Former Nazi headquarters to house new museum

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German officials have announced a plan to build a new centre documenting the crimes of the Nazi secret service at the site of the group's former headquarters in Berlin.

Representatives from the federal and Berlin's municipal government announced the new venture Wednesday, saying that they had chosen a local architecture firm to complete the project, estimated to cost nearly $25 million US.

Historian Andreas Nachama, former head of the Jewish Community in Berlin and head of the foundation overseeing the project, said officials had reviewed more than 300 proposals.

Construction of the new centre is scheduled to begin in late 2007 and take two years, after which more time will be needed to install the exhibition, he said.

Nachama is director of the Topography of Terror Foundation, which has maintained an open-air memorial to Nazi victims at the site since 1987. The current exhibit features the excavated and preserved ruins of the former Gestapo building.

Located in downtown Berlin, the former Nazi headquarters was a hub of power during the 1930s and 1940s. SS leader Heinrich Himmler worked from the complex, which was also where the final stages of the Holocaust were planned. The former "Checkpoint Charlie" border security station for the Berlin Wall is also located nearby.

In the early 1990s, Berlin's municipal government chose Swiss architect Peter Zumthor to build a similar museum. Work began in 1997, but the project was scrapped in 2004 because of spiralling costs and construction delays. Officials eventually tore down the partly built structure.

Once completed, the new museum will be Berlin's third major memorial and exhibition focussing on the horrors of the Second World War and Germany's Nazi past. The Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Museum, which opened in 2001, is one of the city's most-visited landmarks, and a Holocaust memorial, designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman, opened in May 2005.

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