In the sublime 1987 film, ‘Der Himmel über Berlin‘ (‘Wings of Desire’), filmmaker Wim Wenders perched angels on the winged Victoria of the Siegessäule (Victory Column), 67 metres above the ground. From that height, the angels kept watch over the people of the divided city.
Having the celestial beings congregate on the Victory Column was a powerful metaphor for the film’s lyrical triumphs: the uniting of past and present, transience and eternity, the material and the spiritual.
It also foretold the reinvention of the protagonist angel who decided to become human so he could experience earthly life and love.
Reinvention is something that the Siegessäule has gone through a lot.
It was commissioned in 1864 to commemorate the first war that Prussia won on its path to creating a united Germany. By the time it was launched nine years later, the memorial came to stand for all subsequent war victories that culminated in the 1871 formation of the German Empire.
Then, in 1939, the Siegessäule was appropriated by the Nazis as part of their Welthauptstadt Germania, the grandiose plan to redevelop Berlin. The column was meant to anchor the grand ‘victory avenue’ one Roman mile from the Brandenburger Tor.
While the project never saw completion, the Siegessäule was moved from its original location in front of the Reichstag to its current location. This proved fortuitous. When Allied bombs fell, damaging the Reichstag, the memorial survived intact.
Today, tourists climb the Siegessäule‘s 270 steps to stand at the feet of Victoria for a bird’s eye-view of the surrounding Tiergarten. Each June, the annual Christopher Street Day LGBTI parade ends at the column with a mammoth street party, while October’s Festival of Lights sees it bathed in a rainbow of colours.
And somewhere above this all, might just be Wenders’ angels. ω