Berlin in Trümmern - 1945 -

William Vandivert (1912 – 1989) from American LIFE Time magazine, was the first Western photojournalist to reach Berlin and to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker, after the fall of the Third Reich in May 1945. He took a series of photographs including these excellent aerial views showing devastation and bombed out buildings over wide area following Allied capture of the city. 33-year-old Vandivert reported to LIFE: “found almost every famous building a shambles. In the center of town GIs could walk for blocks and see no living thing, hear nothing but the stillness of death, smell nothing but the stench of death.” 

On 9-10 July 1945 he took off from Tempelhof airport aboard an US liaison aircraft and overflew the Nazi capital to shot the devastation caused by Allied bombs. A handful of his pictures of the ruined city and the bunker were published in LIFE magazine on 23 July 1945.

These incredible pictures show how the combined British and American aerial bombings and the final battle with the Soviet armies had left the German capital.


Aerial view of Tempelhof airport with its so characteristic terminal canopy-style roof, now part of the American occupation sector of Berlin.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

July 1945: aerial view of Tempelhof aerodrome with USAAF C-47s transport aircraft and several liaison planes parked on the airfield's tarmac.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

'Götterdämmerung'Platz des 18. MärzBrandenburger Tor and Pariser Platz seen from Tiergarten.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Pariser Platz and Unter den Linden avenue looking east. In the foreground the bombed French embassy at left, the US embassy and destroyed Adlon Hotel at right of the photo. Notice the big Soviet leader Stalin portrait. 

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Pariser Platz and Unter den Linden with the ruined Adlon Hotel and Wilhelmstraße.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The ruined Reichstag building with Friedrichstraße Bahnhof in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of the ruined Reichstag building at Königsplatz with Krolloper and Tiergarten in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of the burnt out and bombed Berliner Dom and the Lustgarten, with the Rotes Rathaus and Nikolaiviertel in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of the Ost-West-Achse across the Tiergarten looking west with the Siegessäule and Großer Stern at middle.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Closer look of the Siegessäule and Großer Stern at Tiergarten.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

View of ruined Alexanderplatz in Mitte with the Georgenkirche at left

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Bombed out Haus Vaterland (at left) and Potsdamer Bahnhof train station

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The destroyed yards of Potsdamer Bahnhof train station. Notice Potsdamer Platz, the Columbushaus and Tiergarten in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Ruin of Prinz-Albrecht-Straße 8, home of the Gestapo headquarters, with Anhalter Bahnhof in the background

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Bombed out and roofless Anhalter Bahnhof train stationThe rectangular box in the foreground is the DR-Hochbunker at Schöneberger Straße.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium and Wilhelmstraße looking north. Part of the Reichskanzlei and Tiergarten can be seen in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Heavily damaged Reichsluftfahrtministerium building, today the Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus, at Wilhelmstraße.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Ruined Berlin Mitte from the air looking north, with Gendarmenmarkt and Konzerthaus at middle.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The giant Zoo Flak G-tower bunker at Tiergarten with its double 12.8cm AA guns atop. Note the S-bahn railway at left and Charlottenburg Tor behind.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Damaged Zoo Flak G-tower at Tiergarten looking east from the S-bahn railway side.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Another aerial view of the Zoo Flak G-tower at Tiergarten. Notice Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten at left.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The Zoo Flak G-tower at Tiergarten overflown seconds later. Some anti-tank ditches to protect it from the Soviet assault can be appreciated around the tower. Note the Zoo's planetarium at left.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Some metres away from the main gun tower at Zoo was the smaller Flak L-tower (Leitturm) used to command and fire-control.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Bombed out Berlin government district shows heavily damaged 'Haus der Flieger' (the Preußischer Landtag), with Leipziger Platz at left, Herrenhaus, Voßstraße behind, and Tiergarten in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Lützowstraße looking west with the Landwehr Canal at right. Note Shell haus, partly seen at extreme right and the Army's HQ in Bendlerblock.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Bombed out Lützowviertel with the Zoo tower in the background. Kurfürstenstraße running at left and Schillstraße below.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

 Great devastation at Lützowplatz in Tiergarten looking south.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of bombed out buildings and the wrecked gaswork in and around the Schöneberg district. 

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Tauentzienstraße looking east with Wittenbergplatz U-bahnhof at middle right and Kurfürstenstraße at left.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of heavily damaged Luisenstadt in Mitte-Kreuzberg.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The roofless blocks at Rathenowerstraße next to Fritz-Schloß Park and Birkenstraße in the Moabit district.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

A view of Bendlerstraße 13 (today known as Stauffenbergstraße) in Tiergarten towards Lützowplatz and the Landwehrkanal, with the ruins of the 'Bendlerblock'.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Closer look of the ruins of the 'Bendlerblock' at Bendlerstraße 13, looking northwest. Tiergarten is visible behind with Charlottenburg district in the very far background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Again the 'Bendlerblock', this time camera is facing north with Bendlerstraße at right and Tiergarten on top of the photo.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The 'Bendlerblock'  at Reichpietschufer Nr. 74 in Berlin-Tiergarten. The rectangular-shaped building at center is a LS-Hochbunker air-raid shelter. Note Tiergartenstraße and Tiergarten park in the background. 

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

In this closer view we can clearly see in the middle the courtyard in the 'Bendlerblock' where the 20 July conspirators were executed including von Stauffenberg by firing squad shortly after 'Operation Valkyrie'. The 'Shell Haus' is at the extreme right of the photo. 

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The damaged 'Bendlerblock', this time looking south from the Tiergarten. This view shows that the Bendlerbrücke bridge (top left) over the Landwehrkanal has been blown up. The 'Shell Haus' is next to it, note that seems to be a light Flak position atop of the building.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

An overview of the railyard at Charlottenburger Güterbahnhof used as a tank scrapyard in the British sector after the war.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Another aerial shot of the Charlottenburger Güterbahnhof railyard used as a tank scrapyard in the British sector after the war.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The Kreuzberg district seen from Dresdener Straße. Tempelhof airport can be discern in the far distance.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Stettiner Bahnhof train station in Mitte, today location of the modern Berlin Nordbahnhof.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The devastated panorama at Spittelmarkt with the Fischerinsel and Petrikirche. Tempelhof airport can be discern in the far distance.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

This low-level picture shows Crellestraße and Langenscheidtstraße, in front the Wannseebahn with the Langenscheidtbrücke at bottom left.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

The bombed out Neue Reichskanzlei -Hitler's Chancellery- at Voßstraße (right), Ministergärten (left) and Wilhelmplatz, seen from the west. Goebbels' Propagandaministerium is seen at top centre of the image.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Closer view of the backyard of the Neue Reichskanzlei, the rear entrance to the Führerbunker in the garden of the complex.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Ruins at the Nordhafen area in the Moabit district looking south. Heidestraße and Hamburger Bhf are at left and Lehrter Bahnhof (Hauptbahnhof) and the Moabit prison at right. The Reichstag is barely discern in the background.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Berlin Olympiastadion and Reichssportfeld with the damaged tower bell in the foreground. Note the liaison aircraft parked on the grass on the Maifeld.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]

Aerial view of a section of the large factories complex Berlin-Siemensstadt at the Ruhleben area.

[Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.]


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