Blood red, sometimes purple, the marble’s colour was signed off by Hitler himself. It decked his grandest building, the New Reich Chancellery on Voßstraße, built by workers between 1938 and 1939. They slaved round-the-clock, and then, after the war, the Soviets demolished their effort at a breakneck pace. In few places has a project had such a megalomaniacal rise and fall (also in cost: in today’s coin, more than a billion euros). This only begins to suggest the delusions of the hubristic Nazi regime.
The crimson stone surrounded window frames, it paved the floors, it decked columns, and walls, tons and tons of it. Its lushness is enhanced by white fissures, invaders upsetting the unity. Heavy, and bloody, the hue makes one think of the precious carpet murderous Clytemnestra rolled out for Agamemnon, dyed with the purple juice of countless sea creatures.
Precious Saalburger marble, you can still buy it for your bathroom, it’s mined not far from here, in Thuringia. But you can’t imagine bathing in it, can you? Perhaps you are haunted, a little superstitious. You imagine filling the tub, and then the hot water running out red.
Where is it now?
The New Chancellery is gone, built over with pre-fabricated Soviet-era buildings. The victors left not a trace. The marble was trucked away (some say to build the Soviet Memorial in Treptow or to pave the entrance hall of the Humboldt University).
But it shows up in less likely places too.
When you wait for the metro at Mohrenstraße station on the U2 line, only a few steps from where the New Chancellery once stood, you might look up and admire the crimson stone. Step back and lean against a pillar, then realise it too was once part of Hitler’s palace. It may have been a slab he walked on himself.
With that thought, you jump back quickly from where you brushed against it. You examine your sleeves, to see if the colour has rubbed off. You are worried it will stain. But, to your astonishment, nothing is there.