The “Germany in Paris and France in Berlin” mirror exhibition was first published on our social media accounts from 22 January 2021, the anniversary of the signing of the Élysée Treaty (1963) and the Treaty of Aachen (2019). It ended symbolically on 31 May 2021, date of the 22nd Franco-German Council of Ministers.
The exhibition was designed in partnership with the Embassy of France in Berlin and the Embassy of Germany in Paris. Emblematic locations in our two capitals are juxtaposed to illustrate the rich history of the Franco-German relationship. The exhibition’s 16 episodes explore themes as diverse as remembrance, institutions, gastronomy and urban design.
Enjoy our tour through the Franco-German “Paris-Berlin”!
Between tradition and modernity: the Hôtel de Beauharnais in Paris and the Résidence de France in Berlin showcase France and Germany in each other’s countries.
Its walls hold the memories of French-German relations since the start of the 19th century. In 1818, the Hôtel de Beauharnais on the banks of the Seine was sold by Napoleon’s stepson to King Frederick William III. Decorated by the most skilled craftsmen, it was used as the Prussian legation by the King of Prussia.
The building then served as the Prussian Embassy in Paris (1862-1871) and the German Embassy (1871-1945). Since 1968, it has been the official residence of the German Ambassador. Bismarck was Ambassador there, and Richard Wagner and Max Beckmann were distinguished visitors. Its decor and purpose have seen it embody the intensity of French-German relations for the past two centuries.
In Berlin, the French Embassy stands out due to its modern, elegant design. A showcase for France, it was designed by architect Christian de Portzamparc and inaugurated in 2002 by President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. “This Embassy represents the France of today: modern, vibrant, imaginative and open to the world”, observed the French President.
Located at the prestigious Pariser Platz (“Paris Square”), at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate, it houses the diplomatic chancery, the consular section, all official French services and the Ambassador’s residence. After the previous Embassy was destroyed in 1945, the land, which had been bought by France in 1860, remained undeveloped. France secured its return after reunification.
Bridges span chasms to connect valleys. But figuratively, they also connect places, countries and eras.
For example, the Pont d’Iéna (“Jena Bridge”) in Paris and the Aristide Briand bridge in Berlin are “bridges” between France and Germany.
In Paris, the stone arches of the Pont d’Iéna show the rivalries and conflicts which have marked the history of both countries. They resonate with the memories of the Battle of Jena, in which Napoleon defeated Prussia on the hills of Thuringia on 14 October 1806. Napoleon personally ordered the bridge to be built (1808-1814).
But since the 1950s, Germany and France have been working hand in hand towards European integration and in the 1970s a bridge in Berlin’s “Napoleon Quarter”, in the former French occupied zone, was named “Aristide Briand”. This pioneer of French-German reconciliation and French Foreign Minister received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 along with his German counterpart, Gustav Stresemann.
During exile, books provide a refuge.
The “Deutsche Freiheitsbibliothek” (German Freedom Library) was founded in Paris on 10 May 1934 by German emigrants with the support of French and British intellectuals, a year after the Nazi book burnings. It was a place of refuge for books, but also for artists and persecuted independent thinkers. Its 20,000-strong collection of banned books which were being burned in Nazi Germany was a weapon in the exiles’ antifascist fight against Nazism. It organized readings, concerts and theatrical performances. It was destroyed at the start of the war.
As for the historical library of the French Church in Berlin, it arrived in France despite several moves since it was founded in 1769. The Huguenots, French Protestants in exile, had set up their community in Berlin a century earlier. The library was used to teach students from the theological seminary, which trained young ministers for French reformed communities throughout Brandenburg-Prussia. Housed on the fourth floor of the French Cathedral, it is now open to researchers.
Even the trees reflect the vibrant cultural exchanges between our two countries.
When the French Huguenots took refuge in Berlin from 1685, they were not only welcomed for humanitarian reasons. They were also of economic interest to Brandenburg-Prussia, which sought to benefit from their silk manufacturing expertise. As a result, plantations of mulberry trees sprung up all over town in order to cultivate silkworms. An extremely old white mulberry tree (morus alba), located in the Berlin-Mitte neighbourhood, is still standing today.
Although much more recent, the beech in the estate at Maison de Chateaubriand also reflects the historical relationship between France and Germany. For ten years, François-René de Chateaubriand retired to his home on his Vallée-aux-Loups estate, which he found to be a haven from political life. Today, eleven trees remind us of his travels across Europe. One such tree, a beech planted in 2007 by the former German Ambassador to France, Peter Ammon, reminds us of his position as “Minister of France” in Berlin in 1821.
French film posters, a brasserie called “Le Paris” and lively chatter in French: for a slice of France in Berlin, Ku’damm is the place to be.
This famous avenue is also home to the Maison de France, which is a centre for intercultural meetings and language classes provided by the Institut Français.
The building was founded in 1951 by French occupying forces in the heart of a bombed-out city. The goal was to set up an extensive network of cultural centres in the German Federal Republic as of 1949, to create a closer relationship between the people of the two war-torn countries.
The Goethe-Instituts also aim to promote the German language and intercultural cooperation. In France, they were not established until several years after World War II. They were first set up in Lille and Marseille, and then a building was built in Avenue d’Iéna in Paris in 1965. The “Le Stube” café, offering German specialities, can also be found there. The Institut’s original, multi-coloured windows were installed during refurbishments between 2005 and 2007.
From 1961 to 1989, the Bornholmer Straße border crossing separated East Berlin from the French sector in West Berlin.
Through concrete and watchtowers, it blocked entry into “French Berlin” with its “Cité Pasteur” and “Napoleon Quarter”. Until the hand of history came knocking.
On 9 November 1989, at about 11:30 p.m., it was here that the Berlin Wall first fell. East Germans began pouring into the West. The city’s border crossings were all opened. Scenes of jubilation filled the Berlin night.
Today, the memorial and its “Square of 9 November 1989” are still one of the main remnants of the Wall. Since 2009, it has had a counterpart in Paris. The “Esplanade of 9 November 1989” was built at Porte de Versailles (15th arrondissement) around a section of the Wall provided by the City of Berlin. It marks the good relations between Berlin and Paris, and Germany and France.
Get your baccalaureate and your Abitur too!
This is an option for students at the Franco-German high school in Berlin and the German international school in Paris (iDSP). Each school is a window to the neighbouring country. Their aim is to take another step towards a multilingual Europe.
Like the Institut Français and Goethe-Institut presented in Episode 3, the iDSP, which was founded in 1958, is the fruit of closer Franco-German post-war relations. From kindergarten to high school, it offers open, student-centred education. It is one of the largest German schools abroad and an intercultural meeting place.
The Franco-German high school in Berlin was founded in 1689 to cater for the children of Huguenots. Classes have always been taught in French, even under the German Empire (1871-1918) and the Nazi regime (1933-1945). It has included a junior high school since 1952 and has the unusual status of being governed not only by the French Ministry of National Education, but also the Berlin Education Act.
Haute couture, podiums, glamour...all over the world, these words evoke Paris.
German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most influential stars of the French city of fashion. From 1983 until his death in 2019, he was creative director of the illustrious French fashion house Chanel. To gain inspiration for his first collections, he reinterpreted styles created by the founder, Coco Chanel. A true icon, he is largely credited for the brand’s return to prominence, and it is now a major multinational.
Conversely, Berlin’s appeal lies in cultivating the charm of the temporary. The ever-increasing numbers of young creators arriving in the city have given it a non-conformist, ecological and sustainable feel. Some 600 brands can be found there, mostly start-ups with just one or two people. Including Frenchwoman Clémence de Lafosse. Her vision to alter second-hand clothes dates back to her childhood. It was here, in Berlin, that she found the perfect place to transform vintage clothing into valuable fashion items.
Munching a baguette in Berlin and enjoying a bratwurst in Paris are delicious introductions to intercultural dialogue.
Some foods speak all languages. Others only speak one, but bring a world of flavours, colours and landscapes to our palates. Savouring a baguette in Berlin and enjoying a currywurst in Paris are delicious introductions to intercultural dialogue.
And Didier Canet realized that a long time ago. In 1995, he opened his first bakery and cake shop, “Aux Délices Normands”, in Berlin. His homemade, organic, wood-fired breads, and his croissants, tarts, quiches and king cakes quickly won over homesick French people and curious Berliners. Today, he runs six bakeries.
In Paris, another food enthusiast created the “Tante Emma Laden”. It is named after traditional grocery shops in post-war Germany set up before the advent of supermarkets, and follows their model of quality, convenience and conviviality. It sells about a thousand German products, from beers to fresh produce, and even has a ’BierGarten’.
On 22 January 1963, 58 years ago, the French-German Friendship Treaty, known as the Élysée Treaty, was signed.
It was a key step in the construction of the deep friendship uniting our two countries today.
Through a joint photography project, we plan to travel to our two capitals and revisit our turbulent history! Every week, we will simultaneously present a French place in Berlin and a German place in Paris.
During the kick-off on this - Day, with our two embassies, you will learn more about the history of the Hôtel de Beauharnais, Germany’s Embassy in Paris, and the history of France’s Embassy in Berlin, rebuilt after the war, at the end of our photographic journey through the French-German “Paris-Berlin”!
Strolling through the 6th arrondissement, one of the most romantic squares in Paris can be found: the Place de Fürstemberg.
It is named after Cardinal Wilhelm-Egon de Fürstemberg (1629-1704), a German nobleman who served as Bishop of Strasbourg. Both a French and German speaker, he was very involved in European policy after the Thirty Years’ War. He defended the interests of Louis XIV’s France opposing the Emperor of the Holy Royal Empire, as well as those of the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne. He ended his life as Abbot of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, near the square that bears his name.
Less picturesque, but just as popular with tourists, the Pariser Platz is one of the most prestigious squares in Berlin. Located behind Brandenburg Gate where Unter den Linden Boulevard begins, it is bordered by the Embassy of France, the Embassy of the United States, the Academy of Arts and the Hotel Adlon. Given its name following the victory against Napoleon in 1814, and largely destroyed in 1945, Pariser Platz remained in the shadow of the Berlin Wall until the 1990s.
The history of art is a theme which links France and Germany.
Shown here with his daughters, Frenchman Antoine Pesne (1683-1757) came from a family of artists and painters. After studying in Italy, he was called to the Prussian Court in Berlin, where he served as court painter under three sovereigns (Frederick William I, Frederick I and Frederick II). He produced numerous portraits, historical paintings and magnificent ceilings such as “Venus ordering Cupid to shoot an arrow”, which adorns Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. He was appointed director of the Berlin Academy of the Arts in 1722 and was also a member of the Académie Royale in Paris.
The history of European art encouraged discussions between France and Germany, leading to the creation of the German Center for Art History (DFK) in Paris in 1997. Its aim is to centralize German-language research on the history of art in France and generate interest in German art from French researchers. Housed at the Hôtel Lully, it has developed innovative and interdisciplinary research methods, and fruitful dialogue takes place there between French and German intellectual traditions and international outlooks.
The “7th art” has always been part of cultural exchanges.
Settling into a plush, red velvet armchair and escaping to new worlds while curled up in the reassuring darkness of a cinema is a pleasure enjoyed on both sides of the Rhine.
In France, however, the “7th art” plays a particularly important social role. To such an extent that after World War II, the French occupying forces did not want to give it up. In 1954, they opened a cinema for their soldiers in the “Napoleon Quarter”, their headquarters in Berlin. The L’Aiglon Kino cinema, designed by German architect Hans Wolff-Grohmann, remained open until 1994. With its curved shape, neon signs and large windows typical of the 1950s, it is now a protected monument.
For decades, film festivals have been meeting places for film buffs and directors, both in France and Germany. In Paris, for example, the German Film Festival offers French audiences a wide variety of works from young talents, as well as German cinema classics. Last year, it celebrated its 25th anniversary at the famous “L’Arlequin” cinema.
They couldn’t look any more different.
But the town hall of the 1st arrondissement in Paris, built in the mid-nineteenth century, and the Corbusierhaus in Berlin, built a century later, do have something in common: they are both the fruit of French-German history.
Jacques Ignace Hittorff, a French architect born in Cologne, left his mark both on the banks of the Rhine and on Parisian buildings and urban planning. It remains engraved at Place de la Concorde and the Gare du Nord, for example. The town hall of the 1st arrondissement, located at Place du Louvre, has eclectic architecture, largely inspired by the gothic style of the nearby Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church.
Conversely, Le Corbusier’s approach was anything but eclectic. His “Type Berlin” (Corbusierhaus) Unité d’Habitation, designed for the 1957 International Building Exhibition (Interbau) in Berlin, was intended to respond to the post-war housing crisis. The French-Swiss architect had already built similar buildings based on efficiency, known as Unités d’Habitation, in Marseille and Nantes.
Writers, artists, scientists: our cemeteries preserve the memory of German and French people whose talent has inspired the other side of the Rhine.
At Montmartre Cemetery in Paris, the grave of Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) attracts hundreds of admirers and curious visitors each year. It was in Paris, “the capital of the Revolution” that the poet spent 25 years in exile and produced his most compelling work on Germany and France. “Working on the entente cordiale” between the two countries is “the great task of my life” he wrote.
Similarly, the French Cemetery in Berlin has honoured the memory of descendants of the Huguenots since the 18th century. It includes the final resting place of Pierre Louis Ravené (1793-1861), a steel wholesaler who made his fortune in railways. He had a passion for paintings, amassing a vast art collection and opening the first public art gallery in Berlin in 1853, with some 120 pictures.
“Friedrichstadtkirche” in Berlin and "Christuskirche" in Paris
The Friedrichstadtkirche, known to Berliners as the Französischer Dom, was built between 1701 and 1705 for French Huguenots who had taken refuge in Germany after the Edict of Nantes was revoked.
It adorns the Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares. The church is still active as the French Reformed Church of Friedrichstadt. The domed tower, completed in 1785, also houses the Huguenot Museum.
In Paris, German-speaking Lutherans met up for services from the 17th century. For many years, Germans and French worshipped side by side, before the German Protestant Church (“Christuskirche”) was inaugurated in Paris in 1894. It is now jointly run by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Protestant Federation of France (FPF).