The square boundaried by the streets of Wilhelmstrasse, Anhalter Strasse and Niederkirchnerstrasse was the location of the offices of the Gestapo and the SS, the two authorities responsible for most of the of the horrific war crimes and internal terrorism during the Nazi regime.
The Gestapo were the state's secret police who's remit included suppression of perceived threats both to the Nazi party and to the state. They were given "carte blanche" to eradicate dissent and to ensure that the "Party Line" was stricly adhered to. This task the organisation took on with fervour and because they were outwith the judicial system became a law unto themselves.
They did though have one "check and balance" legal requirement - any person arrested had to sign the "Schutzhaftbefehl", a declaration that the person arrested had requested imprisonment. This was of course a mockery as they would simply torture any non-signers until they did so or died in the denial.
Although renowned for meticulous record-keeping records were manipulated, lost and destroyed and any figures put forward by historians as to the numbers of people executed (directly or indirectly) by the Gestapo are merely speculative.
The SS began as a small bodyguard for the Nazi hierarchy which on the lead up to, and during, the Second World War became the singular most powerful policing and military authority throughout the Third Reich.
As with the Gestapo the SS operated outside normal judicial procedures, its instructions coming directly from Hitler via Heinrich Himmler (or sometimes without Hitler's instructions at all, merely Himmler's expectation of Hitler's wishes). The SS mostly operated outside of Germany and comprised a mix of elite front-line combat units, a political police prescence within the regular Wermacht army and most horrendously as supervision for the death camps of the Holocaust .
Numbers-wise the SS were responsible for the vast majority of the Nazi regime's death toll which once again is impossible to put final figures on due to records being lost, destroyed or just not being written-up in the first place.
All scary stuff.
The offices of both organisations were pretty much destroyed during the Allied bombings and their demolition completed during the occupation of Berlin at the end of the war. The site was never redeveloped and was cleared in the early 1960's.
The modern exposition centre was built in 1997 which has archives and photographs of the years of terror from the Nazi era and the bleak-shingled square which will never be further developed works as a harsh reminder as to what so-called civilized people can do to each other.
So just as a sort of digressionary sum-up - Let's not be so critical about the present day World situations in other places such as Afghanistan, Muslim terrorism and tribal warfare in Africa - it was only 70 years ago we were doing this ourselves.
The Topography of Terror is a chilling museum that presents in detail, the story of the rise and eventual fall of the National Socialist Party. Better known to the world as the Nazis. The museum is in 2 parts. The first part is outdoors, and describes the series of events from the very beginnings in the 1920s through 1933 when Hitler took power. The second part is inside and details the history of the Nazi State, from 1933 to 1945.
The museum building was erected on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and the Gestapo. Mush is told of the history of these 2 feared organizations. Their leaders are a virtual who's who. Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Eichmann, etc. Names that are synonymous with Nazi Terror and the Holocaust.
Admission to the museum is free. And adjacent to the museum is a preserved stretch of the Berlin Wall. So you get a glimpse into yet another era.
Topographie of Terror is a decentralized outdoor exhibit on the Nazi terror. Its main exhibit is situated directly at a still existing stretch of the Berlin Wall and the Martin-Gropius-Bau.
This location once was the headquarters of the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei - Secret State Police) and SS. The Gestapo building had prisons were suspects were being held incommunicado and often tortured and executed. The buildings were destroyed during bomb raids in early 1945 and the remaining ruins demolished after the war. Only one (now excavated) wall of the cellar exists, because the Berlin Wall was build right on top of it.
The museum details NS trials in striking detail. There are excerpts of dialogue and sound snippets from the trials, as well as additional information about involved people.
Other displays focus more generally on the war or on the Nuremberg Trials.
No matter how accustomed you may be to "multimedia exhibitions" - Topography of Terror, with its simple setup, will deeply move you.
Note that some pictures are very graphic.
Admission is free.
This is an open air exhibit built amidst the foundations of the Headquarters of the Nazi Gestapo...
"Here, the Secret State Police, the SS leadership and the Reich Security Main Office set up their offices: the administrative headquarters of the Secret State Police and the notorious Gestapo "house prison"."
The exhibit is a collection of photographs and billboard texts illustrating some of the autrocities of the Gestapo and the SS....
The exhibit is quite sombering and more than a subtle reminder of where we are standing and some of the history that has occured here in Berlin.
Very interesting exhibit. Many photos and descriptions in German and in English. I spent a lot of time reading just about every one. Outside there is an exhibit and then inside it continues. Fascinating information about this dark part of Germany's history. Inside there is a little cafe where you can have a nice coffee and a snack. Plan on spending at least 3 hours here.. it is worth the time. You can also purchase descriptive books on the exhibit and the general history. I bought a guide to the exhibit and its a nice book, just 8 euros. I would highly recommend this if you are interested in WWII history..
A very interesting place to visit where you can get a lot of facts about what happened here at this site between 1933 and 1945, when it was the site of the central institutions of Nazi persecution and terror were located on the grounds of the present-day “Topography of Terror.”
Since 1987, the permanent exhibition “Topography of Terror” has informed the public about this historic site. The “Topography of Terror” permanent exhibition will be shown in the open air until the new documentation center opens.
West of Checkpoint Charlie in Niederkirchner was erected some of the most feared of the Third Reich. From their offices, the brutal Nazi conceived plans to carry out the Holocaust, and issued orders to arrest his political opponents.
Those buildings are gone but still an air fleet on the spectral gardens devastated. Since 1997, this has been the framework of the exhibition, Topography of Terror, a basic manual on the Third Reich with its emphasis on the historical significance of place and the brutal institutions occupied.
Al oeste de Checkpoint Charlie, en Niederkirchner, se erigieron algunas de las instituciones mas temidas del tercer reich. Desde sus despachos, la brutalidad nazi gestó los planes para llevar a cabo el Holocausto y emitió las ordenes de detención de sus oponentes políticos.
Aquellos edificios han desaparecido pero aun flota un aire espectral sobre los jardines desolados. Desde 1997, este ha sido el marco de la exposición, Topografía del Terror, un manual básico sobre el tercer reich que hace especial enfasis en la importancia historica del lugar y de las brutales instituciones que lo ocuparon.
This outdoor museum is comprised of a long wall filled with photographs, commentary, and some interactive devices adjacent the second longest stretch of intact Berlin Wall. It details the terror and persecution activities of the organizations which occupied the land on which it is set. Now a vacant overgrown lot, this symbolic site was the former home of the Gestapo, Reich Security, and the dreaded SS. Occupants included Himmler and Heydrich. There must be no place on earth home to plans for more death and destruction than this site - germanization of captured lands, extermination of Jews homosexuals gypsies and others, and the mass murder of Russian civilians and soldiers. The Wannsee Conference was planned here, the death squads (Einsatzgruppen) concept developed here. One segment is devoted to the Nuremberg trials. During the Cold War, the wall ran right in front of this area, and it remained undeveloped. Today we understand that the land will remain barren forever in memory of the horrors associated with it - although other wish to construct a modern museum here.
Joint development of East and West began in 1987 with excavation of the brick foundations and the first exhibits during the 750th Berlin Anniversary celebration. Now the exhibit is quite comprehensive and compelling. Plans for a modern permanent building have been delayed by political infighting and financial considerations as well as the sentiment that the land should remain as it is. The outdoor setting at this Heart of Darkness site is more than appropriate. Standing here learning of the evils of the Nazi Reich will unquestionably remain one of the lasting memories of Berlin. This site should be an stop of paramount importance for every visitor as it was to us.
Once upon a time, along Niederkirchner Strasse, stood the buildings for the terrifying institutions of the Third Reich: The Gestapo hq's, the SS central command, the SS Security Service and the Reich Security Main Office. These buildings no longer exist. Instead there is an open air museum called Topography of Terror. It documents the importance of this site and these terrible institutions that occupied it.
The information, as is much of the information in Germany, is in German only. Apparently free audio guides in English are avaiable from the kiosk.
There are many photographs and some are very disturbing.