The Reichstag building has a rich history. Constructed in the late 19th century, it served as the home of the Imperial Diet (parliament) of the German Empire until the end of World War I. In 1933, the building was severely damaged by a fire. Many believe it was set intentionally, which contributed to the rise of the Nazi regime. During World War II, the building suffered further damage. After Germany’s reunification in 1990, the Reichstag was reconstructed with a modern glass dome designed by architect Norman Foster. It symbolizes transparency and openness in government. Today, it houses the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament.
On June 9, 1987, Bowie performed in front of 60,000 people on the lawns in front of the Reichstag building. The site wasn’t chosen for its historical significance, but rather for its proximity to the Berlin Wall. This allowed his East Berlin fans, who were otherwise restricted by their government from attending such gigs, to experience the show. During the Cold War, East Germans were prohibited from enjoying Western rock music due to its perceived negative influence. Nonetheless, on the night of the concert, the streets around the Reichstag were filled with thousands of East Berliners who defied their authorities by gathering to listen to the music as an act of resistance.
It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears. […] We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realize in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. So it was like a double concert where the wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again.– David Bowie, Performing Songwriter, 2003