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Friday, July 25, 2014

Architectural Competition Held to Rebuild Königsberg City Center - SPIEGEL ONLINE By Susanne Beyer in Kaliningrad, Russia

Architectural Competition Held to Rebuild Königsberg City Center - SPIEGEL ONLINEBy Susanne Beyer in Kaliningrad, Russia

The Allies bombed the Prussian city of Königsberg into the ground in 1944. Residents of what is today the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, a desolate Soviet landscape, are considering rebuilding the city center to reflect some of its historical German architecture.

"The architectural bureau looks pretty much like any other in Europe -- computer drawings hang on the walls, attractive young women concentrate as they stare into oversized monitors. Even the head of the office is wearing outsize glasses. 

What's different here, though, are the odd place names featured in the plans. Rather than being in Russian as one would expect, they include German names such as Altstadt, or Old Town, Löbenicht, Kneipfhof.

These were the names of the city center districts in the city of Königsberg in the former East Prussia, but Königsberg was wiped from the map at the end of World War II, 70 years ago. The city had a grand history as the coronation site for Prussian kings. 

It was famous for its university, where philosopher Immanuel Kant once taught. In 1724, the year of Kant's birth, the cities of Altstadt, Löbenicht and Kneiphof joined together to form the city of Königsberg. With its brick, Renaissance and baroque buildings, with a medieval castle on the Pregel River, with its Brick Gothic cathedral and its proximity to the Baltic Sea, it was one of Germany's most beautiful cities. 

During the final days of August 1944, 360 aircraft with the Royal Air Force flew across the sea heading for Königsberg. They dropped hundreds of tons of highly explosive and incendiary bombs. The city continued to burn for days."

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