Berlin: Battle, Bunker and Touring the hidden Nazi History.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: WWII, Nazi Tours, Hitler bunker, Hitler Munich, Hitler: Berghof & Eagle's Nest, Nuremberg, Nazi leaders, Reichstag Fire.
Berlin exhibition evokes final months of WWII
The tense expression on Ilse Grassmann`s face belies the festive occasion. It`s Christmas 1944 and she is sitting at home with her three youngest children, the table bare of food or gifts. Her husband is due to be called up soon to join Nazi Germany`s hopeless attempt to win the war. Their 18-year-old son is already stationed in Denmark awaiting the Allied advance. The scene captures the mood most Germans felt during the final months of World War II. Few believed the claim by Adolf Hitler and his loyal followers that Germany could still achieve an `Endsieg,` or final victory. The picture is part of an exhibition in Berlin marking next year`s 70th anniversary of the end of World War II called `Germany 1945 - The Last Months of the War.`
Bones of 20 Nazi soldiers who died in the Battle of Seelow Heights in 1945 unearthed
They were among the last German troops to die as the Second World War neared its end. Killed as Soviet forces pushed towards Berlin in April 1945, their remains lay forgotten for nearly 70 years. Now the bones of 20 Nazi soldiers who died in the Battle of Seelow Heights – along with their helmets, boots and guns – have been unearthed by archaeologists. The volunteers, from the Association for the Recovery of the Fallen, marked the site with a wooden cross, topped with a soldier`s helmet. The bodies had lain buried in the mud of the battlefield at Klessin, some 50 miles east of Berlin, since mid-April 1945.
Photos made after the Fall of Berlin illuminate the sordid underworld where Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun died
Not long after Red Army troops won the brutal Battle of Berlin in the spring of 1945, effectively marking the end of the Second World War in Europe, LIFE magazine photographer William Vandivert descended into Adolf Hitler`s bunker beneath the ruined city. Soviet troops had already ransacked the subterranean warren — including the room where Hitler and his wife of 48 hours, Eva Braun, killed themselves on April 30 — leaving behind scenes of silent, chaotic upheaval masterfully chronicled by Vandivert in haunting black and white.
24 colour pictures of 1930s Berlin show carefree life in Hitler`s capital before war that reduced it to rubble
This collection of color photos of Berlin in 1937, taken by engineer Thomas Neumann and uncovered from Norwegian archives, show life in the German capital during a tumultuous decade. They capture scenes in the vibrant city, which was under the iron grip of Hitler and his Third Reich at the very height of his power. Yet just eight years later the city was in ruins as Russians and Allies occupied it in victory. But at the time these images were taken, Berlin was vibrant. Hitler had taken power after the collapse of the democratic Weimar Republic in 1933 as severe economic problems caused by the Great Depression drove Germans into the far-right party`s arms. As well as chilling pictures of buildings emblazoned with swastikas, there are scenes of ordinary life as Germans go about their business.
Hitler`s Berlin: Abused City by Thomas Friedrich - A detailed survey of Nazi architectural dreams
The 20th century is littered with the architectural dreams of megalomaniacs: Mussolini`s modernist recreation of imperial Rome, Saddam Hussein`s Mother of all Battles mosque and the Arc of Triumph, the monumental kitsch of Kim Jong-Il`s horrific Ryugyong hotel to name but a few. But there are none more deranged than Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer`s vision of Germania. Hitler wanted to tear down Berlin to rebuild his world capital, poring over the architectural plans endlessly. Chillingly, Speer wanted to make sure the buildings would also make great ruins. The realisation of Germania would have made Haussmann`s reconfiguration of Paris seem cosmetic.
Rare and unpublished photos from Hitler`s bunker and the ruins of Berlin
In April 1945, as Russian and German troops fought for control of the German capital, it became clear that the Allies would win the war in Europe. Not long after the battle ended, photographer William Vandivert was on the scene, photographing Berlin`s devastated landscape. He was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler`s Führerbunker after the fall of Berlin, and a handful of his pictures were published in LIFE magazine in July 1945. A few of those images are republished here; most of the pictures in this gallery, however, were never published in LIFE.
Touring the Topography of Terror museum and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin
As a Jew, I always have mixed feelings when visiting places like the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The location, officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, features grid pattern consisting of 2,711 unmarked concrete slabs and an underground information center.
One of the items in the information center is a postcard thrown from a train by a 12-year-old girl on her way to a concentration camp. It`s addressed to her father, in hopes that someone would find it and forward it to him. "Dear Father, I am saying goodbye to you before I die. We would so love to live, but they won`t let us and we will die... Goodbye forever." A Dutch farmer did find the postcard, stamped it, and sent it on.
Across town, the Topography of Terror musem - on the grounds of the Gestapo and SS headquarters and the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA) - documents how the Nazi terror regime functioned.
Touring Berlin`s underground bunkers with Berlin Underworlds (Berliner Unterwelten)
"To find the real Berlin you have to go underground," explains Dietmar Arnold, a member of a group called Berliner Unterwelten (Berlin Underworlds) that maps out the city`s subterranean topography. For 12 years, he has been leading expeditions and tours into the bunkers, tunnels and underground canals of the German capital, hoping that the Berlin underground becomes a tourist attraction, like the catacombs of Paris, the sewers of Vienna or the cisterns of Istanbul.
Touring Berlin`s WWII history, talking with Rochus Misch, the SS phone operator in the Fuehrerbunker
It is a World War II myth that in the last days of the Third Reich the telephone number of Hitler`s fuehrerbunker was public knowledge and Berliners constantly called Führer. Not so, says the SS man who knows. Rochus Misch was the SS operator of the telephone switchboard in the Fuehrerbunker - located under the New Reich Chancellery - and his cubicle was next to Hitler`s conference room. "Goebbels was never reluctant to talk to the public. He would often speak at great length, assuring them that all was not lost. Goebbels could be charming. We in the bunker hoped he would be the next Fuhrer," Misch recalls.
Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler`s Capital 1939-1945 by Roger Moorhouse
"Berlin at War" provides a detailed account of daily life in the Nazi capital 1939-1945. Using unpublished memoirs and interviews Moorhouse builds a picture of hardship and despair in the nerve centre of the Third Reich, where few were brave or insane enough to resist the Führer. As the Nazis began to lose the war and starvation set in, the black market flourished. Under the cover of blackouts, rapes and murder were routine, and gangs looted government food supplies. Meanwhile Hitler Youth threw themselves into the last-ditch defence of Berlin against the Red Army, while some were mobilised into the Volkssturm (People`s Army).
Photographs of postwar Berlin discovered in the archives of a Berlin publishing house
Forgotten for decades, a collection of post-war photographs from 1945 has been unearthed. The images reveal the devastation of the Nazi capital and the desperation of the city in the weeks after the end of World War II. The soldier with the Iron Cross medal on his chest lies in the street. His steel helmet has rolled away. The Soviet soldiers are turning him onto his back and cleaning their weapons. It`s a scene from the last days of the World War II, taken somewhere in the center of Berlin. For decades this photograph, along with thousands of others, lay neglected in the archives of a Berlin publishing house.
"Topography of Terror" documentation center opened at the former Gestapo and SS headquarters in Berlin
The new "Topography of Terror" documentation center in Berlin at the site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters showcases the faces of the unknown perpetrators of the Holocaust. The index cards cover an entire wall containing names and handwritten notes. They are the details of some of the 7,000 employees of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA), the merger of the SS paramilitary group and Gestapo - the men who worked at the core of the Nazi terror regime. This was where the masterminds behind the Nazi crimes, such as SS leader Heinrich Himmler and SD chief Reinhard Heydrich, had their offices.
The Berlin Underworlds offers tours of WWII, Nazi era bunkers and tunnels
Founded in 1997, the Berlin Underworlds is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Berlin`s vast network of underground spaces. It funds its projects by giving tours of bunkers, air raid shelters and catacombs. The 300-plus members include history buffs, hobbyists and scholars of all ages. Since many of Berlin`s underground structures were developed during the Nazi era, the group`s main work is based around World War II. One popular tour - Classic Tour - guides you through a wartime bomb shelter is a history lesson from the perspective of German civilians living in fear of Allied bombs.
Berlin Battlefield Guide: Third Reich and Cold War by Tony Tissier
British Army military policeman Tony le Tissier is one of the finest historians of the Battle of Berlin. As the last British commandant of Spandau prison he lived in Berlin and explored its surrounds. All of that knowledge is combined into "Berlin Battlefield Guide" - which is a tour guide to the Oder and Berlin battlefields. Organised into 15 day trips, it is essential to anyone visiting the city and wishing to experience Georgy Zhukov`s triumph and Adolf Hitler`s Götterdämmerung. Supplied with extracts of topical topographic maps and well illustrated with photos – both then and now - the book is critical to understanding the battle of Berlin.
Life in Berlin after the World War II ended - Avoiding the Red Army soldiers
Ursula Strumm`s family returned to Berlin when their father purchased a restaurant. With bombs raining from the sky all the time, and the Soviet Red Army closing in on Berlin, time for the Berliners was very short indeed. And one day, hiding in a basement, they heard someone walking in the restaurant and knew that the Russian soldiers had arrived. A soldier descended the stairs and grabbed Gertrud, Ursula`s 13yo sister, to violate her. "I gave the man a pack of cigarettes. He was so mad he tore them up and threw them at my feet and left," Ursula, then 10 years old, recalls. The only way to stop the Russian soldiers violating Gertrud was to pretend she had scarlet fever.
Berlin to turn Tempelhof airport into park after years of debate
Berlin`s government will spend 61 million euros converting the Tempelhof airport into a garden in central Berlin which, at 1 square mile, will be just under the size of New York`s Central Park. Spokesman Marko Rosteck said the monolithic limestone terminal, designed by Ernst Sagebiel, will be saved. The site was originally a military training ground, and in 1909 American flight pioneer Orville Wright used it for aviation experiments. The debate over Tempelhof`s future was heated and continued up to the moment the loss-making airport was shut down on Oct 31, 2008.
Huge tunnels show Adolf Hitler`s megalomaniac vision for nazi capital Germania
Three vast tunnels were opened under Berlin, offering a glimpse of Adolf Hitler`s vision for the capital of Nazi Germany. The tunnels were built in 1938 as part of a transport network beneath a series of buildings designed by Nazi architect Albert Speer. The overground plans included boulevards, huge buildings, and the 290-metre high Great Hall. Hitler called the concept "Berlin - the capital of the world." "The tunnels... were part of Speer`s grand plans, what we now call `Germania`," said historian Dietmar Arnold, head of the Berlin Underground Association and bunker tour guide, who took journalists on a rare visit into the dank tunnels.
Touring Berlin`s endangered bunkers and underworld
Berlin`s greatest tourist attraction is the one that`s not there: the Führerbunker where Adolf Hitler spent his final days. A tour guide told: "If I could sell tickets to that thing, I`d charge 100 euros a ticket and... hundreds of people would line up..." If you`re interested in getting underground you should soon, as limited budgets may soon claim several of the bunkers. --- Deep underneath Gesundbrunnen train station tour guide Brito Morales, who leads tours for Berlin Underworlds, warns: "Don`t touch the paint, it`s toxic. This bunker only offered the illusion of protection. To save on building costs, the Nazis only built the walls 120cm thick."
Rescuing Berlin`s most famous WW2 ruin - The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
West Berlin`s most famous landmark and a touching reminder of the WW2 horrors is threatened by collapse - because of traffic vibration. When the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was put down by a British bombing raid all that remained was its ruined tower. Still, Berliners resisted plans to demolish the badly shattered belfry, which rises nearly 70 meters over the city. The spire of the church, built in 1895 by Kaiser Wilhelm II to honor his grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm I, is nicknamed "Hollow Tooth" and saved for posterity. Charles Jeffrey Gray, a British pilot who bombed Nazi Germany, was one of the first to call for the rescue of the famous wartime ruin.
Traute Grier`s account of post-war Berlin: How Russian soldiers violated women and girls
When the bombs rained down on Berlin on April 28, 1945, my mother and I hid in the bunker in Hermannsplatz. "What on earth will happen next? What if the Russians come, those beastly... people?" I wondered shaking with fear. Suddenly, a pipe burst and the bunker filled with water. And then we ran: from house to house, fleeing the Russian Katyusha rockets. And then the Soviet soldiers came. Filled with hatred, they took whatever they wanted. In our house a woman and her daughter were violated repeatedly. This sort of thing took place quite often. In August 1945 the Western Allies moved into Berlin and the city was divided up. Luckily, we lived in the American sector.
Giant Berlin bunker, designed by Albert Speer in 1942, turned into a gallery
Adolf Hitler`s architect built it to enable thousands to survive for Nazi Germany`s "final victory" - but now the last huge (virtually indestructible) air-raid shelter still standing in Berlin has been reopened as an art gallery. The fortress-like building on Reinhardtstrasse is still marked with WWII bullet holes. It was constructed by the Nazi architect Albert Speer in 1942 and used to shelter 2,000 people each night from Allied bombing raids. After being left empty for years, the 5-storey, 120-room complex was reopened as a private gallery containing 80 contemporary works by 57 artists.
Adolf Hitler`s gigantic plans for nazi Berlin [video]
Adolf Hitler’s megalomaniac plans to fill Berlin with giant buildings has been uncovered in a new exhibition. Mythos Germania has elaborated plans for bombastic architecture by Albert Speer, which Adolf Hitler called "Berlin - the capital of the world".
Interview: German Officer Siegfried Knappe survived the Battle of Berlin
Berlin was a stout place for a fight. It was large, modern and well-planned, which had allowed it to remain less damaged than other cities. Wide avenues served as killing zones against Soviet tanks and infantry. Many of the defenders were fighting in the hope that they could hold the Soviets long enough for the Western armies to occupy Berlin. (Q) You went into Adolf Hitler`s bunker a number of times. Initially, the guards took away your pistol, but toward the end they stopped... you had the opportunity to shoot Hitler, and while you thought about it you decided not to. Could you elaborate on that?
Germania: Minature scale model of Hitler`s vision of a super-city for the Reich
Adolf Hitler called it Germania, his vision of Berlin as a city full of marble architecture, capital of the Nazi-ruled world. "Berlin will only be comparable with the Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians or Romans. What is London, what is Paris by comparison?" the Nazi leader said. For decades Hitler`s plans were considered as so crazed that they were limited to specialist books. The taboo was broken as Peer Steinbrück, the German Finance Minister, revealed a scale model of Germania. Centrepiece of the display was the domed Great Hall, designed by architect Albert Speer to hold a crowd of 150,000.
From Nazi Military Court to Posh Apartments - Third Reich ruins
Adolf Hitler`s military courts were infamous for their liberal use of the death penalty. Now, a Berlin courthouse where Nazi judges sentenced Third Reich dissidents has been converted to an apartment building. From 1936 to the middle of World War II, it housed one of Nazi Germany`s military courts. From their bench in the building, Nazi judges sentenced over 1,400 conscientious objectors and resistance fighters to die, including members of "Rote Kapelle" (Red Orchestra). "This project shows an incomprehensible forgetfulness ... when it comes to the past," says Manfred Krause, of the Forum Justizgeschichte, a group focusing in the misdeeds of Nazi courts.
Berlin bunker expers found Nazi military academy in Teufelsberg (Article no longer available from the original source)
Experts in Berlin`s WWII bunkers have discovered a forgotten Nazi military school designed by Nazi architect Albert Speer. It`s buried under a man-made hill in the Teufelsberg (Devil`s Mountain), a 116-metre-high mound which was constructed from the 26m cubic metres of the wartime rubble. The unfinished building, for which Adolf Hitler laid the foundation stone in 1937, was meant to become part of Germania, the huge capital of the 1,000-Year Reich. The British occupation forces planned to turn the building into their headquarters, until it proved too difficult. Instead, half of Berlin`s rubble was poured on top and so the Teufelsberg was born.
Underground tours in Berlin Nazi-era bunkers, shelters and tunnels
For decades after World War II, 300 nazi-era bunkers that had survived allied bombers and Soviet artillery fire lay ignored in Berlin. Citizens were kept in ignorance of the precise whereabouts of Adolf Hitler`s fuehrerbunker - until the Berlin Underworlds Association break a taboo by erecting a shield pinpointing the bunker site. German authorities were nervous the Führerbunker, off the Wilhelmstrasse, might become a shrine for neo-Nazis. Similar thinking led to Spandau Prison being torn down after the suicide of Rudolf Hess in 1987. Nowadays, in addition to maintaining an underground history museum, the association arranges tours of WW2 bunkers.
Tours of Berlin’s underground, including WWII bunkers, draw crowds
This year the Berlin Underworlds Association is expected to guide more than 100,000 visitors on special underground tours. More than 300 bunkers remain from World War 2, and while many are filled with debris or blocked, others are in pristine condition. Last June, the Berlin Underworlds Association broke a German taboo by erecting a marker in the city center that points out the location of the most notorious underground site: the Fuehrerbunker, the fortified shelter where Adolf Hitler sought refuge from Allied bombers and then killed himself. During WW2, Berlin had 1,000 underground bunkers.
Buildings in the Berlin underground (Article no longer available from the original source)
Berlin`s Olympic Stadium, AEG-Test tunnel, Spree tunnel Stralau, Axis crossing Tiergarten, Gasometerbunker Fichtestraße (The Fichtebunker in Kreuzberg is the only surviving large bunker of its kind in Germany), Potsdamer Platz, The Tempelhof airport (planned by the architect Ernst Sagebiel and built 1937-1941. At the time of its completion, it was the worlds second largest building, featuring extensive subterranean installations. The airport was part of Albert Speer`s plans for the German capital. According to Hitler`s ideas, Berlin was to become the capital of Europe and be renamed `Germania` by 1950.
A woman in Berlin as it was sacked by the Red Army 1945 (Article no longer available from the original source)
The diary of "A Woman in Berlin: April-June 1945" records the life in cellars when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany collapsed as Soviet armies moved into Berlin, offering view of a terrifying onslaught. If food was the main concern, the other was the fear of rape. "One young man in grey trousers turns out on close inspection to be a woman, hoping to save herself from the attention of Red Army soldiers. Others try to make themselves appear old and dirty." As social historians have argued, rape is a strategy of war: Those actions committed in 1945, even against old women and pubescent girls, were acts of violence, an expression of revenge.
In the bowels of Berlin`s past - Nazi-era bunkers (Article no longer available from the original source)
Under modern buildings shooting skywards from Berlin`s avenues and squares, the layered history of the city is being unpeeled by historians and archaeologists - with sometimes controversial results. From Nazi-era bunkers to Cold War nuclear fallout shelters, underground Berlin is now breaking surface - and serving as a growing tourist attraction. "Every time, the numbers we show round are growing," says Michael Foedrowitz, a historian and consultant with the Berliner Unterwelten, a group of historians, archaeologists and urbanists which has been opening up underground Berlin to visitors.
Finally Filling a Vacant Lot Ravaged by Tides of Terror
During the Nazi era the site was the headquarters of the Gestapo, perhaps the most dreaded of Hitler`s secret police. Berlin took a long while to figure out what to do with the spot where top Nazis like Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich had their offices. It has always been a worrisome task for the Germans to construct places dedicated to portraying the Nazis, in part because of the fear that they could turn into pilgrimage sites for neo-Nazis. The places most closely identified with Hitler, his chancellery on Wilhelmstrasse and the famous underground bunker, are destroyed and unmarked. Most Berliners do not even know where they were.
Elena Rzhevskaya, woman who held secret evidence of Hitler`s identity
In the smouldering ruins of Berlin, Elena Rzhevskaya stooped by a radio to hear the announcement of the Nazis` final capitulation. But the young interpreter from Soviet military reconnaissance was subdued as her comrades across the city broke into wild celebrations. Tucked in the satin-lined box she was clutching were the flesh-specked jawbones of Adolf Hitler, wrenched from his corpse just hours earlier by a Russian pathologist. A burnt body thought to be the Fuhrer`s had been found by a Red Army soldier near his bunker days before, but Joseph Stalin ordered the discovery be concealed. It was not until the 1960s that her secret would be revealed.
Hitler`s nurse Erna Flegel breaks silence - Was in berlin bunker
Survivor of Adolf Hitler`s wartime bunker in Berlin has been tracked down. Mrs Erna Flegel said she stayed in the bunker after Hitler killed himself and was there when Soviet troops arrived. She said Hitler was so paranoid that he even suspected spies had filled his cyanide capsule with false poison. From January 1943 until the end of the war her task was to give medical treatment to Hitler and his inner circle. She was interviewed by US secret service agents in 1945, but otherwise has kept silent about her World War II experiences.
Capturing the heart of Adolf Hitler`s Third Reich
Two days after Adolf Hitler killed himself in his bunker underneath the Reichskanzlei, the fighting finally stopped in Berlin - a city then in ruins from air bombardment and the shelling of Soviet artillery. Lothar Loewe, a member of the Hitler Youth drafted into the armed forces recalls how everybody tried to escape from Berlin and surrender to the Western powers. After the fall of Berlin, the war was not over - some units of the German army continued fighting for another week, and some deserters were even shot a day after the unconditional surrender was signed.
How Hitler spent his last days - Life in the Bunker
After 9 months in Hitler`s bunker, with Berlin about to fall, Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven was allowed to leave. "As Hitler shook my hand and wished me luck, I saw a glint of envy in his eye," says the former Wehrmacht aide-de-camp. A day later Hitler was dead and he was in a canoe on Havel River trying to reach the last German-held position in Berlin. For the last few months of the war Hitler lived in the fetid air of the bunker occasionally going outside to play with his dog. Hitler got up at around midday. The main event was the afternoon military meeting. It would be announced, "Meine Herren, der Führer kommt", and everyone made the Nazi salute.
Fully armed Nazi bomber planes buried below East Berlin airport
Papers among thousands of files captured from the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, claim tons of live WW2 munitions were buried in concrete bunkers beneath the runways of Schoenefeld airport in East Berlin. Not only did the commissars intern munitions beneath the runways, but also entire Nazi fighter planes, all fuelled and fully bombed-up. "They would have stuffed them anywhere they could - there was simply too much stuff to blow up all at once," said Karl-Heinz Eckhardt, a Berlin historian. "There was a warren of massive Nazi bunkers beneath the site of the present airport that would have suited their purposes."
Hitler`s "suicide bunker" unearthed in Berlin
Workmen in the German capital, Berlin, have unearthed the remains of the bunker where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is said to have committed suicide. Historians have always known the site of Hitler`s hide-away, which was sealed off by the Red Army after Berlin capitulated to the Russians. The bunker, just to the south of the Bradenburg Gate is where Hitler and his new wife Eva Braun are thought to have taken their lives in the final days of WWII.