During the last days of April 1945, when the ‘Thousand-Year Reich’ was crumbling in ruins and blood, in most cities and towns were terrible scenes and murders. One of the most repeated scenes found by the victor Allied troops was the execution of German soldiers by members of the SS, hanged on poles or street lamps in squares as a frightening message to the people. One of those bloody episodes was remembered in Steglitz just after war.
As we have seen on the previous post, on 24 April 1945 the Soviet Red Army started the assault on the southwestern outskirts of capital Berlin. The fight lasted until April 30 when the last German forces were defeated or captured. On the 24th, an unknown German soldier who refused to continue the fight was hanged on the tram-mast by Nazi-SS retreating troops in front of a house at Albrechtstraße 2 next to the Rathaus Steglitz, as a martial execution charged with either desertion, escape, plunder or cowardice from the enemy. The dead body hung for days and it is not known who was involved in this execution.
Immediately after the end of the war a metal sheet was added to the mast by Antifaschistische members to remember this soldier, with the text: “Hier wurde am 24. April 1945 ein deutscher Soldat, weil er den zwecklosen, wahnsinnigen Krieg nicht weiter mitmachen wollte, von vertierten Nazi-Bestien erhängt.” [Here on April 24, 1945, a German soldier was hanged by outlawed Nazi beasts because he did not want to go on with the futile, insane war.]
The commemorative metal plate was changed in October 1947 by a wooden plate with a new text. This was designed by Albert Kraemer, the first art office director in Steglitz after the war and reads: “Von Deutschen wurde ein deutscher Soldat in den Tagen des Zusammenbruchs der Hitlerherrschaft am 24. April 1945 an diesem Mast erhängt.” [A German soldier was hanged on this mast by Germans in the days of the collapse of Hitler’s rule on April 24, 1945.]
In the summer of 1948, due to critical comments from people about this text, a revision was made and Bürgeramt Steglitz changed again the plate. The altered text now reads: “Am 24. April 1945 wurde hier ein deutscher Soldat von unmenschlichen Nationalsozialisten erhängt.” [On April 24, 1945, a German soldier was hanged by inhuman National Socialists.]
[A colour slide of that corner in front of the Steglitz Rathaus in September 1965.]
In November 1967, the plate was removed by the Tiefbauamt Steglitz im Einvernehmen due construction work and since 2007 it is shown in a showcase inside the Steglitz Rathaus building.
Today, the hanged soldier is remembered with a stele at the adjacent Hermann-Ehlers-Platz. This stele was installed in May 2009 by the Amt für Weiterbildung und Kultur of Steglitz-Zehlendorf and designed by Karin Rosenberg with text by Doris Fürstenberg, who has researched this Battle of Berlin episode in “Kunstamt Steglitz (Hrsg.). Alles neu: 50 Jahre Kriegsende in Steglitz” published in 1995. (pp. 88-98). This research along a request of the District Office Steglitz in 1994 led to a potential match to an unknown soldier buried on July 1945 at the Friedhof Steglitz at Bergstraße. The dead man carried no identification tag or papers papers - only a handbag with the inscription ‘Obergefreiter Werner, Batterie 3, Artillerie Regiment’ but today sadly there is no confirmed identification yet.
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