation Ministry at the Wilhelmstraße with even a parking garage. Swastika flags in the Wilhelmstraße .
Führerbalcony at the Wilhelmplatz. Adoration of the Führer standing on his balcony.

Führerbalcony at the Wilhelmplatz.

Adoration of the Führer standing on his balcony
The new British Embassy at Wilhelmstraße 70. On the historical marker can be seen British Ambassadors Lord D'Abernon and Sir Eric Phipps. The site of the Propaganda Ministry building at Wilhelmstraße 8. Joseph Goebbels can be seen on the historical marker.
The new British Embassy at Wilhelmstraße 70. On the historical marker can be seen British Ambassadors Lord D'Abernon and Sir Eric Phipps. The site of the Propaganda Ministry building at Wilhelmstraße 8. Joseph Goebbels can be seen on the historical marker.