A spectacular new building and curiosity about the experience of German unification should attract hundreds of thousands of people to Halle an der Saale in the future. The goal: the new future center for German unity and European transformation, which is to be built in the university town in Saxony-Anhalt by 2028 for around 200 million euros. The decision for the location has now been made – after a hard struggle, as the chairwoman of the selection jury, Katrin Budde, admitted on Wednesday.

The fact that five locations in the east have been fiercely competing for the seat of the new federal institution in recent months has sometimes gone under the radar, especially in the west of the country. In addition to Halle, Eisenach, Jena, the duo Leipzig and Plauen and Frankfurt an der Oder were also in the running.

“I want to say that the jury’s decision was very, very difficult,” emphasized Budde. On the fringes of a press conference, she explained that Halle was originally a kind of underdog. However, the assessment of the 15-member jury turned around during the trips to the candidate locations.

Centrally located and easily accessible

According to Budde, the decisive factors were, among other things, the good accessibility of the city of 240,000 inhabitants, the centrally located property for the new building, which will also be visible from afar from the ICE route in the future, and experience with transformation. Halle is “sympathetically unfinished,” said the incumbent mayor, Egbert Geier, overjoyed at his city’s selection.

In addition, Halle not only has a university, but is also the seat of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. All of this is part of the concept of the new future center: the dialogue between normal people in East and West, the political appreciation of the not always easy East German experiences after unification and transformation research – in other words, the scientific screening of this experience. And not only with a view to Germany, but also to the other Central and Eastern European countries.

So there is no lack of ambition – nor of expectations, especially in East Germany. But that is also the reason why the institution has so far remained quite nebulous. What can a visitor from Wuppertal expect in the brand new Future Center 2028? “At least once a significant aha effect,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff. A large part of the West German population only knows the East “very peripherally”.

Spectacular architecture planned

The East Commissioner Carsten Schneider, who is responsible for the federal government for the new institution, added another facet: “The architecture will also be spectacular,” said the SPD politician. The model is the European Solidarnosc Center in Danzig, which is dedicated to the peaceful upheavals in Eastern Europe. The next step on the way to the future center is therefore an architectural competition.

Schneider also said about the content: “First of all, arouse interest again in questions of German unity.” There are a lot of fractures to be seen in Halle in particular. At one company, 30,000 employees were laid off in one month in the course of the unification – with the result of “devastation” in the entire region.

Last but not least, the center should become an economic factor for Halle and the entire region. Around 40 million euros a year should be available and a three-digit number of employees should be employed. Budde, who chairs the jury and represents the SPD in the Bundestag, also hopes that up to a million people a year could visit the future center.

It is also bitter for the four unsuccessful applicants that they went away empty-handed. Prime Minister Haseloff tried to dampen the disappointment somewhat. Networks of the former candidate cities are to be created, perhaps ideas from the competition are to be implemented in the network at the locations there. “The future center will be based in Halle, but it’s not a center for Halle, it’s for the whole of Germany,” said the CDU politician.