Bebelplatz, Berlin Origins of the Bebelplatz When Friedrich II became ruler of Germany in 1740, this patron of the arts had hopes of creating an area that attested to his great political power. Plans for this square included an opera house, an academy, and a royal palace. The area became known as Frederick's Forum and later Opernplatz, as the opera house was the only part of the plan that was completed before the king passed away. It wasn’t until 1947 that the area became known as Bebelplatz, named for August Bebel, a leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany in the 19th century. State Opera House Three major structures occupy the space around Bebelplatz. The earliest, designed by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, is the lavish State Opera House (Staatsoper). Completed in 1743, this magnificent building is home to the Staatskapelle Berlin, an orchestra with a long, successful history, now led by esteemed conductor Daniel Barenboim. The opera house was destroyed during World War II but rebuilt in the 1950s in accordance with Knobelsdorff’s plans. Guided tours of the opera house are available and operas or concerts happen throughout most of the year. St. Hedwig’s Cathedral Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral also graces the perimeter of the Bebelplatz and offers visitors a place for prayer and quiet. It was built in 1747 and was the first Catholic church constructed in Germany after the Protestant Reformation. Its shiny green dome is visible from various parts of the city. St. Hedwig’s is the Bishop’s Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Berlin, making it the most important Catholic church in the city. Old Library On the west side of the Bebelplatz is the former Royal Library (Alte Bibliothek), now part of Humboldt University. The remainder of the college is located across the street on Unter den Linden. Many famous individuals achieved their higher education at Humboldt, including the Grimm Brothers, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. Albert Einstein taught here for nearly 20 years before the Nazi regime began to gain power.turkeyarena.com A Dark Day at the Bebelplatz Unfortunately, the Bebelplatz is sometimes best known for what happened there on May 10, 1933. On that date, the Nazi minister for propaganda and public enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels, organized a nationwide book burning, with more than 20,000 books by Jews, Communists, and Pacifists burned on a pyre in the middle of the Bebelplatz. Today, visitors can peer through a glass plate in the ground and view rows of empty bookshelves, a modern monument to that awful day.