The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany lit up against a night sky
Brandenberg Gate, Berlin, Germany © Sarah Tunnicliffe
Brandenberg Gate, Berlin, Germany © Sarah Tunnicliffe

Monument Protection in Germany

by Dr Birgitta Ringbeck, Cultural expert in the German Delegation to Unesco's World Heritage Committee based in the Federal Foreign Office

About one million archaeological sites, settlements, churches, farmhouses and workers' dwellings, castles and palaces, parks and gardens, industrial and administrative buildings are listed as monuments in Germany. They are impressive witnesses to the past as well as unique elements of the present. Their protection and care are a task for the whole of society and in which many citizens are actively engaged.

The Federal Government as well as Germany's 16 federal states, known as Länder, support the preservation of listed monuments with special subsidy programmes. Moreover, a tax benefit granted to the conservation of historical monuments is an important instrument to preserve the cultural heritage for future generations. In conformity with the jurisdictional and legislative requirements, the Federal and Länder Governments formulate, develop and apply as far as possible a policy whose principal aim is to co-ordinate and make use of all scientific, technical, cultural and other resources available to secure the effective protection, conservation and presentation of the cultural heritage.

The highest heritage preservation authority in the Länder (German federal states) is a responsible ministry or senate department. The ministry or senate department exercises supervisory control over its subordinate heritage preservation authorities and draws up the annual support programmes in collaboration with them.

In each Länder the Land (German federal state) laws on heritage preservation provide for a central specialist authority, the Regional Office for the Preservation of Monuments (Landesdenkmalamt). This is responsible for all specialist questions relating to the protection of historic monuments and subject to instructions only from the highest heritage preservation authority. The tasks of this specialist authority consist, in particular, of advising the subordinate authorities (municipalities, districts, towns not belonging to rural districts) as well as owners of monuments and drawing up reports on all issues relating to the protection and preservation of historic monuments. The Regional Office for the Preservation of Monuments represents conservation interests in all public planning and construction projects. In some Länder it is also responsible for keeping registers of historic monuments.

The highest heritage preservation authorities (district administrations), where they are envisaged in the Land legislation on the protection of monuments, generally exercise a supervisory function in relation to their subordinate authorities. In some cases, they are also responsible for monuments maintained by the Federation or Landesdenkmalamt and sometimes for creating and updating registers of historic monuments.

The lower heritage preservation authorities (districts, municipalities) generally implement protection and preservation measures. So inquiries, applications, objections, et cetera must be addressed to them. In some instances smaller Länder such as Saarland or city-states such as Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen dispense with the administrative hierarchy outlined above.

Further information

  • The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK) in the Federal Republic of Germany is the coordinating body and an important instrument for representing the common interest of the Länder in relation to the Federal Government, the European Union and UNESCO, as well as for presenting a single public stance of the Länder in education, science and culture. It therefore assumes the joint responsibilities of the Länder which arise from the federal approach to cultural affairs.
  • Association of State Conservators and the Association of State Archaeologists in the Federal Republic of Germany. The central objective of these associations is the continuous exchange of knowledge and experience as well as the enhancement of cooperation between specialists on a national level in matters of heritage conservation and science.
  • The German Cultural Heritage Committee (DNK) is an interdisciplinary and indispensable forum for the protection and conservation of Germany's architectural and archaeological heritage. It is a trusted partner of the Federal Government, the Länder and local authorities, the churches, specialist organizations, associations and federations and of private action groups and heritage owners. The DNK targets all private and public stakeholders concerned with heritage protection and conservation.

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