History - World War II, Berlin
As you walk into the cemetery via the main entrance, usual for most cemetries there is an attractive pond with stone edges and plenty of wildlife including some ducks. Close by is a sculture called the oath hand which commemorates 3300 victims of allied bombing during WW2. Further into the cemetery and signposted off the main pathway is a memorial to the hundreds of Roma and Sinti victims who were interned in a camp close by during WW2, before they were shipped of to Auschwitz and murdered.
This cemetery was opened in 1909 when Marzahn was just a village. There are a number of memorials but in the northwest of the cemetery is the Soviet Memorial which was inaugurated in 1958. The oberlisk stands about 5m in height and is made out of red granite. A pathway from the oberlisk leads a pergola which has an limestone urn containing the ashes of 125 soldiers. Other graves are laid to lawn with surrounding hedges.
Its an exhibition initiated by the Topography Of Terror Foundation and provides historical information about National Socialism and its crimes and wants to hhm kind of initiate active confrontation with this history and its impact since 1945.
Its currently an open air exhibition that you'll find near the Martin-Gropius Building. Its placed along the excavations in the Niederkirchnerstrasse. Behind this exhibition or its projects is still a remaining section of the wall.
They've also a little office where you can buy books, leaflets, catalogues etc and you can also get an audio tour in English/German. That means a little device with headphones, to wear while walking along the exhibition. On some of the exhibition "objects" you will find numbers that you enter on this audio device and then you will get a variety of information about the things you see there.
During WW2 when the tide of war was turning against Germany massive air raid shelters were built to protect the civilian population. There are numerous air raid shelters around Berlin that have survived due to the difficulty of trying to remove them. One of the most unusual is located at 30 Pallasstrasse in Berlin-Schöneberg. Work started on the structure in 1943 using forced Russian labourers. After WW2 the American forces had a try at blowing it up but it was decided that it would cause damage to surrounding buildings. It was therefore used for storage but retained its use as a civil defence bunker. In 1977 a decision was made that makes the bunker unique. Accommodation was needed in the area but the bunker was still in the way. So how do you solve the problem, easy, build a block of 514 flats housing 2000 people over and around the bunker. The block of flats is built on stills at the bunker end and does make contact with it. To add to the uniqueness of the building a main road and footpaths run underneath at ground floor level.
Approximately 200 metres away from the Berliner Fernsehturm in Rosenstrasse stands a 3 metre tall rose coloured Litfass column. Most people walking past the column are too busy to stop and read the information but this was the site of a huge protest during the National Socialism era, something which was almost unheard of during this period.
Until the beginning of 1943 so called privileged Jews, who were mainly men and married to Aryans, were exempt from deportation and the final solution. On 27 February Jews were rounded up all over Germany for deportation. In Berlin approximately 1800 privileged Jews were taken to 2 - 4 Rosenstrasse, an Administration Centre of the Jewish Community to await deportation.
As word of the arrests spread the wives started to slowly arrive at Rosenstrasse. As the numbers started to grow the wives were threatened by the gun totting SS and Gestapo men and ordered to clear the street or be shot. Though the women would disappear down alleyways they would soon reappear. After a week of protests the men were released. This was the only protest to the deportation of the Jews during the war.
Towards the end of the war the building at 2 - 4 Rosenstrasse was destroyed by allied bombing. Besides the Litfass column there is a memorial to the women who took part in the demonstration in a small park also in Rosenstrasse. The memorial was created by Ingeborg Hunzinger and was erected in 1995 and it is named Block of Women.
A film was made of the event which was released in 2003 and called Rosenstrasse,
1. Children investigating the sculpture
2. Children on the sculpture
3. Trains to Life -- but only for the children, not their parents
4. Trains to Death -- for children and parents together
5. Plaque on the sculpture
The children in the first two photos are investigating the new sculpture "Trains to Life, Trains to Death" while their mother explains in simple words what the sculpture is about.
Trains to Life were the trains that saved the lives of ten thousand Jewish children by transporting them from Nazi Germany to Britain between December 1938 and September 1939. Many of those children never saw their parents again.
Artist Frank Meisler was one of those ten thousand rescued children. Now, seventy years later, he has designed two sculptures to commemorate the rescue -- and to memorialize the thousands who other children and their parents who were sent to their death, also on trains, by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The sculpture "Trains to Life, Trains to Death" was recently unveiled in front of the Friedrichstraße train station in Berlin. This is where the first emergency transports of Jewish children left for England on December 1, 1938.
This sculpture has a counterpart, by the same artist, outside Liverpool Street Station in London, which is where Frank Meisler arrived at the end of August 1939 with 14 other children from his home city of Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland.
The memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe murdered under National Socialism was inaugurated by the German Chancellor and President on 24 October 2012. It is estimated that half million Sinti and Roma died during the holocaust, The memorial was first planned in 1992 but it has taken 20 years to finally completed it due to disagreements over its design by the various associations. The memorial is located in the Tiergarten between the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. There is a circular reflecting pool with a small triangular retractable concrete plinth on which flowers are placed daily. There are broken slabs of stone surrounding the pool. A line of boards given an account of the Chronology of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma. The memorial is open 24 hours a day and was designed by the artist Dani Karavan.
At first glance the Schwerbelastungskörper (heavy load bearing body) looks like a gasometer. The ground in this area is sandy and this huge concrete cylinder was constructed in 1941, at a cost of 400,000 marks. It weights 12,650 tonnes, it is 21 metres in diameter it extends 18 metres into the ground and is 14 metres tall. It was used as a test bed to assess how the ground would withstand such a huge force. It was hoped that the structure would not sink anymore than 6cm but in the end it sunk 18 cm. If things had worked out then a massive Triumphal Arch would have been built close by as one of the main structures for the new Germania. The Triumphal Arch would have stood on the end of 7 km long new avenue of victory. The new avenue would have been120 metres wide and would have formed the north/south axis. But it did not make any diffence in the end as the Nazis lost the war and the arch was never constructed. After the war it was considered blowing up the cylinder but this idea was dismissed as it would have damaged buildings close by. It has now become a listed historical monument. As far as I can ascertain entry can be gained to the site via Berliner Unterwelten who provide guided tours, but only in German. The tours run from April to October, several times a week. There is information on their website in the German Language section.
This air raid shelter was built in 1940 on site of a former Wehrmacht Engineering School. The shelter is 35 m long by 19m wide and the walls over 1m thick. It has 3 floors and could accommodate up to 500 people. It came equipped with showers and toilets. The buildings on the site were used by the Soviets after WW2 for various purposes. The most famous building that is part of the complex is the former officer’s mess which is now the German-Russian Museum where the German Wehrmacht signed the instrument of surrender for WW2. The air raid shelter has suffered from the usual graffiti that pervades Berlin and some of the site may be redeveloped with new housing. There are occasional open days but these are only advertised locally.
In Treptower Park in the south-east, you will find old Soviet monuments gathered. We never made it here during our short visit but we did see the Russian War Memorial, including a cemetary with 2500 or so Russians with a short exhibition and map of war memorials in Berlin shown nearby. The memorial also includes what is supposedly the first Soviet tanks to reach the streets of Berlin at the Battle of Berlin.
Berliner Unterwelten run a tour of an underground World War 2 bomb shelter located at the Gesundbrunnen Underground railway station. As you walk down the steps to this deeper than usual for Berlin underground station you pass a green door. This is the entrance to the bomb shelter. You immediately get a sense of how depressing, cold and dank these shelters were. The tour guide try to recreate what life was like in the shelters during the prolonged air raids with the British bombing by night and the Americans during the day. There are numerous rooms inside of different shapes including toilet facilities with original fittings. There were limits to the number of people that could be admitted as the air could become depleted and there are signs in each room. Those to suffer first were children who were closer to the floor where the air ran out first. Candles were used to indicate the lack of air as they went out with the increase in carbon dioxide. If too many people try to enter the shelter the excess number would be ejected and left to their fate outside the metal door. One room had a coat of the original paint that would become luminous when the lights were turned out which frequently happened during air raids. There are various artefacts from the time on display including benches, bunks, original fitting and photographs. The guided tour costs 10 euros and tickets can be purchased from the new office of Berliner Unterwelten located just outside the entrance to Gesundbrunnen underground station.
This monument is a memorial to the Soviets fallen during WW2. It's 25 meters high and was built using the marbe extracted from the ruins of Hitler's "New chancellor's office" and two Russian tanks among the first which entered Berlin on April 21 1945.
All that remains of Hitler's bunker is the location of the entrance: a parking lot behind a block of flats. Between those three saplings is the steel door leading to Hitler's final presidential "mansion." No plaque marks the spot; no sign records the place.
Across the street from the Tiergarten, a large expanse that had been split by the Wall was chosen as the site of the new Holocaust Memorial. As the initial work was done to dig the foundation, the construction workers found the hidden entrance to Goebbel’s bunker. Ironic, isn’t it? The place where the Nazi Propaganda minister spent his last days before his, his wife’s, and his children’s self-inflicted deaths will be the monument to the people he helped to slaughter.
Here you'll feel like being in Moscow, there's a huge monument built on a mausoleum, huge sculptures of the USSR Flag and many Sovjet Style stone carvings showing Lenin and fighting scenes or the war.
The monument shows a huge Russian soldier rescueing a German child and detroying the swastika. Look at the size of the soldier (esp. his hand!) compared to the child. He is way too large in comparison!
5000 Soviet soldiers who fought in Berlin at the end of WWII are buried there.
Silent Heroes Memorial Centre is a new exhibition that documents the assistance given to Jews during the Nazi era. It is located in an old building off Hackesche Höfe in Rosenthaler Straße. Spread over 2 floors, it has interactive touch screens on the first floor that can be used to follow individual stories or gain information as to the various problems associated with try to hide your identity. On the second floor there are individual stories that you can listen too via headphones. The exhibition is in English as well as German and is free to enter