Geoff Walden

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Berlin

   This page will feature only a few of the sites associated with the capital of the Third Reich. Those wishing further information should consult After the Battle's Berlin Then and Now, by Tony Le Tissier (London: Battle of Britain Prints, 1997 edition).

Click here for a MapQuest map link to Berlin.

Click here to visit a page about the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the Olympic grounds today.

 

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Victorious Wehrmacht soldiers parade under the Brandenburg Gate and along Unter Den Linden, following the 1939 campaign in Poland.
(author's collection)

Similar view today. During the era of the Berlin Wall,
this area was off limits in East Berlin.

 

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The Brandenburg Gate was severely damaged during the war. Here is the scene in May 1945, with a wrecked SS Kubelwagen left beside it. The same view on a busy summer day in 2000, with the restored Reichstag building in the background.  (Bundesarchiv Berlin)

 

The famous Hotel Adlon near the Brandenburg Gate is seen here decorated for Berlin's 700th anniversary celebration in 1937. The hotel was recently remodeled and is again Berlin's premier luxury accommodation.  (period postcard)

 

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The Berlin Dom (Cathedral) was also the scene of Nazi parades. In the photo on the left, a parade through the Lustgarten in front of the Dom in 1933. The Dom was badly damaged by bombing during the war, and was not rebuilt to match exactly the pre-war building.  (from "Deutschland erwacht - Werden, Kampf und Sieg der NSDAP," Hamburg, Cigaretten-Bilderdienst, 1933)

 

More period and comparison views of the Berlin Dom. On the left is an undated Nazi gathering and on the right is a harvest festival similar to Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest).  (from Stanley McClatchie, "Sieh: Das Herz Europas," Berlin, Hoffmann, 1937)

 

The Berlin Christmas Market, with the Cathedral in the background.  (period postcard)

 

Adjacent to the Dom is the Lustgarten, a large open area flanked by museums. On the left and below can be seen the May Pole (Maibaum) with the Altes Museum in the background, during a May Day celebration.  (left - Hubert Schrade, "Bauten des Dritten Reiches," Leipzig, 1937)

 

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The Neue Wache (New Guard) was originally a royal guard house erected in 1816. It became a war memorial in 1931, and was the focus of many parades down Unter den Linden during the Third Reich era. The building to the right is the Zeughaus (Arsenal), which houses a history museum today.  (author's collection)

 

Left - Changing the guard at the Neue Wache, from a 1936 postcard view. Right - Heroes Memorial Day in 1935.  (left - author's collection; right - Bundesarchiv)

 

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Two different armies at the Neue Wache. On the left, Austrian soldiers parade following the Anschluß of March 1938 (the Berlin Arsenal (Zeughaus) appears in the background). On the right, East German honor guards keep watch in the 1980s.  (photo on left from Gerd Rühle, ed., "Das Dritte Reich," Berlin, 1938 ed. (author's collection); photo on right courtesy R. Fogt).

 

On the left is the ceremonial guard from the 1st Company of Hitler's bodyguard Leibstandarte at the Neue Wache(Hans Quassowski, ed., "Zwölf Jahre: 1.Kompanie  SS Adolf Hitler," Rosenheim, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989). For another period photo of the Neue Wache, see http://www.silentwall.com/SceneryBuildings66.html.

 

The Zeughaus (Arsenal) now houses the German Historical Museum (for more info see http://www.dhm.de/ENGLISH/zeu_hist.html).  (Hans Quassowski, ed., "Zwölf Jahre: 1.Kompanie  SS Adolf Hitler," Rosenheim, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989)

 

German Pzkw. I tanks parade down Unter den Linden during a visit by Admiral Miklós Horthy, leader of Hungary, on 25 August 1938. The Neue Wache and the Zeughaus can be seen in the right background.  (Gerd Rühle, ed., "Das Dritte Reich," Berlin, 1938 ed.)

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Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's Air Ministry building on Wilhelmstraße was a classic example of Nazi architecture. The building somehow escaped major damage during the war, and was restored by the East German government. Its appearance today is almost exactly as in the 1930s (minus the Eagles and Swastikas).  (period postcard)

 

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Architectural model of the Air Ministry complex.   (from Official Catalog of the 1st German Architecture and Crafts
Exhibition, in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, January-March 1938 (author's collection)

 

View of the Luftfahrtsministerium at the corner of Wilhelmstraße and Leipziger Straße.  (from Hubert Schrade, "Bauten des Dritten Reiches," Leipzig, 1937)

 

The large eagle-and-swastika Hoheitszeichen were by sculptor Walter Lemcke. Lemke also did the large eagle at the Prinz-Albrecht-Straße side of the building (bottom).  (top and bottom from Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938; below from "Deutsches Volk - Deutsche Heimat," Munich, 1940)

 

The recessed entryway on Wilhelmstraße seen in the photos above figured in the funeral service for Luftwaffe ace Werner Mölders, who had died in an air crash in November 1941. Seen in the center of this photo are, left to right - Martin Bormann, Julius Schaub, Adolf Hitler, Dr. Karl Brandt, and Field Marshall Erhard Milch.  (period photo)

 

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The ornate Ehrensaal, or Honor Hall, of the Air Ministry.  (from "Kunst in Deutschen Reich")

Other decorative sculptures in the Air Ministry Building were by Arnold Waldschmidt.  (from Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

Above - building the Luftfahrtsministerium in 1935, and a completed view. Below - views of the courtyard, showing some of the relief carvings that are now covered over.  (Bundesarchiv)

 

Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda stood prominently on Wilhelmstraße, across the street from the old Reichs Chancellery. During building construction just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a dreary East German building was erected in the open area just on Wilhelmstraße, blocking the front of the old Ministry building. This modern building is today a youth activities building, and access to the old Propaganda Ministry building behind it can be difficult. However, the entrance shown here was on Mauerstraße.  (from Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen in Neuen Reich," Bayreuth, 1938)

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Wehrmacht headquarters on Bendlerstraße was where Army officers who opposed Hitler planned the attempt on his life on 20 July 1944. After the attempt failed, the leaders were rounded up and shot in the courtyard of this building; among these was Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, who had planted the bomb. Today the building houses the Memorial and Museum of the German Resistance. The street has been renamed Stauffenbergstraße.  (Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand)

 

Left - an SA column marches past the Anhalter Bahnhof (train station). The station was severely damaged by bombing during the war, and the ruins were pulled down in the 1960s, leaving only part of the front façade.  (Anhalter Bunker Museum)

 

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The Anhalter Bahnhof air-raid shelter, seen from the side closest to the Bahnhof. The air-raid shelter serves today as a haunted house and bunker museum. (My advice if you visit - skip the "haunted house," and proceed directly to the bunker museum on the lower floor.) (Anhalter Bunker Museum)

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Horst Wessel was a member of the SA who was murdered by Communists in 1930. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels turned him into a Nazi martyr and hero, and Wessel's song "Die Fahne Hoch!" became the favorite Nazi marching song. After the Nazi takeover of the government in 1933, Bülowplatz was renamed Horst Wessel Platz, and the Communists were thrown out of their headquarters at the Karl Liebknecht Haus, which became SA headquarters and a shrine to Horst Wessel. (Click here to see the site of Wessel's grave in the nearby Nikolaifriedhof cemetery.)  (period photo from Imre Lazar, "Der Fall Horst Wessel," Stuttgart, 1980)

 

The Gasthaus Zum Nußbaum was a popular inn that figured prominently in an episode during the political battle for Berlin in 1929, when Horst Wessel and his SA Troop ventured into the heart of the Communist stronghold of the Fischerkietz district. Here, at the Zum Nußbaum, Wessel faced down a crowd of Communist supporters and proclaimed the area free of the "Red Menace," all without any bloodshed. This part of Berlin was practically destroyed by bombing in 1943-45, but the popular Zum Nußbaum was rebuilt as a copy in the mid-1980s in the nearby Nikolai section, adjacent to the famous Nikolai Church, where Horst's father Ludwig had served as pastor.  (period photo from Erwin Reitmann, "Horst Wessel - Leben und Sterben," Potsdam, 1933)

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Berlin was protected by concentrated anti-aircraft defenses, including three huge concrete flak towers. Flakturm 1 (also called the "Zoo Bunker") in the Tiergarten was completely destroyed after the war. Flakturm 3 in Humbolthain Park (shown here) was only partially destroyed after the war. The massive concrete walls of the front half of Flakturm 3 remain today in Humbolthain Park. (The metal railings seen below are not period.) The main gun positions at each corner were for long-range twin 12.8cm flak guns; the smaller pedestals on the level below were for smaller caliber guns of shorter range (2.0cm and 3.7cm).  (private collections) (MapQuest Map Link)

 

  Inside the upper level of the Humbolthain Flakturm 3, just below the gun platforms. This part of the ruined structure can be visited during a tour by the Berlin Unterwelten group.

 

  On the left, gun crews load one of the 12.8cm guns in a Berlin flak tower. Ammunition was lifted to the gun platform on the top of the tower by a hoist (seen in the right foreground), and carried by hand to the guns from there. The guns had automatic rammer mechanisms to load the cartridges into the breech. On the right is one of the smaller gun positions on the Friedrichshain tower (Flakturm 2) - a Flakvierling four-barrel 2.0cm gun, for engaging low-flying aircraft.  (Bundesarchiv)

 

Flakturm 2 was located in Friedrichshain Park. Following the war it was mostly destroyed and buried in rubble from the bombed city. Today only a small part of one of the upper parapets can be seen above the current ground level.  (Bundesarchiv Berlin)  (MapQuest Map Link)

Click here to visit a page with more info and photos of the Berlin flak towers (in German).

Click here to see the flak towers in Vienna.

 

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Lichterfelde Kaserne, southwest of the downtown area, was an old Prussian cadet training school. The Nazis took it over in 1933, and it became the headquarters of Hitler's body guard regiment, the Leibstandarte-SS "Adolf Hitler." In this December 1935 photo, Hitler and LSSAH commander Sepp Dietrich review the Leibstandarte. The U.S. Army took the compound over in 1945, and it served the Berlin Brigade as Andrews Barracks until 1993, when it was returned to the German government. The older part of the barracks area seems mostly deserted now.  (National Archives, RG 242-HB)

 

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Other buildings on the Kaserne were built in the 1930s especially for the Leibstandarte.  This was their headquarters building, with their name above the main entrance. The two stone guards, or "Reichsrottenführer," stood eternal watch. The newer part of the compound is now a German government archives. The Soviets removed the eagle and swastika before the Americans arrived, and the US troops removed the Leibstandarte name. The "Reichsrottenführer" guards were not removed, but covered with concrete; they remain today on their pedestals, although hidden from view.  (Wenn alle Brüder schweigen, 1981 ed.)  (MapQuest Map Link)

Click here to view other period images of the LSSAH Lichterfelde Barracks.

 

Adolf Hitler had plans to completely rebuild Berlin. Few of these architectural plans were realized, but one that saw work was the Fehrbelliner Platz. This was a series of office buildings in a semi-circle around an open area, featuring decorative sculptures by Werner March. Most of these decorative works are now gone, but some remain.  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

Hitler's grand scheme was to redesign Berlin into "Germania," which would be the capital of a Germanized Europe following a successful World War II. These grand plans included a huge triumphal arch and an immense domed building, with new government buildings along redesigned North-South and East-West Axis boulevards. Almost none of this work was started, but one project can still be seen above-ground (some tunnels beneath the Tiergarten also remain from the "Germania" plans). The structure seen above was placed to test the ability of the sandy Berlin soil to support the weight of the triumphal arch. It was a large concrete mass with apparatus to test and measure its movement relative to the ground level. It can be found today off Dudenstraße near Tempelhof airport.  (photos courtesy Jacqueline Wilson)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

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One of the most recognizable sights in the western part of Berlin today is the spire of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächniskirche (Memorial Church). This view shows the church in the early 1900s. The church was severely damaged during the many bombing attacks on the city. The ruins of the spire and transept were left as a memorial to the victims of World War II.  (author's collection)

 

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Berlin hosted the 1936 Olympic Games, a propaganda coup for Adolf Hitler. The view of the stadium remains much the same on the outside as it was in 1936, although the Sonnenrad (Sun Wheel) symbol has been removed from the right-hand tower. The interior was completely modernized for the 2006 soccer World Cup.  (period photo from Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

Click here to view other period images of the Olympic and Reichsportsfeld area in Berlin.

 


 

Berlin was the scene of intense building-to-building fighting, with tank battles and artillery barrages, during the final days of World War II in late April and early May 1945. Remaining German units were thrown in piecemeal to try to stem the tide of the Soviet advances. On 29 April 1945, two King Tiger (Tiger II) tanks of the 503rd SS Heavy Tank Battalion were stationed in Potsdamer Platz. Tank Nr. 101 seen here was commanded by SS-Oberscharführer (E-6, equivalent to U.S. Staff Sergeant) Karl-Heinz Turk. Turk's tank destroyed several Soviet tanks over a three day period in the Potsdamer Platz. With damage to his track and almost out of ammunition, Turk and his crew abandoned the tank in front of the Potsdamer Bahnhof, where it was later photographed with its turret turned toward the east.

This is an example of the difficulty of matching many wartime photos to the current Berlin locations. The Potsdamer Bahnhof was badly damaged during the war and later torn down. Most of the other buildings on Potsdamer Platz were demolished by the Soviets because the Berlin Wall ran right through the center of the square. When the rebuilding of Berlin began in the 1990s, building blocks and even entire streets in this area were changed from the 1945 configuration. Turk's Tiger tank sat in the foreground of the modern photo, about where the line of cobblestones crosses the paved area (this line of cobblestones marks the location of the Berlin Wall). The Potsdamer Bahnhof was located in the near distance, just beyond the grassy mound.

 

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This photo is often labeled as showing the famous Weidendammer Bridge, scene of one of the final tank actions of the war on the night of 1-2 May 1945. However, it is actually the Moltke Bridge, some 1300 meters to the west. As the Soviet tanks came onto the bridge from the north (other side of the bridge in these photos), they could see their goal of the Reichstag building straight ahead, only 600 meters away.  (Bundesarchiv Berlin)

An exact corresponding view is not possible today, as the building from which the period photo was taken no longer exists, necessitating a modern view from street level. This area remains under construction as part of the new Berlin.  (MapQuest Map Link)

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The Reichstag building had not been restored by the Nazis since the 1933 fire that gutted the interior, but the Soviets considered it a prime target in the battle for Berlin, and artillery and tank fire took their toll on the building. In the foreground of the photo on the right above is an 88mm Flak gun. The Reichstag has been completely restored, with a new glass dome, and the German government once again meets there.  (Bundesarchiv Koblenz) (MapQuest Map Link)

 

Sans Souci, the palace of Frederick the Great in Potsdam, was a favored spot for visiting military units to get a group photo taken on the steps. On the left, a group from the 1. Kompanie of the Leibstandarte-SS-Adolf-Hitler poses in August 1942. On the right is a Fallschirmjäger (Paratrooper) unit.  (left - "Der Freiwillige"; right - private collection)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

Rstone.gif (1273 bytes)   Continue to Part 2 of the Berlin page, featuring photos of the location of Hitler's bunker, some of the burial sites of the Hitler remains (also Goebbels and Bormann), and other area sites.

   Continue to Part 3, other Berlin area sites - Grunewald RAD center, Tempelhof airport, Humboldt University, Kummersdorf Proving Grounds, Zossen Bunker Site

Other Berlin pages on the Third Reich in Ruins page:
Reichsportsfeld and site of the 1936 Olympic Games
Lichterfelde Barracks - home of the Leibstandarte SS Bodyguards

Other Berlin web sites:

World War II in Berlin  --  http://www.geocities.com/isanders_2000/ww2index.htm

Berlin Air-raid Shelters, Flak Towers and Bunkers  --   http://www.geocities.com/lupinpooter/berlin.htm

Berliner Unterwelten e.V. (exploring Berlin underground)   --  http://www.berliner-unterwelten.de/

 

Third Reich in Ruins, http://www.thirdreichruins.com/

All contents copyright © 2000-2014, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
from the collection of Geoffrey R. Walden, except where specifically noted.  Please respect my property rights,
and the rights of others who have graciously allowed me to use their photos on this page,
and do not copy these photos or reproduce them in any other way.

This page is intended for historical research only, and no political or philosophical aims should be assumed. 
Nothing on this page should be construed as advice or directions to trespass on private or posted property.

This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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