Topography of Terror, Berlin

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 Reviews

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  • EasyMalc's Profile Photo

    Wilhelmstrasse

    by EasyMalc Written Aug 12, 2014

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    Anyone who has an interest in where the Nazis held their seat of power may want to include Wilhelmstrasse on their itinerary - but it has to be stressed that very few buildings have survived from that period. Nevertheless, the Berlin authorities have helped in this regard by erecting notice boards at locations which are of interest.
    The road runs for one and a half miles (2.4km) from the Marschallbrucke on the River Spree near the Bundestag, down as far as Hallesches Tor in Kreuzberg. For the purposes of this review though I’m covering the area down to the junction with the Topography of Terror and where the Berlin Wall split Mitte from Kreuzberg and the Eastern sector from the West.
    This triangular piece of land has a history that goes back to Prussian times and was named in honour of King Frederick William I of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg who lived here in the 18th cent. During the 19th cent the area developed into the main government district with the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck taking over the Palais Schulenburg at no 77 and making it his Chancellery.
    To cover the history of the Prussian, Weimar, Nazi and Cold War years in this area would take up too much space and time and so it needs to be condensed into what is relevant to what can be seen today.
    Starting the walk down Wilhelmstrasse from the Marschallbrucke will bring you to Unter den Linden, where you’ll need to ignore the Brandenburg Gate and take the road on down past the British Embassy, which for modern Berlin, I reckon is a noteworthy addition.
    Opposite is a rare survivor from the past. It used to be the Prussian Ministry of Education and now an office building for the German Parliament.
    Walking across Behrenstrasse will confront you with a complex of modern buildings. It needs to be borne in mind that what bomb damage didn’t achieve, the GDR authorities did.
    If you haven’t already seen the Holocaust Memorial then take the next right into Hannah-Arendt-Str, but I would suggest a separate visit if possible (See separate tip). The reason I’ve brought you this way is because, if you turn left down Cora-Berliner-Str you will come to the site where Adolf Hitler ended his life. There’s nothing here to see of course, but at least there is a board explaining what was (and probably still is) under this plot of land. I doubt that it was intentional, but the bunker is now covered over by a children’s playground - and Hitler liked children!
    After you’ve come to terms with the situation take a left turn back onto Wilhelmstrasse where there’s a memorial at the location of the Old Chancellery of Georg Elser, who attempted to assassinate Hitler in Munich.
    Plenty of new building work has progressed around Leipziger Str, but if you continue across the road there is probably the best example of the Nazi era in the area. It used to be Goering’s Ministry of Aviation and now the Federal Ministry of Finance.
    Across the road (and the Berlin Wall) is the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, now a museum known as the Topography of Terror (see separate tip) - and the end of this tour of Wilhelmstrasse.

    British Embassy Site of Hitler's Bunker Site of the Old Chancellery Georg Elser Memorial Former Ministry of Aviation Building
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    Not to be Missed

    by EasyMalc Written Feb 15, 2014

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    The Topography of Terror is both an outdoor and indoor museum on the site of the previous Nazi headquarters for the Gestapo and SS.
    It lies at the intersection of Wilhelmstrasse and Niederkirchnerstrasse and covers the area once occupied by the Prinz-Albrecht Palais.
    The area around Wilhelmstrasse was the main centre for the Nazi administration, and although Hermann Goering’s former Reich Air Ministry building (now German Finance Ministry) still towers over the Topography of Terror, most of these buildings have long gone.
    The entrance to the museum is in Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, where at No 8 was the School of Industrial Arts and Crafts.
    After the seizure of power by the Nazis in 1933, the newly formed Gestapo (Secret Police) took over the building for its headquarters, and a year later Heinrich Himmler’s SS took over the Prinz-Albrecht-Palais around the corner in Wilhelmstrasse.
    By 1939, with the help of Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler transformed this former palace of the Hohenzollern family into the main office of the Reich Security (RSHA).
    Being both head of the Gestapo and the SS, Himmler’s enthusiasm for his job is well known. If he wasn’t torturing people here, he was planning where he could do it elsewhere, but on 23rd Nov 1944 all his plans started to fall apart when the RAF bombed his headquarters. With the end of the war in sight Himmler was eventually captured and taken to Luneburg where he committed suicide.
    The Russians captured Berlin but under the London Protocol of 1944 the site ended up in the American Sector - but only just because the boundary ran along Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. The longest stretch of the outer wall still left standing in Berlin still runs along here and has become part of the museum’s outdoor museum space.
    By the early 1960s what had been left of the buildings was cleared and left as a wasteland until 1987 when Berlin celebrated its 750th anniversary and re-discovered this historical site. During excavation work the cellars of the Gestapo headquarters were unearthed and an outdoor museum was created with a roof covering what remained and illustrated with pictures of events and people of the times.
    After lots of deliberation with what to do with this waste land the idea of a permanent museum was suggested but it took until May 7th 2010 before the suggestion became a reality.
    There are three sections to the museum - the outdoor section as mentioned above which runs under the Berlin Wall, the grounds of the entire site with 15 stations explaining the various points of interest, and the indoor museum.
    The modern steel and glass construction of the indoor museum is in complete contrast to the classical buildings that once stood here. It’s known as the Documentation Centre which explains its function and the layout inside is light and airy, which I suppose lightens the tone a bit for such a dark subject. Most of the space is used up by boards showing copies of photographs and documents covering the major themes connected with the site and beyond.
    Entry to the whole museum is free, very central and should be a ‘must see’ on everyone’s visit to Berlin.
    If the people of Berlin think that this place should be remembered then I think we all should.

    The Gestapo Headquarters before the bombing The Gestapo Headquarters after the bombing
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    Wandering the City #5 - Topographie des Terrors

    by johngayton Updated Jul 7, 2013

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    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.

    Bleak Reminder
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    Chilling Museum

    by roamer61 Written Jun 3, 2013

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    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.

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    Former SA prison Papestraße

    by smirnofforiginal Written Sep 13, 2012

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    From March to December 1933, in the barracks at the former Gerneral Pape Strasse, the cellars of House 54 were used a prison by Hitler's SA.
    Approximately 2000 (supposed) political prisoners passed through this building. They were held, tortured, experminted on, raped and, in some cases died as a result of the cruelties they suffered.

    The basement is in its original state and literally oozes a sense of evilness.
    Penciled graffiti of eagles and swastikas can still be seen on some of the crumbling plaster.
    Thick wooden doors with large, solid locks have been opened to reveal evidence of some of the earliest Nazi terror.

    My friend is one of the historians who worked on confirming the rediscovery of this prison. Of all the butalities he told me about the most shocking, for me, was that acid and camphor were injected into some prisoners...

    I believe the prison will open to the general public in 2013 but until then there are special tours that you can go on. For more information you should check the website (I think all information is currently in German). If you can go, it is a fascinating place, in a morbid way and there are other buildings of historical importance to note within the former Prussian estate.

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    Topographie des Terrors

    by alancollins Updated Jul 26, 2012

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    Topographie des Terrors is on an area of of landscape ground where the Prince Albrecht Palais once stood. This was the HQ of the Gestapo who were the secret police of Nazi Germany. Though their maximum number never exceeded 45,000 (one third the present number of police officers in England & Wales)throughout the war, they were so feared it is often assumed their number was far greater than this. The buildings were bombed at the end of WW2. After 1945 the area was all in ruins and remained that way until the 1960s when the area was razed to the ground. The site was opened in 1987 as the Topographie des Terrors which had an outside exhibition and you could walk around and markers explain what was where. There is a large surviving portion of the Berlin Wall behind the new outdoor exhibition. A new state of the art building and documentation centre was opened on 07 May 2010. The exhibition charts the history of the Gestapo and SD with some individual personal stories of its prisoners with photographs and an English translation. There are also special exhibitions on display. The museum is normally open from 10am to 8pm and admission is free. The building also contains a cafe, toilets and library. One side of the of the old foundations of the building are available to view under a covered walkway which is in a trench. There are information stations around the grounds giving information on the history of the site. One thing most people miss is walking around grounds, There is a pathway with a number of information stations where the different buildings stood. There are some foundation ruins and driveways. There is a mass of information to take in and if you have the time more than one visit is recommended.

    The new museum Outside exhibition Pathway in the grounds with information station The entrance Looking out
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    Topographie des Terrors

    by toonsarah Written Jun 17, 2011

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    This is a sort of outdoor museum, which has been developed on the site of the one-time headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the National Socialist era. Here, between 1933 and 1945, the most important institutions of the Nazi terror apparatus operated from the Secret State Police Office, the Reich SS Leadership, and the Reich Security Main Office. These buildings were largely destroyed by Allied bombing during early 1945 and the ruins demolished after the war. When the city was divided this street, then known as Prinz-Albrecht- Straße, was one of several that had the boundary running down the middle, so when the Wall was constructed it followed that line, dividing the street. The south side, renamed Niederkirchnerstraße, lay in West Berlin, and the Wall that sealed it from the East still stands, the longest stretch of this outer wall still remaining (other long stretches, such as the East Side Gallery and in the Mauerpark, are of the inner wall). This section of Wall is interesting because, unlike elsewhere, it has been left exactly as it was after the assaults on it in November 1989, with exposed iron and crumbling concrete. You can almost sense the hands that wielded the tools that caused these scars ...

    That line of wall now forms the backdrop of the Topographie des Terrors, and the ruins of the Gestapo HQ its base. Originally it was the latter that was the focus of attention, with the excavated cellar, where many political prisoners were tortured and executed, turned into a memorial and museum, in the open air but protected from the elements by a canopy, detailing the history of repression under the Nazis. Since reunification a “proper” museum has been built here (opened May 2010), but on our visit we only looked at the displays still located in that cellar area. This is the “Berlin 1933–1945. Between Propaganda and Terror” exhibition, which focuses on Berlin during the “Third Reich” and looks at National Socialist policy in Berlin and its consequences for the city and its population. The displays were detailed and informative, if rather static, and for me were less emotionally engaging than those we had seen earlier the same day at the Holocaust Denkmal’s Information Centre. Instead I found my main interest in studying the few remaining traces of the Gestapo HQ foundations and reflecting on the horrors (terrors indeed) that were perpetrated here. Various information signs around the site explain the locations and the site’s use during the Nazi period.

    The museum is open every day from 10.00 am – 8.00 pm, and admission is free.

    A Wall destroyed Ruins of Gestapo HQ Information board at Topographie des Terrors Another view of the Wall here
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    Topography of Terror

    by Turtleshell Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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.

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    Topography of Terror

    by Greggor58 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    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.

    Topography of Terror,Berlin,Germany. Topography of Terror,Berlin,Germany.
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  • Topographie des Terrors

    by Mariajoy Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    This is the site where everything you ever heard about the holocaust, (and were sickened and horrified and gasped at in total disbelief), was meticulously planned to the nth degree by the NAZI leaders.

    It is possible to visit, but I didn't go in. Check the website for more details.

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    Topography of Terror

    by Bavavia Written Sep 16, 2010

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    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..

    entrance Open air museum..... views to the wall as well exhibit.... horrors.....chilling photographs

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    Topography of Terror Documentation Center

    by mvtouring Written Jul 26, 2010

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    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.

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    Topographie des Terror

    by lina112 Written Aug 4, 2009

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    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.

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    Topography of Terror

    by nicolaitan Written Feb 24, 2008

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    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.

    Gestapo Prison Ruins below, Berlin Wall above Gestapo Prison Ruins below, Berlin Wall above A panel from the Topography of Terror

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    Topographies des Terrors

    by smirnofforiginal Written Aug 22, 2007

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    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.

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