Karl-Marx-Allee is a ‘socialist boulevard’ renamed during the time of two Germanys. In a part of the GDR’s reimaginings of East Germany in a post-war world, architects and city planners went about reorganizing this expansive strasse, but they had initially picked another iconic emblem of socialism before they settled on Marx.
Before it was Karl-Marx-Allee, it was called Stalinallee from 1949-1961 in a way to pay homage to the party’s symbol of socialist tenacity. They had changed the name from the original Große Frankfurter Straße. The boulevard stretches from Friedrichshain to Mitte, approximately two kilometers in length, and is dotted with impressively tall buildings (for Berlin) that mirror the wedding-cake style aesthetic of the Soviet Union.
The boulevard was commissioned to be redesigned as a bustling metropolitan area with shopping, a cinema and other trappings of commercialism as well as apartments for the working class. A little bit of an odd juxtaposition in theory, but never the less went under way under the supervision of a handful of important East German architects at the time: Hermann Henselmann, Hartmann, Paulick, Hopp, Souradny, and Leucht.
A statue dedicated to Stalin was placed on the boulevard in 1951, which stood as a proud talisman of communism until 1961, the same day the name was changed. That’s the year the de-Stalinization process really took hold. Even though Stalin represented socialism, even party members knew it was in excess and detrimental, hence, the need for a de-Stalinization after the leader died in 1953.
Stalinallee was also the backdrop for a tumultuous political uprising of workers fed up with aspects the GDR, which was quickly thwarted by the onerous and behemoth-sized military equipment of the communist regime. As workers united to rebel, huge tanks and soldiers curtailed the efforts with brutal force; 125 lives were lost that day. And later, the street would be used for the standard May Day Festivities. After the reunification, there was talk of changing the name yet again, yet it remains Karl-Marx-Allee.