Geoff Walden

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Berlin, Part 2

Site of Hitler's Death and Burial, and other area sites

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With the Soviet Army closing in, Hitler reportedly committed suicide in his bunker below the garden of the Reichs Chancellery on 30 April 1945. This view shows the emergency exit to the bunker (the low square concrete block, left of center), outside the entrance of which the bodies of Hitler and his wife Eva Braun were reportedly cremated and buried. The conical tower was an armored ventilation and guard tower. The Führerbunker was underground, in the area behind and beneath the emergency exit and the conical tower. The earlier Vorbunker was beneath the rear of the Old Chancellery, the low white building in the right rear.  (Bundesarchiv Berlin)

The area of the Reichskanzlei has been completely changed. It was in East Berlin, and the Communist government razed the ruins and leveled the area, which was near the Berlin Wall. However, the bunkers remained underground. But in 1988-89, apartment buildings were built on the site of the Chancellery and along Wilhelmstraße, and the bunkers were destroyed in the process. The roof of the Führerbunker, which was reinforced concrete some 10 feet thick, was broken up and allowed to fall down into the rooms below, and the remains recovered. These remains are now under a parking lot near the angle in the 1988 street named An der Kolonnade, which runs between Wilhelmstraße and Voss-Straße. (This view is looking toward the apartment buildings along Wilhelmstraße from the end of In der Ministergärten Straße, approximately the same angle as the period view to the left. The bunker remains are beneath the parking area at the right side of the photo, beneath and beyond where the tour group is standing, and the emergency exit was a little to the left of the center of the street intersection.)

 

Previously unpublished photo of the Führerbunker emergency exit, probably taken in 1946.
 The Hitler bodies were cremated in the immediate right foreground.  (courtesy James D. Bass, Jr.)

View from the opposite angle, showing the collapsed conical tower and emergency exit block, after demolition by the Soviets in 1947.  (AP photo)

This area is now at the intersection of Gertrud-Kolmar-Straße and In der Ministergärten. The emergency exit would have been at the right edge of the modern photo. The Hitler and Goebbels bodies were burned in the general area where the red minivan is parked, and first buried a short distance to the right of there.

 

More modern views of the site (taken in 2005). The view on the left looks over the bunker site from the west, toward the Wilhelmstraße apartment buildings (see map below). The main part of the bunker site is between the street in the foreground and the building in the background. The photo on the right is a view from the opposite side, looking 180 degrees back. The remains of the Führerbunker are beneath this parking area, street, and grassy area. The street going straight into the distance (toward Ebertstraße) is a recent street called In der Ministergärten.

 

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These maps of central Berlin show the location of the Führerbunker site (in red). The map on the left is part of a 1939 Berlin city atlas (Berliner Morgenpost - "Berlin in der Tasche") - the Führerbunker is shown behind and partly beneath the old Reichs Chancellery building (the Vorbunker was beneath the reception hall in the rear of the building). The modern street map on the right shows this same location, now behind the 1988-89 apartment buildings on Wilhelmstraße (outlined in blue). The site is behind the apartments/businesses at Wilhelmstraße 90-92, beneath a paved parking area and adjacent grassy area. Some guides and web pages say the remains are under a playground, but that is incorrect - the actual location is farther out from the buildings than the playground area. The site is at the end of the recent street called In der Ministergärten (not shown on this map).  (1939 map in author's collection)

 

These comparison aerial photos from 1945 (left) and 2003 (right) show the Führerbunker site in red. The 1945 photo shows the reception hall of the Old Chancellery (outlined on the right), beneath which was the Vorbunker, and the Führerbunker site just to the left, with the emergency exit and ventilation tower outlined at the left edge.

 

Click here for a recent aerial photo of the area, with the Führerbunker site marked.
(many thanks to Gary Whelan!)

Click here to visit a site showing photos of the Führerbunker
during its destruction in 1989.

Click here to visit Chuck Anesi's page with photos of the Führerbunker site.

Click here to visit another page, with then-and-now photos of the Reichskanzlei sites.

Click here to visit another page with several photos of the Reichskanzlei and Führerbunker sites.

Other links to Führerbunker sites - http://www.hitlerbunker.com/, http://www.gimmewald.com/europe/bunker.html

 

The Wilhelmstraße side of the Reichskanzlei (Reichs Chancellery), seen about 1939 (left) and in 1945 (right). The Reichskanzlei was one of the premier projects of architect Albert Speer. It was heavily damaged by Allied bombing and the ruins were destroyed by the Soviets in the late 1940s.  (author's collection)

Although the building itself is gone, some remains can still be seen in Berlin. Red marble from the interior of the Reichskanzlei was used extensively in the building of the Mohrenstraße U-bahn (subway) station, and also for the Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park (below).

 

Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park, made of marble from the demolished Reichskanzlei.
(courtesy Robert Newton)

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The Hitler and Goebbels remains that the Soviets reportedly found in and around the bunker, as well as the body of Gen. Krebs, were taken to the Berlin suburb of Buch, and autopsied in this pathology clinic on 8 May 1945. They were then buried in the yard for a short time. The remains were later moved to Finow, northeast of Berlin, then to a village near Rathenau, west of Berlin. (Note - this information is based on Soviet records - most German accounts maintain that the Hitler bodies were burned to unrecognizable fragments.)

In February 1946 the remains were again moved, to a Soviet SMERSH facility in Magdeburg in East Germany. The remains were buried in the courtyards of 32 and 36 Westerndstraße, which is now Klausenerstraße. They remained buried there until April 1970, when the KGB had them disinterred and cremated, and the ashes scattered in the Elbe River nearby. This photo shows the courtyard of 32 Klausenerstraße.

 

The following sites contain further information on Hitler's death and the disposition of his remains:
http://new.mn.ru/english/issue.php?2003-22-9
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/725537.stm
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/chap1/deathofhitler.htm

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Another important body found a resting place in Berlin in May 1945, but this one took almost 30 years to come to light. During an attempt to escape the Russian cordon around Berlin, following Hitler's suicide, Nazi Party Leader Martin Bormann found himself in the midst of a tank battle at the Weidendamm Bridge, then among Russians (who did not recognize him) near the Humbolt Hafen. Shortly thereafter, he and his companion SS Dr. Ludwig Stumpfegger must have decided their escape was hopeless, and they apparently committed suicide by cyanide poisoning at the side of the Invalidenstraße near the Lehrter Stadtbahnhof station (see left-hand photo above). This was sometime in the early morning hours of May 2, 1945. Their bodies were seen there later that morning by Reich Youth Leader Artur Axmann. During construction in the area of the station arches (right-hand photo above) in December 1972, two bodies were unearthed. They were identified at the time by dental records as those of Martin Bormann and (likely) Dr. Stumpfegger, apparently hastily buried in unmarked graves just off the street. Due to the persistent rumors that Bormann survived the war, the family requested DNA tests be done on these remains in 1998, proving that the body found in Berlin was Martin Bormann's.  (See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/87376.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/87452.stm)

Note:  The Lehrter Stadtbahnhof has been demolished for construction of the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof (2002-2006), and this site is now no longer recognizable.

 


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Berlin was already the location of the burial site of one of most important heroes in the Nazi pantheon - Horst Wessel. Wessel was the leader of Sturm 5 of the SA (Sturmabteilungen - Storm Troopers) in a predominately Communist section of Berlin in the late 1920s. In January 1930 he was shot in his apartment by Communists, dying in February. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels turned him into a martyr, and Wessel's song "Die Fahne Hoch" (Raise High the Flag) became the unofficial Nazi Party marching anthem.  (left - Imre Lazar, "Der Fall Horst Wessel," Stuttgart, 1980; right - Erwin Reitmann, "Horst Wessel, Leben und Sterben," Berlin, 1933 (author's collection)

 

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After the Nazis came to power in 1933 they erected an elaborate monument at Horst Wessel's grave in the Nikolaifriedhof, which was the scene of yearly ceremonies.  (left - Bayerische Hauptstaatarchiv; right - author's collection)

 

Following the end of the war, in common with other Nazi shrines and graves, Wessel's grave marker was removed (some sources say his body was also removed). For many years, the marker remaining on the grave had faint letters on the back for Horst's father Ludwig. However, this marker was recently turned upright (see upper photos), and research and the discovery of a 1935 photo showing the back of Horst's cubic marker (below right) by Steven Stasi shows that the current stone was actually part of Horst's marker - the face used for his father Ludwig was actually the back of Ludwig's original marker. Close examination of the current marker clearly shows the same lettering for Pfarrer Dr. Ludwig Wessel and the dates, as seen in the 1935 photo, as well as the attachment points on the edge for the final lettering for Horst's brother Werner.  (upper and lower left - author's photos; others many thanks to Steven Stasi)  (MapQuest Map Link)
Note -- This grave marker fragment was removed and the grave site was leveled by cemetery officials in August 2013.

 

The photo above shows the crowd at Wessel's grave, likely during the erection of his Nazi marker in 1933. The mausoleums in the background can still be seen today, showing quite a bit of damage from the April-May 1945 battle for Berlin. (This spot is actually some distance from Wessel's grave, indicating how large the crowd was.) The photo below shows the same grave shrines in the background that were seen when looking over the Wessel grave plot and marker.

 

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After the Nazis came to power in 1933 they erected an elaborate monument at Horst Wessel's grave in the Nikolaifriedhof, which was the scene of yearly ceremonies.  (left - Bayerische Hauptstaatarchiv; right - author's collection)

 


 

World War II in Europe ended officially on 8 May 1945 in this building in the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst. In the room seen in the right-hand photo below, at the table in the foreground, Army Chief of Staff Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel and other German military leaders signed the unconditional surrender papers in the presence of leaders of the victorious Allied forces. The building is now a museum.  (above - U.S. Army Signal Corps Collection, National Archives)

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more info - www.museum-karlshorst.de


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A grisly reminder of Nazi tyranny in Berlin is the remains of Gestapo headquarters at No. 8 Prinz Albrecht-Straße, "the most feared address in the Third Reich." This wall and gate remain at one end of the courtyard, and prison cells in the excavated basement on the other end are now used for the "Topography of Terror" exhibit.

 

Another reminder in the area is the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial, a few miles north of Berlin near Oranianburg. This view of the entrance building shows the iron gate with its motto "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work Makes You Free."  (left - Bundesarchiv)

 

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Fence and guard tower at Sachsenhausen
(Gedenkstätte Sachsenhausen)

Similar view today

 

Click here to see a site near Berlin that was part of the Autobahn highway system.

"Topographie des Terrors" Exhibit -- http://www.topographie.de

Other concentration camp sites  --  Dachau, Buchenwald, Dora (Nordhausen), Flossenbürg, S/III Jonastal, Mauthausen (includes Gusen), Ebensee (Austria)

Click here for a MapQuest map link to Berlin.

   Continue to Part 3, Other Berlin Sites

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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