The Lange 1: A Chalice of Hope & Faith

The Lange 1 debuted on 24th of October 1994, a symbol of unshakable faith created by two extraordinary Germans at the very height of their creative powers.


Not for a Single Second

It was a building. But it was also a monument to his faith, to his unyielding, ceaselessly indefatigable belief that one day his beloved country would be united as one single nation. That he died just four years before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when people on both sides of the wall tore down the concrete that had separated them for 10,316 days, made Axel Springer’s crusade to reunify Germany, even more touching. That he did so even when it was not fashionable and continued even when he was made to seem a quixotic fool on a doomed mission, and that he gave his whole life to this cause, is to me what makes him so admirable.

When I first visited Berlin, my friend, the Michelin-starred chef Tim Raue, brought me to Springer’s 20-storey headquarters and explained that Springer, who created Europe’s greatest publishing empire, could have built this shimmering edifice anywhere. But his chosen location was Kreuzberg, right next to the Berlin Wall that separated East and West Germany. Why? Says Raue, “Because he wanted his building to be a symbol to East Germany that he believed one day we would be reunified as one country. He wanted his headquarters to be a symbol of freedom and a reminder of hope to Soviet-ruled Berlin and to all of East Germany. He chose Kreuzberg because he knew that one day when the Berlin Wall fell, as he knew it inevitably must, his headquarters would be in the center of a reunified city and country made whole again.”

On the other side of the infamous “death strip,” the Soviets erected a series of Brutalist apartment buildings to block out the view of Springer’s monument. But even as they partially obscured the view of the glass and steel monolith that soared above the city, they were unable to extinguish the faith it ignited in people’s hearts. By the end of our evening drinking wine at the private bar on the top floor of this extraordinary building created by a such remarkable man, I found myself in tears, so moved was I by his unshakable faith.

Springer’s story brings to mind the story of another individual whose life was profoundly affected by the Soviet occupation of East Germany. His name is Walter Lange. While his story is equally remarkable, his early life was defined by an almost Job-like series of relentless absurdist tragedies. It goes like this: At 16 years old, Lange, young and idealistic with his whole future before him, was sent to Karlstein, Austria, to become a watchmaker. There he dreamt of adding his own chapter into the indelible codex of high German watchmaking that reaches back to 1845 when his grandfather, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, founded A. Lange & Söhne. In 1942, at the age of 18, Lange graduated from watchmaking school and returned to Germany to find his country amid the throes of war. He was seconded to the army, sent to the Russian Front where, in 1945, he was shot in the leg and laid in agony on a battlefield all night, too scared to move. At that moment, he thought he would actually perish. He was eventually discovered and sent home via the Baltic Sea. Slowly, in the care of his family, he recuperated. Even better, word had spread that the war was finally coming to an end. His heart thus filled with hope, and on the very last day of the Second World War in Europe, Lange made his way to his family’s Glashütte watch factory to finally begin his journey as a watchmaker. He arrived just a few hours before the ceasefire was announced but then, incredibly, was forced to watch as his factory’s main building was decimated by one of the very last bombing raids over Europe.

Walter Lange and the Post-War Years



July 2021


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