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Postcard from... Hamburg


The austere-looking Nazi era building stands in the posh district of Harvesterhude. Built in 1937, it was the German army headquarters used by Adolf Hitler’s commanders to plan the invasion of Denmark.

After 1945 it was used again by a reformed German army – but now the building has been snapped up by developers who are in the process of tuning it into one of the port city’s most expensive apartment complexes available. The large Nazi party eagle statues that used to sit on the roof have, of course, been  removed from what is now called the “Sophienpalais” but the developers joked recently that it might be possible to “put them back up.”

The remark has not amused Hamburg’ city government, not least, because it implies that Germany’s biggest port treats its Nazi past as a sort of joke.

The Sophienpalais is also a source of grief for the Hamburg department responsible for looking after listed buildings. The developers, it emerges, have torn out the interior of the former German army HQ although it has been under a preservation order since  the 1950s. Germany may be  justifiably proud of the way that it deals and has dealt with its Nazi legacy. But in this case the developers appear to have gained the upper hand.

The city government admits that construction work has advanced so far that it is now impossible to undo. “This is one battle we have lost,” explains Alexander Krauss, a spokesman for Hamburg’s listed building department.