Bomben auf die Kottbusser Straße

The photogallery we shared here show the damage inflicted by RAF Bomber Command air raid on the night of 28/29 August 1940 on Berlin, all captured in the Kottbussser Tor area within Berlin-Kreuzberg district. These pictures were taken on the following days of this second bombing, an air attack which we have already described on earlier posts (see our Britische Luftangriffe über Berlin). 

No other raid on Berlin has so elevated number of related photographies apart of the 1945 February 3rd massive air attack by US heavy bombers on Mitte.

Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

War had come to the Reich’s capital and became part of everyday life; Berliners were so curious at least in those early days about how this new method of make war the ‘Bombenkrieg’ was about. A large crowd ran the next morning to see the damage inflicted by Churchill’s bombers. Testimonies from those days described an extraordinary popular fascination to witness the damage and every raid’s aftermath as ‘a sensation’ which is confirmed by these pictures.

The calm with which its inhabitants have come to check in situ the damage caused by this second bombing seems incredible. The novelty and the null sensation of danger, enhanced by Third Reich hierarchs, made this possible, far from the terrible images of destruction that the capital would experience a couple of years later every night when the British bombers visited Berlin again.

[A view of the dramatic ‘Bombenschäden’ (bomb damage) panorama after the RAF air raid at Kottbusser Straße 15-17 buildings.]

Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

[A few metres away, a large crowd watch how the bomb hit which caused severe damage to the pavement and the tram lines at Kottbusser Straße in Kreuzberg is repair on the following day. Notice at extreme left the U-Bhf entrance (Kottbusser Tor) in front of street number 24-26, with nearly all windows smashed and facades shattered by bomb splinters.]

Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlkex.

Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

[These two newspaper clippings, keeped by the Landesarchiv Berlin, are part of the Berliner Morgenpost edition describing bomb damage in Mariannenstraße and Kottbusser Str. after the air raid]

Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123).

Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123).

[Here, window panes repair-work is done at Bahnhof Kottbusser Tor among curious Berliners with the elevated train station in the background.]

Photo: bpk/ Oskar Dahlke.

[Around the corner, the roof structure of Mariannenstraße number 26 apartment was thrown into the street by explosive bombs, we can see here the severe damage taken by the building’s last floor.]

Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

After having a first taste of the air war on Berlin two nights before (25/26 August), Nazi-authorities didn’t release any image of the bomb destruction just describing it as ‘minor’ and without impact on the city. By contrast, after this second British air attack, the German press and neutral photojournalist were rushed the very next day to the Kreuzberg district to take pictures of the bomb damage to the streets and apartment buildings on that area, in what was a clearly policy change by the Nazis, now using them to denounce to the world that the RAF has attacked residential areas dropping bombs over civilians.

Berlin admitted minor damage to several districts of the capital the following morning: the myth of the Reichhauptstadt’s inviolability had been finally shattered.


Bibliography and sources:

  • Berliner Morgenpost, Freitag, 30. Aug. 1940. Nr. 208.
  • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT (1998).The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass.
  • Demps, Laurenz. (2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Der Angriff, 30. Aug. 1940, Nr. 210
  • Friedrich, Jörg. (2005). Der Brand Deutschland Im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945. Verlag Ullstein.
  • Landesarchiv Berlin. Die Kriegschronik der Reichshauptstadt Berlin – Quelle zur Geschichte Berlins in der NS-Zeit. 
  • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
  • Moorhouse, Roger. (2011). Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, London. 
  • Overy, Richard. (2013). The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane.
  • Shirer, William L. (1997). Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books.
  • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 65–78. 1982.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.


Previous post >

Hot Time in the town of Berlin

WAC’s Flak Fortresses

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641268.

During his visit to Berlin in July 1945, American photographer William Vandivert (1912-1989) took hundreds of pictures of the ruined Nazi-capital. Some of those were starred by a trio of US WACs (Women’s Army Corps) while on tour of the city (a few stayed as part of the occupying force too) following Allied takeover. Their names were Louise Evans, Mary Cornett and Arlena MacPherson and they were accompanied by the LIFE photojournalist to some of the most representative landmarks of the city during the war: the ruined Brandenburger Tor, the Tiergarten and Zoologischer Bhf, posing in front of the Siegessäule victory column at the Grosser Stern, and finally visiting the once mighty Flak towers built by Hitler years before to protect the city against the air-bombings. No significance photos but they give us the closest look to many small details of the huge concrete fortresses built here during World War II.

Pictures show the WACs examining the radars and anti-aircraft guns atop the command tower or Leitturm of the “Zoo Flak Tower” following the capture of the city. Construction of this superstructure, the smaller of the two built at Tiergarten and codenamed “Bär A”, began at the end of November of 1940 and was finished by mid-1941. It was manned by the 123 Turmflakabteilung and the command post of the 1. Flak-Divison was located in this Hochbunker too. The L-tower surrendered to the Soviets on May 2nd, 1945 at 05.00 hrs after a long siege and heavy punishment. 

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641302.

The radar shown is a Telefunken Würzburg FuMG 39/62 model T, mounted on wooden pedestal. This radar unit was standard equipment for Luftwaffe AA gunnery (see previous posts about Air detection over Berlin during the war) which protected from here the western sector of the city. It seems to be an auxiliary or mobile unit because of its position on the lower platform of the tower, instead of at top where the main radar units (Würzburg, Würzburg-Riese and Mannheim) were installed and the new systems were tested even the ones captured to the enemy. Note brush paint to camouflage the radar’s dish and some bullet holes.

The WACs had fun with the traverse and rotating mechanism of the radar unit, with one seated on the “sidecar” control seat, the usual position of the B2 crew member who moves the unit on its lateral axis. Note the Tiergarten landscape and the Siegessäule victory column in the background and one of the cranes, used by the Germans to raise equipment and ammo atop of the huge tower.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929085.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929084.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929086.

Vandivert’s photographs show the women ‘playing around’ with some of the AA guns on this platform too, in this case on the western side of the bunker with the big G-tower in the background and the photographer facing southwest to Zoologischer Bhf

The ‘großen Zoobunker’ L-Turm was equipped with light Flak guns installed on the lower platform to defend the superstructure from low levels bombers or strafing attacks by enemy fighters, in this case were double 3,7 cm Flak43 ‘Zwillings flak’. Built by Rheinmetall-Borsig, this powerful weapon had an effective rate of fire of 150 shots per second. Over 5,900 units of this type were produced during 1943-45. The Friedrichshain tower replaced them from July 1944 with the more capable MG151/20 triple-barrel gun and reduced the number of light AA on the L-tower but it seems that the Zoo Flak towers retained the Flak 43s until the end of the war. Of interest is that these guns usually had a protective shield, but all the pictures taken on this tower show them without the gun-shield installed. Some colour pictures taken in 1945 too show that these Flak guns wore a camouflaged finish, in this case painted in Dunkelgelb (dark yellow) colour with green and brown blotches like a late-war Panzer.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115929082.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641297.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115928942.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115928945.

The WACs with some GIs standing atop the damaged Berlin tower. Part of the brick platform has collapsed due to the damage taken during the final battles. Note the destroyed Würzburg FuMG 62 radar behind them, its dish broken in two.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_11594.

They are seen posing here with one of the Kommandogerät 40 rangefinders mounted on a concrete or bricks plinth, used for the German Flak 10,5 and 12,8cm main AA guns mounted on the opposite G-tower. From the 39-metres height of the L-tower flak crews watched the air battles as far as Spandau. Notice the ruined Reichstag on the background at left.

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_115928940.

[A detail view of the aerial shot taken by Vandivert on 9-10 July, 1945, overflying the devastated Berlin-Tiergarten after the capture of Nazi-Germany’s heart. The red circles pinpoint the exact location where the WACs photographs were taken atop of the Zoo’s command L-Turm.]

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc/ BerlinLuftTerror.

[The same trio of US military women during their touring trip to Berlin, in this case in front of the Siegessäule and a Willys Jeep.]

Photo: LIFE ©Time Inc_641303.

As some sources has reported (mistakenly) the identity of these women as the Andrew Sisters, a trio of famous American singers which made several USO tours to entertain Allied troops fighting in Europe and the Pacific, we finish this brief Berlin post with one of their greatest radio hits, “Hot Time In The Town Of Berlin” with Bing Crosby and released in 1943.

Video credit: UMG/Geffen. (Words and Music by: Joe Bushkin and John De Vries).



  • Ashcraft, Jenny. History of the WAC. Fold3 blog. accessed Oct 28, 2021. <>
  • Demps, Laurenz.(2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (1997). The Flak Towers in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna 1940- 1950. Schiffer Publishing. 
  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (2007). Flak-Towers. By the author.
  • LIFE magazine, July 23, 1945. Americans find enemy’s capital bears the marks of allied destruction and Red army’s occupation. Time Inc. Vol 19- Num 4, pp 19-25.  
  • Maxene, Andrews & Gilbert, Bill. (1994). Over Here, over There: The Andrews Sisters and the USO Stars in World War II
  • Muller W. (1998). Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing. Kensington Pub Corp.
  • Stivers, William and Carter, Donald A. (2017). The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. Available at: <> 
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • Zaloga, Steven. (2012). Defense of the Third Reich 1941–45. Osprey Publishing.
  • _______________

    Previous post >

    Innsbrucker Platz

    Der „Tiroler“ Platz

    [An aerial view of Berlin-Schöneberg district with Hauptstraße running at centre, seen from the railway at Innsbrucker Platz in 1930. The original Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche and its distinctive rounded tower is at top centre.] 


    The Innsbrucker Platz in Berlin was the post-war location of our previous post Die Amis arrive!, with some American and Soviet soldiers next to a Sherman tank in July 1945, just a few days after US forces reached their occupation zone of the German capital. Located on the southwestern zone, between the inner circle and the Steglitz and Friedenau districts, it was a traffic junction where the city’s S-Bahn, bus and tram met. In 1927 a square was built here as a starting point to Innsbrucker Str. under the name “Innsbrucker Platz” after the Tyrolean city of Innsbruck and a S-Bahnhof with the same name was opened on July 1, 1933, a few months after the country began to be ruled by the Nazis. 

    The complete history and development through the years of this place is well beyond this post, so we recommend the excellent Friedenau aktuell blog for further reading.

    [Schöneberg’s Innsbrucker Platz with Hauptstraße and the Paul-Gerhardt-Kirche at right, viewed in 1930. Heavily damaged during the war, it was demolished in 1950.]


    [A 1939-1941 Berlin map of this area just before war’s destruction, with S-Bhf Schöneberg at right. Southwards across Innsbrucker Platz’s railway tracks is the Friedenau district.]

    Photo: Histomap/ ©Landesarchiv Berlin.

    [Berliners going down into the underground entrance at Innsbrucker Platz Bhf in the 1930s. Two SA-members can be seen on the mechanic stairs at left on their way to the street.]

    Photo: IMAGNO/ akg-images (AKG1054853).

    Bombenkrieg 1940-45

    The square and its surrounding area were seriously damaged during the Second World War. Berlin-Schöneberg was one of the most bombed districts from the first days of the campaign, and Innsbrucker Platz would not escape destruction from the air. Virtually all of its buildings and the U-bahn station were hit. The city reports show bomb damage already on 20/21 October 1940 (30 RAF bombers raided Berlin) in this area, receiving some bombs during the 16/17 January 1943 raid too (169 bombers). First great damage came during the night of 1/2 March 1943 (251 RAF bombers) with numerous fires around this point and Ebersstraße. This attack left in flames the roofs and upper floors of Wex Str. 60/63 Ecke Innsbrucker Platz. 

    [This is a detail view of the area from a vertical PR image taken by an RAF Spitfire of No 542 Sqn on 6 September 1943, during a long photo-run flight over the capital to assets bomb damage (BDA) after the bombing raid two nights before. Note the large number of buildings already roofless at this very early date of the bombing war on Berlin.]

    Photo: NCAP

    Photo: NCAP

    [A British target indicator (bottom centre) descends over the Schöneberg and Friedenau districts, during a night raid in 1944. Innsbrucker Platz and the Ringbahn rail junction can be seen at middle right. The original IWM caption refers to a 27 aircraft-raid on that night and known nights with Light Night Striking Force Mosquitoes to harass Berlin in that number were June 25th, July 25th and September 16th 1944, so possible date for this picture must be one of those.]

    Photo: © IWM (C 4926).

    American bombers hit the Schöneberg district again on 21 June 1944 (868 a/c), some high-explosive bombs badly damaged the railway bridge next to Innsbrucker Platz. A massive daylight raid on February 26th, 1945 (US 1,066 bombers) caused severe damage to the area between this square and Bayerischer Platz with bombs hitting the Schöneberg Rathaus, Stadtpark, Hauptstr. and Martin-Luther-Str. among others, leaving 139 dead and 64 wounded only here.

    Finally, the Soviet assault caused great devastation. On April 27th, 1945, the Ringbahn circle became the front line. Train traffic and services had been stopped two days before due to fighting and lack of coal. In the case of the southwestern area from Friedenau through Schöneberg the Soviet assault was made by Red Army’s 9th Mechanized Corps with its 69th and 70th Mechanized Brigades, and after minor resistance they reached the Innsbrucker Platz line at midday meanwhile elements of the 91st MB penetrated the right flank and captured U-Bhf Schöneberg. The advancing troops encountered makeshift barricades, anti-tank barriers and strongpoints as the Germans set up the railway line as a huge defensive perimeter. Heavy fighting led to the taking of the underground station and the exit to Wex Str. by the end of the day when resistance was overcome.

    [German defensive line with ‘Panzersperren’ next to the Ringbahn railway before the Soviet assault, in this case at Hermannstraße in the Neukölln district, March 1945.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv (Bild 183-J31386).

    [Once Soviet troops overcome Innsbrucker Platz and U-Bhf Schöneberg ran northwards to seize the rest of the district, here a Red Army column with a SU-85M self-propelled gun in the foreground at Hauptstraße Ecke Koburger Str. just a few blocks from the square.]

    Photo: Buryat-Mongolskaya Pravda No 105 (5795) May 30, 1945.

    By war’s end, many buildings have been destroyed during the fight added to the damage already caused by the bombings, like this ruined house at Innsbrucker Str. 30 located in front of the square and next to the Reichsbahn “Opel” building in July 1945, it was demolished after the war too.

    Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

    [Hauptstraße in Schöneberg looking towards Innsbrucker Platz, this picture was taken by an American soldier in July 1945. Rathaus-Friedenau’s tower can be discerned in the background.]

    Photo: mocr/flickr.

    [Opposite view of Hauptstraße as seen under the Ringbahnbrücke at Innsbrucker Platz, July 1945. Note the burn out DeGeWo-Hochhaus at left.]

    Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

    The most significant building of this square was heavily damaged by war’s fires too. Located at Innsbrucker Str Nr 31/34 (today’s Innsbrucker Platz 4), the DeGeWo Haus (Deutsche Gelleschaft zur Förderung des Wohnungbaues) is one of the best examples of German interwar modernism. It was designed by architects Paul Mebes and Paul Emmerich as a six-story building with a perimeter-block complex, and built by Ph. Holzmann AG during 1922-28. This Weimar-era showpiece was rebuilt in the post-war years as luxury apartments and with two more floors added. It was used by Marshall Plan publicists to highlight West Berlin successes and presented as built in 1950 as “Berlin’s first high-rise”.

    Photo: © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg.

    [July 1945: destroyed and burnt out facade of the apartment building and its modern block complex between Hauptstr. and Innsbruckerstraße caused by the air raids and the ground battle.]  

    Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

    Photo: still from fill/ NARA.

    [A 1948-picture taken by Walter Schulze which shows the DeGeWo rebuilt works at Innsbrucker Platz Ecke Hauptstr.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG61817).

    [The “new” DeGeWo-Hochhaus, rebuilt in 1950. At right can be seen the big Fournes lettering, for Otto Fournes’ restaurant and wine store located here. It was the first major neon sign after the war.]

    Photo: akg-images/AKG398128.

    [Rolf Goetze took this picture of the snow-covered Innsbrucker Platz in February 1954.]

    Photo: SM 2014-1914,9.

    [The modern DeGeWo Hochhaus, today’s Innsbrucker Platz Nr 4.]

    Photo by A.Savin/ Wikimedia Commons.

    Across the street, the other side of the square was severely damaged by war too. Here, Berliners gathered around an American M4A3(76) Sherman tank from the 2nd Armored Division guarding Innsbrucker Platz. Also, a pair of Willys Jeeps are parked next to the tank parked over the tram tracks. Notice the tram stop blown up at extreme right and the road signal in Russian cyrillic pointing “KARLHORST” in front of the tank. 


    [A 1950-scene shot by German press photographer Georg Pahl at the ruined Innsbrucker Platz, Berliners waiting around the tram stop for the streetcar at noon time, at the same spot where the US tank was parked in July 1945.]

    Photo: akg-images (AKG55128).

    [Destroyed house Nr 96, taken by Herwarth Staudt on March 3, 1956 on behalf of the Baulenkungsamtes Schöneberg. It was demolished years later and a bigger commercial building was built there in 1984, today as Innsbrucker Platz Nr 3.]

    Photo: CC0 @ Museen Tempelhof-Schöneberg/Archiv.

    [Jürgen Henschel took this picture of West Berliners waiting in front of the DegeWo Haus for the bus stop at Haupstraße 97 - Innsbrucker Platz in October, 1982. Note that there is still an empty lot in the place where the number 96 was before.]

    Photo: CC0 @ Museen Tempelhof-Schöneberg/Archiv. (HEN3-616-5295).

    Today’s view of Innsbrucker Platz looking into Haupstraße with the DeGeWo Haus at left and the 1980s white building (Innsbrucker Platz 3) at right. The corner building with orange roof seen at centre survived the war.

    Photo: BishkekRocks/WikimediaCommons.

    The intense battle left the underground train station badly damaged and didn’t reopen until December 1945. The access in the middle of the square was closed after the area was completely rebuilt in 1954 and a new entrance was opened a few metres north in a glazed pavilion. The construction in 1971 of the new motorway Stadtautobahn 100 and the underground tunnel under the main road led to a total res¡design of the square and both train stations, the renovated Südring didn’t reopen until 1993. Today, Innsbrucker Platz remains a chaotic intersection of main streets and a traffic and train junction of the southwestern part of the city, with three S-Bahn lines (S41, S42, S46) and one subway line (U4 and the planned expansion of U10) and the road exits to two adjacent motorways. 

    [The “inner circle” of the square seen in 1953 looking southwest with the original U-Bhf entrance and the Ringbahnbrücke, just before the tram service 88 was closed and the tracks sealed. Notice at upper right of the picture the Reichsbahn building before being demolished.]

    Photo: Museum Tempelhof-Schöneberg.

    This is the modern S-Bahnhof entrance at Innsbrucker Platz adjacent to the Sudringbrücke where the original Reichsbahn building was until the 1960s.

    Photo: Dirk Ingo Franke/WikimediaCommons.


    Bibliography and sources:

  • Demps, Laurenz.(2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Diefendorf, J. (ed) (2014). Transnationalism and the German City (Studies in European Culture and History). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Friedenau aktuell. Innsbrucker Platz <>
  • Landesarchiv Berlin. LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 78 ff.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 15 f.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 701, Bl. 31. ; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 702, Bl. 99 ff.; s. a. LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 31 ff.
  • Muschelknautz, Johanna. (2001). Berlin-Schöneberg: Blicke ins Quartier 1949 - 2000. Jaron Verlag.
  • S Bahn Berlin DB. Die Historie der Berliner S-Bahn. <>
  • Stivers, William and Carter, Donald A. (2017). The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. Available at: <> 
  • Sven, Heinemann. (2021). Die Berliner Ringbahn: Die Geschichte der legendären Eisenbahnstrecke 1871 bis heute. GeraMond Verlag.
  • The Battle of Berlin Forum. Facebook Group. Battle reports of the 3rd Guards Tank Army by Piet Vergiet.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • _______________

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    Luftangriffe auf Pergamon

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./04906).

    During the research work about Berlin city, its streets and its inhabitants during the war and the air bombings, it is quite common to come across photos that show the ruined state and the damage caused by the war, most of them taken after the battle by the victors, some of the most remarkable buildings like the Berliner Dom or the Stadtschloss in Mitte even have a hundred snapshots showing damage after 1945. What is not so usual is to find in the archives a whole record of damage taken by the building with its corresponding image. We are fortunate that Pergamon Museum is one of the latter, with an extensive gallery of its terrible wounds caused by the Allied bombing campaign and the final battles with the Russians. The history and destruction of Pergamon’ during the Second World War was already told in this blog (see our previous posts - Pergamonmuseum in Berlin and Pergamonmuseum in Berlin: Post 1945) but the high number of pictures found at the Zentralarchiv der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and new photos led us to share this extra gallery post showing the severe damage inflicted to one of the most beautiful places in the German capital. 

    Starting in mid 1943 British Bomber Command launched a stronger and dedicated air bombing campaign on the city, specially during the last week of November, damaging several cultural buildings that included Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum and Pergamonmuseum. City records reported that the latter was severely hit during the RAF strike on the night of 28/29 January 1944 -677 bombed Berlin- by a stick of incendiary bombs that caused severe damage to the building’s roof and the skylights after major fires were started. The museum was hit again during the big US strike on Berlin-Mitte on 3 February 1945 (937 heavy bombers), several bombs caused great damage on the building, including the Mschatta facade room and destroyed the footbridge which linked the Kaiser-Museum. Some American bombs caused further damage to the Museumsinsel on March 18th, 1945 (1,263 Eighth Air Force bombers) with Altes Museum taking the worst damage, gutted by fire and left in a ruined state. 

    Further damage was inflicted during the Soviet assault on the Third Reich’s Hauptstadt during April-May 1945, but the museum structure survived mostly intact to the ground battles. Artillery shells, splinters and small-arms fire damaged the facade and windows. Finally, on May 1st, Red Army’s troops took the northern part of the island and occupied the museums.

    [The courtyard of the partially destroyed Pergamon Museum as seen after the 1945 air-bombings. Note that one of the twin-towers has collapsed due to the damage taken.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (ZA 1.1.6./07218).

    The facade of the building was completely scarred by shrapnel and explosions from bombs and fire, of which evidence remains today, and by the intense fighting that took place on its perimeter. These pictures show bullet holes and shrapnel marks on the north wing of the museum, in 1945. The S-Bahn railway is seen at left.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06858).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06815)

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06712).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06897).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06866).

    Although the several rooms and halls inside the building been secured from the ‘Bombenkrieg’ in 1940-41 by Nazi authorities with some Schutzhüllen consisting of sandbags and wooden walls, they took severe damage during Allied air raids on the city.

    The monumental Prozessionsstraße at the museum which led to the Neo-Babylon Ishtar Gate (or Babylontor) was left in this devastated condition during the war.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.19./08755).

    The main hall of the museum, which housed the reconstructed Great Altar is seen after the war with severe damage to the walls, the stairway and the colonnade. The destroyed glass roof allowed further damage with debris and exposure to elements.

    Photo: bpk/ Max Ittenbach.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08420).

    Photo: ©bpk - Photo Agency/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    Views of the partly destroyed Markttor von Milet (Market Gate of Miletus) and the Trajanshalle at Saal V of the museum, 1945. 

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06766).

    Photo: bpk/ Max Ittenbach.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08422).

    War damage to the Sendschirli-Saal of the Vorderasiatischen Museums at Pergamon’s building, 1945. Notice that one bomb has penetrated the room’s roof. 

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.19./08758).

    Picture evidence show that incendiary bombs did their job on Pergamonmuseum. Both British and US bombers dropped incendiaries in great numbers over German cities and these small but deadly weapons set on fire the skylight and glass roof of the building on both wings, leaving just the ‘skeleton’ metal structure and penetrating into the rooms, and burnt out walls and damaged artifacts inside. The Mschatta-Saal was one of the most heavily hit by these bombs, the first time during the January 1944 RAF raids.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.11./03265).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08421).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08447).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06849).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06845).

    These two pictures were taken from the partly museum’s destroyed roof and with camera facing east, showing the ruined and flattened buildings of the city after five years of sustained air bombings. The elevated train station seen at centre is S-Bahnhof Hackescher Markt, with James-Simon Park and Burgstraße just before it. Note the rounded roof of the Alte Nationalgalerie at right.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06816).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06821).

    The aerial bombings hit the footbridge which linked Pergamonmuseum and the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum (today the Bode Museum) too, adjacent to the elevated S-Bahn railway, seen here in 1951.

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv (ZA 1.1.5-7733).

    The transition between the two buildings under the railway was severely damaged too.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 1.1.6./06853).

    An aerial guide of the destruction at the Museumsinsel caused by the air raids from one US reconnaissance image taken by PR aircraft in March 1945 over Berlin-Mitte.

    Photo: NARA: sortie US7/0072/D. frame: 4167. ©BerlinLuftTerror.


    Bibliography and sources:

    • Allen, Susan Heuck (1999), Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik. University of California Press.
    • Demps, Laurenz. (2014), Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag. 
    • Heilmeyer, Wolf-Dieter. (1996), History of the Display of the Telephos Frieze in the Twentieth Century. In: Dreyfus, R (ed). PERGAMON: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, Volume 1. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
    • Klartext Zur Geschichte des Bode-Museums von 1875 bis 2020: Chronologie. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin 
    • Landesarchiv Berlin; LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.
    • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985), The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
    • Pergamonmuseum. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin <>
    • Pollitt, Jerome J. (1986), Art in the Hellenistic Age. Cambridge University Press.
    • Wemhoff, Matthias. (2014). Das Berliner Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte in der Zeit des Nationalsozialiusmus. In: Blickpunkt Archäologie 3, 2014, S. 40-43.
    • Winter, Petra. Invasion auf der Insel: 75 Jahre Kriegsende auf der Museumsinsel. Blog der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz <>


    Previous post >

    Die Amis arrive!

    Photo by James Jarche/Paul Popper/Popperfoto.

    Berlin, 1945 Nach Kriegsende: an American Sherman tank is parked in front of a S-Bahn station with a shattered apartment building and a destroyed tram stop background. Next to it, the tank’s crew stand in a relaxed pose and a few metres away a pair of Soviet soldiers enjoy a smoke and smile for the benefit of the camera.  

    The scene must be captured when the first US tanks rolled into the streets of the defeated Nazi-capital at the end of the Second World War, entering Berlin from the southwest Autobahn to their planned zone of occupation. Transfer of power took place on July 4th afternoon but both forces coexisted at the area until 12 July when the Soviets finally leave the American sector, so we can date the image between 5th to 12th of that month. 

    Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images.

    Photo by James Jarche/Paul Popper/Popperfoto.

    The tank belongs to the 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division of the US Ninth Army. The larger turret for the 76mm main gun and the front glacis’ angle identifies it as a M4A3(76)W with normal suspension. Painted on the side hull of the tank is “DEC 7TH”, most probably in memory of the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941. The division’s vehicles were cleaned up for the Berlin occasion, removing the extra appliqué armour on the glacis too. A new set of big white US stars has been painted also. Notice the officer with binoculars at extreme right, and that all the combat crew are wearing M1 steel helmets instead of the “football” helmet, more common among tankers.

    The 2nd Armored Div, known as “Hell on the Wheels” a combat-seasoned unit throughout World War II from North Africa to the Elbe battlefields, would be the first of the US task force sent to go to Berlin as occupation force and the first one to enter the city. On July 3rd, the division started the 2-day movement to Berlin from its accommodation area at Halle, some 150km west of the capital. Leading elements of the force, with Colonel Howley, deputy commandant and head of US Office of Military Government in Berlin, had already reached the city on 1 July, but the main force of the unit completed its move on July 5th. Some 25,000–30,000 US troops would occupy this sector in the southwestern zone of Berlin, comprising Zehlendorf, Steglitz, Schöneberg, Kreuzberg, Tempelhof and Neukölln.

    As laid out in the Berlin plan, the division’s priorities “comprised the protection of US facilities, billeting areas, and supply routes through Berlin”. The unit, equipped with nearly 2,000 vehicles with four medium tank and two light tank battalions of three companies each, arrived at the defeated capital basically to provide security in the Western sector (including act as honour guard to President Truman assisting to the Potsdam conference) until a better-suited unit could take over in the following months. Finally, on August 6th after a five weeks duty, the first elements of the 2nd Div began their withdrawal from the German capital, being relieved by the 82nd Airborne Div paratroopers.

    [Here, the new visitors are surrounded by a crowd of curious Berliners around the US tank. The American Sector was largely residential, and the Soviets had ruled the city for nearly ten weeks so the interest in the arrival of the Americans to the city was extremely high.]

    Photo: ullstein bild (00271358).

    A PR unit and cameraman of the US Army captured in film too the scene at the Schöneberg streets. American press used striking headlines like U.S. Armor Impresses Berlin” and “You Can’t Beat Them” referring to the first US Army tanks arriving in the capital. 

    Video credit: US NARA.

    Some scenes of this ‘cordial’ action are shown too on this superb video from the British Pathé newsreel “Berlin 1945 aftermath” starting at 01:20 minute running time.

    Video credit: British Pathé/ FILM ID:2141.05.

    [Two film-screens of American GIs and Soviet Ivans chatting and smoking standing next to the Sherman. Notice the damaged U-Bahn entrance behind.]

    Photo: still from film. British Pathé/ FILM ID:2141.05.

    Photo: still from film. British Pathé/ FILM ID:2141.05.

    But where was this pre-Cold War scene taken? Close examination of the Bahnhof’s sign on the wall reveals that the location was Innsbrucker Platz, on the southern end of the Berlin-Schöneberg district, a main central traffic junction next to the 1945 German Ringbahn defensive line. 

    The destroyed and burned out building seen in the background next to the train station and the Südringbrücke housed at the time a Opel-Automobile Verkaufsstelle G.m.b.H. (a car dealership) owned by Bruno Dietzmann on the ground floor and a Café at Innsbrucker Platz Nr 1 . Compare it as seen here in 1935 with the next three pictures which show the gutted condition when the war comes to an end: only the skeleton and the facade have survived. 

    Photo: ©Thomas Lautenschlag; Flickr.

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    Photo by James Jarche/Paul Popper/Popperfoto.

    The 1940-edition of the Amtliches Fernsprechbuch für den Bezirk der Reichspostdirektion Berlin (the telephone directory) confirms Bruno Dietzmann’s car seller address during the war years. 

    Photo: Berlin: Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, 2012.

    Partially ruined, the Reichsbahn four-story building was refurbished after the war but the housing was only restored with three floors and some other differences -the roof sculptures were dismantled too- but in the 1980s both the building and the Ringbahn entrance were finally demolished. 

    This 1953 postwar view of the square show to us the rebuilt building at Innsbrucker Platz 1 with a new roof built and just three floors. Note that the Opel lettering has disappeared from the facade and at left the S-Bahn train passing by the elevated railway of the Ringbahn.


    Film footage also reveals one of the most distinctive Berlin Weimar-era buildings that confirm us that this action was taken at Innsbrucker Platz: the DeGeWo-Hochhaus, badly damaged during the battle, with Hauptraße at right as we can see in this frame of the same Sherman tank this time accompanied by a personal carrier M3A1 half-track, both parked in the middle of the square. The US military government (OMGUS) HQ building was not far from there, in Berlin-Dahlem. 

    Photo: still from film/ NARA.

    Innsbrucker Platz, once a heavily congested traffic junction back to life as soon as the first tram and S-Bahn lines went back into service at the end of May, as electricity was restored in all districts of Berlin by Soviet new administration, including the heavily bombed Schöneberg. 

    [Tram service from Berliner Verkehrsgesellschaft (BVG) was reopened short time after the end of the war, in this picture we see a streetcar pass by Bahnhof Innsbrucker Platz with the gutted Reichsbahn building as background during the summer of 1945.]

    Photo: photolibrarian/Flickr.

    [Same scene as above in this case before or during the war years with tram Nr 1106 of Linie 40 at Innsbrucker Platz. This streetcar didn’t survive the conflict.]

    Photo: © Max Rieck/ Sammlung Sigurd Hilkenbach.

    American and Russian soldiers chatting and smoking together are good propaganda to the new world born in 1945… the Allies had to show, at least in appearance, that all them victors had fought for the same cause. Marshall Zhukov has ordered his soldiers to not confront to the US detachment. William Heimlich, one of Howley’s intelligence officers, recounted when he reached the city: “The few people out on the streets were pale and malnourished. “Shocked into utter silence. They moved about the city like zombies. They were starving, that was clear.” To Berliners, the shock and joy was immediate.

    The new division of the big city was started as soon as the Soviet troops withdrew from the Western Zones… until 1990.

    On our next post the Innsbrucker Platz and the famous DeGeWo-Hochhaus building along nearer Schöneberg Bezirk area would be described with new research and photos.


    Bibliography and sources:

  • 17th Armored Engineer Battalion in World War 2. The occupation of Germany. <>
  • Demps, Laurenz.(2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Diefendorf, J. (ed) (2014). Transnationalism and the German City (Studies in European Culture and History). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Friedenau aktuell. Innsbrucker Platz <>
  • Friedrich, Jörg. (2005). Der Brand Deutschland Im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945. Verlag Ullstein.
  • Green, Michael. (2018). American Tanks & AFVs of World War II. Osprey Publishing.
  • Hell on Wheels. Second Armored Division. Vol. 1 - No. 10. Berlin, Wed., July 18, 1945.
  • Milton, Giles. The Americans Arrive in Berlin. Quick and Dirty Tips. 
    <>  September 17th, 2021.
  • Muschelknautz, Johanna. (2001). Berlin-Schöneberg: Blicke ins Quartier 1949 - 2000. Jaron Verlag.
  • Stivers, William and Carter, Donald A. (2017). The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. Available at: <> 
  • Trahan, Lt.-Col. EA. (2018). A History of the Second Armored Division, 1940-1946. Arcole Publishing. 
  • USARERUR Units & Kasernes, 1945 - 1989. 2nd Armored Division. Occupation Period (1945). <>
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2000). The Sherman at War (2) The US Army in the European Theater 1943-45. Armor at War Series. Concord Publications Co.
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2002). US tank battles in Germany 1944-45. Armor at War Series. Concord Publications Co.
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2004). US Army Tank Crewman 1941-45: European Theater of Operations (ETO) 1944-45 (Warrior). Osprey Publishing.
  • _______________

    Previous post >

    Einmann Bunker

    Time ago, during our research for one Berlin air raid, we found this picture. We have seen it before, but this time we noticed a small interesting detail that captured our attention. 

    Photo by Fritz Eschen. Photographien Berlin 1945-1950. Nicolai, 1996.

    Taken after the war in 1946 by Fritz Eschen, the picture shows the ruined and devastated U-Bahnhof Stadtpark (today Rathaus Schöneberg) in Berlin-Schöneberg. The photographer was looking south to Innsbrucker Platz and the ruined Carl-Zuckmayer-Brücke is seen above, as a huge explosive bomb has exposed the U-bahn tunnels. Then located in the American occupation sector, this area and the nearer Bayerischer Platz were heavily hit in the war during the big US air-raid on February 26th, 1945. The city air bombing records reported that a big explosive bomb penetrated into the underground and blown up the roof of the U-Bhf station as the photo shows.

    What took our attention was the strange, but familiar, element seen in the middle next to the train, a cylinder-shaped kind of small bunker. But why such a strange element? Because this is one of just two wartime photos known showing a BWS or “one-man bunker” in Berlin, despite thousands of pictures taken right after the battle showing the streets of the city in May 1945 and a hundred film footages are known.

    But what is a BWS or BrandwachenständeThe BWS was an idea from the early 1930-years, some kind futuristic, with a metal construction and created to protect the worker at the factory or company from air-raids: shrapnel, fire and explosions… It was also known as Splitterschutzzelle (SSZ), Einzelschutzraum or more commonly “Einmann-bunker”. France, Britain and Germany quickly saw the military use of the concept adopting it with new designs to protect guards in barracks. War would extend its use to train stations, cities, houses, even machinery in factories. Faced with the imminent threat of destruction from the air, the different governments had to promise that the civilian could protect himself on the street if he did not have time to get to the shelter. 

    Also, the Nazi Reichsluftschutzbund (RLB) created in 1934 the civilian Luftschutz fire-warden figure against the air-raids, to lead people to the shelters and took a first account of fires and explosions. He would also provide information about the location of ‘duds’ and artifacts that have not yet exploded. And the BWS was his shelter. Some were equipped with a telephone and electric light, to allow the fire warden to pass on his observations to the command post. It also covered the guard from strafing attacks from enemy aircraft. 

    [Today the Deutsches Technikmuseum in the city exhibits a concrete-made BWS from WW2, manufactured by Westermann & Co Betonwerk.]

    Photo: author.

    In September 1940, just before the Führer Sofortprogram to build air-shelters, Siemens made a report about the protection offered by these tiny shelters during recent air-raids on Berlin and to establish the proper size and weight to design and built a BWS. It established the cost of one of them at approx 430-450 RM. They were widely used by the Wehrmacht in barracks, facilities and watch posts, the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DRB) in their railway system and train stations and civilian companies at their factories. 

    At first, manufacturing companies offered these shelters made of steel with ballistic protection (Metallzellen), but when the war started that was a raw material and so much needed for the war effort that had to switch to using stamped concrete (Betonzellen). Some types used bricks but were rare. The German concrete industry manufactured them in many variants with some minor differences comprising different shape or number of access hatches and viewing slits. Well-known manufacturers of SSZ were DYWIDAG (Dyckerhoff & Widmann) in Dresden, Leonhard Moll Betonwerke in München, Mannesmann, or Westermann & Co. Also by two Berlin-based companies: Dietelgesellschaft mbH at Charlottenburg and Joseph Lang in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. The exact number built during the war years is unknown but ten of thousands were installed across the German Reich soil and the occupied countries, the majority set up by Organisation Todt

    [At left: The “Stuttgarter Illustrierte” magazine from September 1940 shows the one-man bunker at work, in this case a steel-made design. Right: An advertisement from Dywidag Betonwerke, one of the biggest BWS manufacturers, based in Cossebaude, Dresden.]

    Photos: Stuttgarter Illustrierte/ AMF.

    [At left: Sky scanning looking for enemy bombers at the Süddeutsche Zellwolle AG factory in Kelheim in November 1939. Right: a 1930-scheme of the BWS ‘Splinterzell’ Luftschutz German concept.]

    Photos: Sammlung Berliner Verlag (AKG5569639)/ Foedrowitz, M. (2007). Motorbuch Verlag.

    [Three workers of the “Edelweiß” laundry posing with a concrete BWS in Münster in 1944.]

    Photo: Stadtarchiv Münster/Kriegschronik Wiemers.

    [American GIs from the US First Army inspect a BWS of Dywidag design captured after the battle in Eschwiller in December 1944.]

    Photo: NARA/ Zaloga, S. (2012). Osprey Publishing.

    The other picture which shows a BWS at Berlin was a post-war scene too, taken in June 1948. It captures one calm West Berliner street between ruins and rubble, but the demolishing work has exposed this Einmannbunker surrounded by gutted buildings, a remnant of the war left intact in what must have been a private court or a small workshop. German authorities allowed the people to acquire a SSZ and set it up on their own private property.

    Photo: akg-images (AKG136891).

    [Two different types of BWS seen at the DRK-Präsidium - the main office of the German Red Cross- in August 1944 at Babelsberg, Potsdam. Note that both shelters have camouflage pattern and are numbered. This site was hit by US bombs during the air-raid on 9 March 1944.]

    Photo: Sammlung Berliner Verlag/ AKG7412806.

    Photo evidence shows that many fountains (Wasserpumpe), street lamps and the so characteristic Berliner Litfaßsäulen -much less resistant elements- survived the bombings and the fierce ground battle, so the missing BWS evidence in any other picture made to assume that they were not used in Berlin as a common air-protection in the street like in other places, just inside army barracks, courtyards, factories or as in our image at train stations.

    [An example of a SSZ bunker used in the street of a city, seen at the Rathausplatz in Osnabrück.]


    It seems that during the late stages of the war in 1944-45 they were more often used as improvised firing positions, small pillboxes to defend the German retreating forces in France and the Sigfried Line in the German border from the Allied offensive on the ground than on their original Luftschutz-shelter concept.

    From this idea of small individual shelters the Third Reich developed some other structures during the war, larger in size than the BWS: the Splitterschutzbauten and the Brandwachentürme (both observation towers) with the same purpose to protect the fire warden from splinters and explosives, with a mixed construction method of concrete and bricks and some of them attached to larger bunkers.  

    [September 1944, street-fighting in Brest, France: a US M18 GMC Hellcat fires its 76mm gun point-blank at a German strong point. Notice at left a surviving BWS, most probably used as a pillbox by the defenders.]

    Photo: Everett Collection Historical.

    [A Schweinfurt factory heavily bombed by US aircraft, as seen in 1945 after the war. Note the almost intact BWS at right surrounded by rubble.]

    Photo: Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt.

    Back to Berlin, there are some other locations here during the war that we can confirm that had some kind of one-man shelter, structures derived from the BWS and SSZ.

    This after-the-battle view of the ‘Bendlerblock’, home of the Allgemeines Heeresamt (General Army Office) der OKH and located in Bendlerstraße 13, clearly shows that at the inner courtyard of this building complex where located two concrete hexagon-shaped BWS, most probably watch posts, similar to the used by Wehrmacht guards at the Olympischen Dorf. It is unknown if these ‘pillboxes’ were installed here just months before the Soviet final assault as an extra defensive measure or had been there since before that. 

    Photo by William Vandivert. Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    [Here Marshal Georgi K Zhukov, the Soviet commander, inspects debris from the battle inside the court during his tour to the defeated Nazi-capital in July 1945. One of the two BWS is seen behind him and his visiting party.]

    Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.

    The other place is one of the most interesting places of the Battle of Berlin topic, Hitler’s Chancellery complex at Voßstraße. Photos show that in the back garden of the Reichskanzlei was a cone-shaped small structure, next to the wall that divided the garden from Haus Kempka (Hitler’s chauffeur), very similar to a SSZ but it is not entirely confirmed if this was a pillbox or a small ventilation tower for the underground new Führerbunker, built there in 1944 by the Hochtief AG.

    [Close view of the BWS-type structure built between Haus Kempka and the Reichsklanzei’s back garden, seen here bullet-riddled after the war.]

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    Photo: ©bpk-bild.

    Also, a few metres away from that pillbox two huge Beobachtungsturme towers were built, next to the rear emergency exit of the Führer’s bunker. In the pictures can be seen that they were not exactly BWS or SSZ, due to its big size (more than double of the already described) and different construction method, but was their role the same?: to protect the SS guards of the complex from the air-bombings? watch towers? One of these towers was still under construction -maybe the two-  when the war ended and it is believed that they served as air ventilation for the subterranean complex too. 

    Author James P. O’Donnell states in his book “The Berlin Bunker” (p 262) that Sergeant Erich Mansfield, a guard of the FBK (Führerbegleitkommando), “was stationed in a camouflaged cement watchtower in the Chancellery garden”, and on the US report on July 30, 1945 from Mansfeld interrogation after being captured was noted that “[Mansfeld was] on duty at the guard station in the bunker’s concrete tower”. Whatever they were for without any doubt were developed from the one-man bunker concept.

    The bunker and the structures were blown up and demolished in 1947 and 1959.

    Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-V04744.

    Photo: United Archives GmbH.

    Photo: still from film. Chronos studio.

    Photo: still from film. Chronos studio.

    This aerial view taken in July 1945 by William Vandivert from LIFE magazine gives us an idea of the exact location of the SSZ pillbox next to Haus Kempka (the small one at centre) and the two huge ventilation towers/BWS at the Chancellery’s back garden.

    Photo: Life Magazine © Time Inc.

    [This image taken in March 1959 shows that the small SSZ (at middle) was still there after the main towers and the Führerbunker were blown up by the Russians.] 

    Photo: UPI/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo.

    Nach Kriegs Ende

    When the war ended in May 1945, there were thousands of SSZ and BWS left intact all over Germany and the Nazi-occupied Europe, now held by the victorious Allied forces. In Germany during the following years, the Soviets took care of the elimination of these small shelters and the larger bunkers on their assigned occupation area. In Berlin, now devastated and divided into four sectors, the work took more time to be accomplished than in other areas. In 1946, the British occupation forces in Berlin were tasked to destroy these “Einmannbunker” in the city and surrounding areas. A February 1948 order from the Disarmament Branch (DB), signed by Capt Finneron suggested that all 1- and 2-people bunkers to be relocated in the British sector and to be destroyed, a work carried out until 1950.

    Today, there are several relics from Second World War of this type in the Berlin area, some of them can be visited. The most widely known are the two SSZs located next to the U-Bhf Gesundbrunnen to point the office of the highly recommended association and subterranean world tours “Berliner Unterwelten” (Brunnenstraße 108, Berlin-Humboldthain). These shelters came from Frohnau in 2003 and are of an unknown type, probably built by Engel & Leonhardt Betonwerk. Another one at the city is the one displayed at the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Kreuzberg (of Westermann & Co Betonwerk design) at their Luftfahrt stage next to an RAF Lancaster wreck and some bombs. 

    Photo: © Holger Happel. Berliner Unterwelten.

    Far from the city centre, there is a Dywidag-BWS at Stubenrauchstraße in Berlin-Schöneweide and a Humerohr-type can be found at the Museum im Alten Wasserwerk in Köpenick, salvaged in 1994 from a pit in the Johannistal Wasserwerk. In Reinickendorf there is another SSZ too inside a private garden. Other similar structures are found at the Werneuchen- and Staaken Flugplatzes and in Hennigsdorf. At the Polizei training area in Spandau there are over a hundred SSZs housed, which may come from the same manufacturer (this is probably a former assembly point in the British military administration), and several others in the woods of the Forts Hahneberg. Finally, if you walk into the abandoned Olympisches Dorf, 14km west of the Olympic Stadium, you could see another pair of BWS, this time of hexagon-shape that were used by Wehrmacht guards that watched the villa. There are many others left in the Brandenburg area.

    [This SSZ was found at Mahlsdorfer Str. in Berlin-Köpenick district.]

    Photo via Bastian Ottmann @kriegsberlin.

    [At left the BWS exhibit at the Museum im Alten Wasserwerk in Köpenick; right photo shows one of the remaining bunkers at Hahneberg in Spandau.]

    Photos: ©Miriam Guterland/ Foedrowitz, M. (2007). Motorbuch Verlag.

    [One of the surviving hexagon-shape BWSs from 1936 located at the Berlin Olympic Village.]

    Photo: Foedrowitz, M. (2007). Motorbuch Verlag.

    [Some of the SSZs at the Polizeiübungsgelände area in Berlin-Spandau]

    Photo: Foedrowitz, M. (2007). Motorbuch Verlag.

    [This SSZ is preserved at the Geschichtspark Falkensee-Berlin. During the war years the DEMAG KZ-Außenlager (a satellite concentration camp of Sachsenhausen) was located here.]

    Photo: © Colin Smith.


  • Berliner Unterwelten e. V. <>
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  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (2002). Bunkerwelten: Luftschutzanlagen in Norddeutschland. Dörfler. 
  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (2007). Ein-Mann-Bunker: Splitterschutzbauten und Brandwachenstände. Motorbuch Verlag.
  • Friedrich, Jörg. (2005). Der Brand Deutschland Im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945, Verlag Ullstein.
  • Guido, Pietro. (2015). Führer Bunker. Discovery its mysteries. ISEM.
  • Landesarchiv LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 703, Bl. 31 ff.
  • National Archives and Records Administration. Hunting Hitler Part V: The Garden (Evening, April 30). Dr. Greg Bradsher. <>
  • O’Donnell, James P. (1978). The Bunker: The History of the Reich Chancellery Group. Houghton Mifflin.
  • Schutzbauten Stuttgart e. V. <,splitterschutz.aspx>
  • Wiebel, Gieland. (2017). Berlin Story Bunker: Geschichte des Bunkers. BerlinStory Verlag GmbH.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • Zaloga, Steven. (2012). Defense of the Third Reich 1941-45. Fortress 107. Osprey Publishing.
  • _______________

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    Britische Luftangriffe über Berlin

    ‘Ten killed in Berlin raid’. ‘Berlin gets a taste of bombs…

    …British bombers took a toll of ten killed and about thirty wounded in a workers’ section less than two miles from the Government offices in Wilhelmstraße. All the casualties were civilians. Preliminary reports gave no word of death or injury to soldiers.’ 

     – The Sun, New York newspaper, Thursday, August 29, 1940 –

    [The deputy Gauleiter of Berlin Artur Görlitzer (centre), accompanied by NSDAP and Gestapo officers, inspects some damage caused by the second RAF Bomber Command air-raid of the war on the Nazi-capital.]

    Photo: Keystone-France Gamma.

    On the night of August 28/29, 1940, the Royal Air Force visited Berlin for the second time. As we have seen on the previous post, Berlin targets were Klingenberg power station at Rummelsburg (East Berlin), Tempelhof airport, and the Siemensstadt factory complex in the northwestern sector. From British bases, 35 RAF crews reached Berlin claiming more or less success on their bombing runs, but sadly their deadly payload hit a very different target on the city with devastating effects.[1]

    [Two views of a destroyed roof in a residential building after receiving a bomb-hit at Mariannenstraße 26 during the RAF raid on 28/29 August 1940. The first image appeared on the frontpage of the Nazi newspaper ‘Der Angriff’.] 

    Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild.

    Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00322884).

    ‘Three-hour raid on Berlin’

    When the bombers arrived just after midnight normality reigned. The eighth air-alarm of the war sounded from 00.27 hrs in Berlin[2] and German searchlights and anti-aircraft fire soon began as the enemy raiders approached at intervals from the western route flying high over the capital.[3] Berliners’ reaction varied from the optimist mood of those closer to the regime to astonishment and inexperience in the air-thread by most of its citizens.[4] The all-clear alarm (‘Entwarnung’) sounded at 03.17 hours.[5]

    The official OKW report summed up the events on the next day: ‘In the night, British aircraft systematically attacked residential areas of the Reich capital. High explosive bombs and incendiaries brought death and injury to numerous civilians and properties sustained roof fires and damage.’ [6] The exact degree of damage was reported, listing every bomb hit on each district and suburb of Berlin: roof fires, shrapnel, windows shattered and properties and of course casualties.[7] Prof Demps resumes in 22,2t of explosives and 1,260 fire-bombs of 4-lbs type the amount of bombs dropped.[8]

    The eastern Kreuzberg district, a very populated residential area, was severely hit by British bombs. Several sticks of bombs dropped around U-Bhf Kottbusser Tor caused chaos and large fires there, and flying debris shattered the streets, hitting everything around. Almost all the windows between the train station and Kottbusser Brücke were smashed. Two high explosive bombs were dropped in front of Kottbusser Str. 25-26 causing severe damage to the pavement and the tram lines there. Another bomb hit Kottbusser Str. 21 destroying the roof structure and the last floor, and number 15’s roof was also destroyed by fire-bombs. Around the corner, the roof structure at Mariannenstraße 26 was thrown into the street by explosive bombs, with roof fires at numbers 24 and 42 corner Skalitzer Str. 24. Damage was inflicted by fires on Skalitzer Str. 122, Mariannenstraße numbers 11 and 9-10 (where the electricity plant was hit) and Oranienstraße 189. Further north, Waldemarstraße 43 near Oranienplatz reported fires on roof and one floor. Finally, two unexploded bombs were located in front of Kottbusser Str. 18-19, next to the tram track.[9] Curiously, all the foreign press mentioned Görlitzer Bahnhof as the worst hit area instead.[10]

    [A view of the day after the strike at Kottbusser Str. 25-26, where two explosive bombs hit the pavement next to the tram lines causing damage. Note the alert sign behind and the Hochbahnhof U-Bhf. Kottbusser Tor (built in 1928) in the background where many civilians took shelter after the raid.] 

    Photo: Associated Press.

    [A few metres away German workers clearing away the debris where a high-explosive bomb hit Kottbusser Str., twisting and buckling the tram lines.]

    Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann / Getty images.

    [This is a warning sign of an unexploded bomb (‘dud’) at Kottbusser Str. 18-19 in the Berlin-Kreuzberg district (notice the U-Bahn highway in the distance). The notice advises the danger with the warning Blindgänger!! Lebensgefahr! which means “Unexploded ordnance”.]

    Photo: Sammlung Berliner Verlag/Archiv.

    [Berliners look into the bomb crater left in the pavement by a British explosive next to Kottbusser Str. Nr 23.]

    Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123).

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    The Prenzlauer Berg ‘bezirk’ (district) suffered minor damage when 7 incendiary bombs hit the area between Kurischestraße (today known as John-Schehr-Straße) and Woldenbergstr. (today’s Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Str.), 4 of which fell on the street, 2 on open terrain and 1 in a roof structure without detonating.[11]

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Meanwhile, at Wedding-Gesundbrunnen two explosive bomb duds were found at Böttgerstraße 31 and Hochstr. 4, next to Humboldthain park. More than 300 people were temporarily evacuated from those streets to a cinema at Badstr. 58 and to Charlotte von Lengefeld school at Ecke Pankstraße/Böttgerstr. by the district’s NS administration. All the evacuates have returned to their homes after the ‘duds’ were blown up on the following week.[12]

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    Rest of the districts struck by bombs belonged to the outer areas of the German capital. At Treptow-Köpenick, located in the south-east of Berlin, the Grünau area was hit by 3 explosive bombs and 18 incendiaries on meadow and forest, one on a garden; property damage was insignificant. Nearby, 6 explosive bombs fell in Müggelheim on open terrain just causing window and walls damage. At Weißensee and Pankow districts around 15 high explosive bombs and some fire-bombs hit uninhabited areas causing just window damages on the surrounding houses. In the northern district of Reinickendorf, bombs were dropped on some residential colonies (Lübars-Mühlenberg, Neu-Rabehorst and Gießland) causing slight damage on many houses and the temporary evacuation of their residents and a neighboring factory building.[13] (see attached map).

    [Curious Berliners watch how the bomb damage at Kottbusser Str. in Kreuzberg is repair on the following day.]

    Photo: bpk/ Dr. Gerhard Katz.

    Ten Berliners lost their lives and about 33 were injured, with three more dying in the following days of their wounds.[14] One of them died because of the injuries caused by a German flak splinter at Tiergarten district.[15] 

    Should be noted that the Nazi regime far from protect their citizens, blamed them from not run to the few and rudimentary air-raid shelters and cellars of the capital: “Persons who failed to obey the air raid rules were hit by splinters from British bombs and also by unpreventable splinters from German anti-aircraft batteries”.[16] Days later, a “state” funeral was held at Friedhof der St. Jacobi-Gemeind in Neukölln where some of the victims were buried attended by the district authorities and a SA honour guard, in what would become a regular basis of the NS-propaganda during the early raids on the city.[17]  

    Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 124).

    [Cleanup work in an apartment building, which roof was destroyed by fire after being hit by incendiary bombs during the air raid. The M-34 helmet with black swastika on red shield decal on the right side identifies him as a fireman, in this case a Feuerschutzpolizei.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L08521A.

    British crews flying at intervals over Berlin were unable to identify the main targets or any landmark owing to darkness and haze. To pinpoint targets at night was very improbable at this early stage of the war because RAF bombers lacked any navigation aids or useful bombsights at night. Aircrews’ fear to German anti-aircraft fire, searchlights, and the long journey back home could make some of them to drop bombs anywhere too. Airmen who were sent that very night recognized years after the war that blackness made very hard to know where they were, although most of them reported back in England that the target areas had been hit. In contrast, they recognized that to identify the target was an intuitive task: “Fliers Tell, in Air Ministry Statement, of Spotting Target at German Capital by Means of Each Other’s Explosives” .[18] Of course, there is the possibility that the Nazi regime hidden the damage done to the RAF targets in the event that they were actually hit.

    London included Berlin “on a series of carefully selected military objectives and on works vital to war production”[19] and declared the attack as effective and according to war’s law: “Right across the centre of the city they flew -but there was no indiscriminate bombing. The target and the target only was specific instruction” reported to the press the Air Ministry the day after.[20] It was the first time that the British press headlines emphasize the efforts of Bomber Command over those of Fighter Command.[21] 

    This is an overall view of the locations where British bombs fell on that night superimposed to a 1940-map of Berlin. In this case the numbers refer to the amount of bombs (HE – black colour; incendiaries – red) reported on every spot. Some of the places, mainly those located on the northern surroundings are nearly out of the map, next to the Brandenburg-Berlin border. It highlighted the scattered bombing pattern obtained by RAF bombers and the distance from the assigned targets (blue areas), far away from the places actually hit. None of the three “military” targets assigned received a single bomb on that night.

    Source: LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f. Map design by Pablo Minuti.

    The German authorities admitted that eight districts of the Great Berlin had been struck in Wednesday night’s attack with minor damage[22] and claimed the British violation of international law (“We shall not forget this new crime by British pilots in contravention of all international law” declared the BZ am Mittag newspaper). They rushed neutral journalists to the Klingenberger electrical, Tempelhof and the Siemens factories to demonstrate that these strategic targets were undamaged by the RAF.[23] Nazi propaganda also highlighted the terrible fact that Berlin had suffered its first civilian deaths from the modern bombing war and used the controlled press to denounce that the RAF has attacked residential areas and killed “women and children” with headlines like ”Britische Luftpiraten bombardierten Berliner Wohnviertel”.[24] 

    Photo: Zeitungsauschnitte zur Berliner Kriegschronik (LAB A Rep. 021-02 Nr. 123).

    [Two scenes captured in original colour after the 28/29 August 1940 British raid on Berlin, with damaged buildings at the Kottbusser Straße numbers 21 (left) and 15 (at right) in Kreuzberg district.] 

    Photos: AKG-images AKG5438572/3.

    This night raid on the capital, the second one during the war, was a military failure to Bomber Command and the Air Ministry but it achieved an invaluable moral victory again for the British people. Berliners had seen how the first bombs fell on Berlin proper and the air war had obtained its first civilian casualties in Germany’s heart, and although British bombs caused slight damage and fires on residential buildings the inviolability of the Reich’s airspace has proved as mere Nazi propaganda. Military targets were not attacked not even hit by bombs but this was a serious warning of what to come to its residents: two night later Berlin’s air raid sirens would sound again.


    Notes and Citations:

    [1] Berlin Luftterror. Bombing raid on Berlin - 28. Aug. 1940; The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Operations Record BooksAIR 27.
    [2] DEMPS, Laurenz (Ed.).(2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag. p 238.
    [3] The New York Times, Thursday, August 29, 1940.
    [4] according to the press, a neutral correspondent who was sitting in a café at Unter den Linden when the alarm sounded saw the head waiter and all other employees immediately pick up their steel helmets and air-wardens’ uniform before allowing the customers to pay the bills and go to the air shelter. Daily Mirror, Friday, August 30, 1940.
    [5] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f; DEMPSop. cit. p 238.
    [6] MOORHOUSE, Roger. (2011). Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, London. p 140.
    [7] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    [8] DEMPSop. cit. p 285.
    [9] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    [10] Daily Mirror, Friday, August 30, 1940; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    [11] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    [12] ibid.
    [13] ibid.
    [14] MOORHOUSEop. cit. p 140; LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    [15] LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f; Hl. end. F. v.16.9. Over 900 people were homeless by the raid according to city official records. Many of them congregated beneath the highway U-bahn line, or else made their way to accommodation points where makeshift kitchens and first-aid station had been stablished by NS-authorities. It was a new situation to local authorities and ration cards had to be distributed; MOORHOUSEop. cit. p 140.
    [16] as declared by the Berliner Illustrierte Nachtausgabe newspaper to American correspondent C. Brooks Peters: The New York Times, Friday, August 30, 1940.
    [17] LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.; MOORHOUSEop. cit. pp 141-142.
    [18] The New York Times, Friday, August 30, 1940. Berliners reported the use the flares over the city on that night too, The New York Times, Thursday, August 29, 1940.
    [19] the Air Ministry to The New York Times, August 30, 1940.
    [20] Daily Mail, Friday, August 30, 1940.
    [21] Brett Holman: Airminded. Airpower and British society. Friday, 30 August 1940. <>
    [22] The New York Times, Friday, August 30, 1940.
    [23] Daily Mirror, Friday, August 30, 1940.
    [24] Der Angriff, 30. Aug. 1940, Nr. 210; Berliner Morgenpost, Freitag, 30. Aug. 1940. Nr. 208.


  • Bowman, Martin. (2011). Bomber Command. Cover of Darkness 1939 - May 1942. Volume: 1. Pen & Sword Aviation.
  • Bowman, Martin. (2015). Voices in flight: The Heavy Bomber Offensive of WWII. Pen & Sword Aviation.
  • Frankland, Noble. (1970). Bomber Offensive: The Devastation of Europe, Ballantine Books.
  • Friedrich, Jörg. (2005). Der Brand Deutschland Im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945, Verlag Ullstein.
  • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
  • Overy, Richard. (2013). The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane.
  • Shirer, William L. (1997). Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books.
  • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 65–78. 1982.
  • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013). Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
  • _______________

    Previous post >

    Bombing raid on Berlin

    ‘Aircraft drawn from two R.A.F. squadrons made a special attack on an objective only four miles from the centre of Berlin early yesterday morning’.

    – Daily Herald, Friday, August, 30, 1940 –

    Photo: © IWM CH 10246.

    As we have seen in previous posts, the first bombing on Berlin by British aircraft on 25/26 August 1940 was an initial retaliation to German attacks over London. Apart from a great victory for morale it served to distress the Luftwaffe offensive against RAF Fighter Command in the summer of that year when the invasion threat was imminent. That first raid was not going to be something isolated, but the beginning of a strategic air campaign against the Third Reich’s capital.

    On the night of August 28th, 1940, the Royal Air Force visited Berlin for the second time in four nights, with an estimated time of 7-8 hours to make the 1,200 miles trip to Berlin and back flying in total darkness. 

    Churchill and the War Cabinet had directed Bomber Command’s Commander-in-Chief Air Marshal Portal to continue the strikes on the Nazi capital, and although this escaped from the actual bombing directive (to reduce the German invasion effort and hit industrial targets) it reached another aim: to have the greatest possible moral effect on both sides.[1] The previous night the Germans kept their bombing raids against west and the south-west of England, and Birmingham was hit by Luftwaffe bombs causing civilian deaths.[2]

    First question to aboard was the exact number of bombers sent to bomb Berlin. In those early days when the raids were small and multiple targets were attacked on the same night, RAF statistics were not so detailed as in late war years, so we found that available sources gives us a variety of figures: Bomber Command’s operational reference book (Middlebrook, 1985)[3] listed just an overall figure of the night: “79 Blenheims, Hampdens, Wellingtons and Whitleys to 6 targets in Germany and to French airfields.” Most aviation historians and authors had taken this total number as reference and it is usually repeated when describing the August 28th raid, some others even not mentioned it.[4] Donnelly completes the chronicle with a more detailed breakdown of the night operations, but failed in describing the exact distribution of the assigned forces.[5]

    Thanks to the primary sources, namely the Squadron’s ORBs, for the first time we can determine the exact number of bombers tasked with that night mission and their times over target: British records show that 47 aircraft were dispatched to the Third Reich’s heart as part of that 79-aircraft force. In all, 35 crews of those sent reached Berlin with more or less success.[6]

    Bomber Command assigned this operation to two of its ‘heavy’ bomb groups. Primary target for the Wellington force (18 aircraft) from No 3 Group was the Klingenberg power station (coded B.57 by the Air Ministry) at Rummelsburg in the eastern part of the city. Tempelhof airport (coded as H324) was given as secondary target.[7]

    [A view of the Großkraftwerk Klingenberg power station, which supplies at the time nearly half of the electricity used in Berlin.]

    Photo: © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg (fm822929).

    Group’s HQ transmitted Order Form B.253 which ordered the crews: “To cause maximum damage to targets given in para. ‘G’ and to create maximum disturbance over Germany during the hours of darkness.” “Maximum load of Bombs is to be carried in consideration of the meteorological conditions and distance”. Between 2 to 6 bundles of leaflets (coded ‘nickels’) should to be dropped also in populous area adjacent to the target.[8]

    Photo: TNA AIR 27/894. 2. © Crown Copyright.

    ‘A seven-hour job’

    At RAF Marham No 38 Squadron dispatched 9 Wellington bombers, departing the airstrip at intervals from 20.30 hours. Arriving at midnight to Berlin they encountered slight haze and clouds; attacking Tempelhof -their secondary target- and reported explosions on the eastern edge of the aerodrome, where large fires were seen already burning. Light flak was reported.[9] Its sister unit at the station, 115 Squadron, sent 9 Wellingtons too tasked with “attack on industrial targets” departing from 20.28 hrs. One of the bombers returned early to base but rest of the force claimed to have bombed both targets: “Fire were started, and explosions seen”. Crews reported heavy flak and searchlights. Last a/c landed at 05.52 back at Marham.[10]

    RAF Sqn Leader Patrick Foss of No 115 Squadron recalls the non so successful raid: ‘When the Luftwaffe made their bombing attacks on London in July 1940 the Prime Minister ordered us to attack Berlin. This was the longest trip we had ever attempted in the Wellington, close to our maximum range with full tanks and minimum bomb load. We set off for Berlin with half a gale blowing from the west, low and middle cloud and murk on the ground. (…) We had failed to get any fixes on the rote and the weather was heavy cloud and total blackness. We glimpsed below us lakes and forest, but never a light or other indication of a city. There was nothing worth bombing and no time for a search. We turned for home and began to plug back against the gale. We landed at Marham with less than thirty minutes of fuel remaining after eight and a half hours in the air. Our other crews returned with similar stories. No one was sure he had hit Berlin. We hoped other stations had had more luck.’ [11]

    [Close view of a Wellington bomber pilot on 115 Sqn photographed in his aircraft at a press event at RAF Marham air base after the second raid on Berlin, 30 August 1940.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 104670).

    Meanwhile, No 5 Group force consisting of six squadrons of Hampden bombers was assigned Order Form B.204 “to destroy SIEMENS & HALSKE factory coded as G.161, on the northwestern part of the German capital. Alternative target was A389, installations part of Tempelhof airport.[12]

    [A Hampden being bombed up in August 1940. The Berlin sorties exposed the Handley Page bomber at the very edge of their range, resulting in six losses due to fuel starvation during the first raid two nights before.]

    Photo: © IWM (HU 104647).

    At RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire, six Hampden bombers of No 44 Sqn bound for Berlin from 20.05 hrs. Five of them attacked the Siemens target with 500 and 250-lb bombs, dropping also incendiaries. Burst and fires were seen.[13] 50 Squadron, departing from the same station, sent 3 Hampdens to hit the German capital and bombed Siemens works also between 00.03 to 00.25 hrs dropping bombs in a gliding attack from medium height. Crews reported intense AA fire and ground defences with searchlights ineffective due to haze with one of them reporting to hit a large building, which burst into flames. A fourth aircraft took off late due to bombing-up arrangement trouble and returned to base early.[14]

    At RAF Scampton No 49 Squadron put up four aircraft: they began taking off around 20.40 hrs with 10 minutes intervals. Only two of them identified the target due to haze and bombed Siemens with results unobserved and a third attack claimed Tempelhof instead.[15]. A few minutes later 6 bombers from 83 Squadron were dispatched to the ‘Big City’: two of them reached Berlin but just one bombed the target (“large fire started”) and the other attacked a vessel on a lake west of Berlin.[16]

    No 61 Sqn provided 5 bombers, starting from 21.10 hrs from RAF Hermswell. Two of them claimed to have bombed primary target causing fires and a third one failed to find it due to darkness and bombed concentration of AA guns; the other two returned early after encountering troubles.[17] Parked next at Hermswell was 144 Squadron, whose contribution to the raid was a 5-bombers force taking off from 20.50 hrs; just 2 of them reached Berlin, released bombs at midnight from 10,000 ft reporting target hidden by clouds.[18]

    [A Handley Page Hampden bomber taxing prior taking off during 1940. ‘KM’ codes painted on the fuselage identifies her as a No 44 Sqn machine. 5 Group’ Hampdens flew 2,043 sorties during the war with 43 aircraft lost (2.1 percent).][19]

    Photo by Paul Nash. TATE-images (TGA/7050PH/37/1).

    [Three Hampdens Mk Is of No 44 Squadron in formation flight during a daylight sortie. Hampdens bound for Berlin loaded with four 500-lbs bombs and several canisters of incendiaries.]

    Photo: © IWM CH 3482.

    The British lost one bomber on this raid, a Hampden I on 83 Squadron (serial X2897, OL-?), the long distance to the Reich capital being the loss cause. This aircraft took off at 21.10 hours from Scampton with Siemens factory as target and on the return flight they ran out of fuel and ditched alongside a trawler near Skegness at 06.20 hrs.[20] They had been in the air for nearly nine hours. Another bomber (P4392, piloted by P/O Clayton) from the same unit had to force-landed on a beach on Norfolk coast with no injuries to crew at 07.50 hrs.[21]

    [This is the crew of Hampden X2897 safely on board a trawler after ditching in the North Sea on return from bombing Berlin, the only loss in this raid. From left to right: Flying Officer Watson, Flying Officer Stannion, Flight Lieutenant Pitcairn-Hill DSO DFC (pilot) and Sergeant Byrne.]

    Photo: Donnelly, L.(2004). The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain.

    The German report of this air attack claimed one of the attacking enemies as shot down by anti-aircraft artillery before it reached Berlin[22] but as previous raid no Flak unit or aircrew filled any claim to the OKL and there was no Nachtjadg reaction either.[23]

    The Air Ministry told the raid to the British press the following day, attacking ‘from dusk until dawn’ and reporting some crews’ stories: ‘We bombed dead on midnight. When we arrived we found the target well on fire. We saw the blaze 25 minutes’ flying time away’said a young pilot officer raiding the power station meanwhile another pilot reported white-hot fire.[24]

    At the same time, across the Channel, German bombers based in northern France built up at high altitude before heading in large formations to bomb Liverpool: in the first mass night bombing of the campaign the Luftwaffe targeted the city large docks but many bombs fell on the surrounding areas causing many civilian casualties. Some German bombs were dropped over 150 miles away from the intended target on that night.[25]

    There was no immediate reaction by Hitler after this attack on Berlin, the OKL would keep the air campaign over Britain and the RAF, but a change was to coming on the following weeks without any doubt triggered by British raids.[26] This second raid had gone beyond being a retaliation and anticipated the inclusion of the bombing of the German capital by London and the War Cabinet as a war effort to defeat Hitler: “Berlin (…) would be regularly included in routine raids from now onwards”.[27]

    But what happened in Berlin after the attack thousands of feet below the RAF crews and their bombing runs? In our next post we will describe the effects of the air raid and its consequences.

    Photo by Paul Nash. TATE-images (TGA 7050PH/7).


    Notes and Citations:

    [1] YOUNG, Neil. (1991). The Role of the Bomber Command in the Battle of Britain. Imperial War Museum Review No. 06.
    [2] DONELLY, Larry. (2004). The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite/Air Research. p 114.
    [3] MIDDLEBROOK, Martin and EVERETT, Chris. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014 Ed. p 78.
    [4] NAPIER, Michael. (2020). Vickers Wellington Units of Bomber Command (Combat Aircraft Book 133). Osprey Publishing. p 32. In the latest book about the Wellington, the author omitted the Squadrons’ contribution on that night and referred just the next bombing on Berlin on August 30th.
    [5] DONELLYop. cit. pp 116-117.
    [6] The National Archives of the UK (TNA). Operations Record Books: AIR 27. © Crown Copyright.
    [7] see TNA AIR 27/894. 2; p 123.
    [8] ibid.
    [9] see TNA AIR 27-397-20.
    [10] see TNA AIR 27/887-20.
    [11] Adapted from BOWMAN, Martin. (2016). Nachtjagd, Defenders of the Reich 1940-1943. Pen & Sword Aviation.
    [12] see TNA AIR 27-453. 2; p 70.
    [13] see TNA AIR 27-447-22.
    [14] see TNA AIR 27-485-20.
    [15] see TNA AIR 27-480-20.
    [16] see TNA AIR 27-686-16. The Air Ministry communique stated that the vessel was hit on a canal near Rathenow, some 90 km west of Berlin; DONELLY: op. cit; p 117.
    [17] see TNA AIR 27-576-18.
    [18] see TNA AIR 27-980-18.
    [20] CHORLEYWR. (2013). RAF Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War. Volume 1 1939-40. Classic Publications. 2nd edition. p 194.
    [21] see TNA AIR 27-686-16.
    [22] see LAB, A Rep. 001-02, Nr. 700, Bl. 8 f.
    [23] BOITEN, Theo. (2018). Nachtjagd Combat Archive. The early years Part 1. 1939-12 July 1941. Red Kite. p 24.
    [24] Daily Mail, Friday, August 30, 1940. 
    [25] Battle of Britain Historical Society. The Chronology: Page-30. Sunday August 25th - Thursday August 29th 1940. By contrast, Smith and Creek stated in their study about German bomber crews that “relatively few operations [against Britain] were flown between 27 and 29 August” and not mention this raid. SMITH, J Richard and CREEK, Eddie J. (2004) Kampfflieger Bombers of the Luftwaffe Volume Two: July 1940-December 1941. Classic Publications, p 109.
    [26] DONELLY: op. cit. p 118; YOUNG: op. cit. (1991): “More raids in the same week and the general damage caused to German cities by the air offensive were contributory factors in the Luftwaffe’s change of air attack priority from Fighter Command’s airfields to London on 7 September, the turning point of the Battle of Britain.”
    [27] MIDDLEBROOK, EVERETTop. cit. p 78. 


    • Bowman, Martin. (2011). Bomber Command. Cover of Darkness 1939 - May 1942. Volume: 1. Pen & Sword Aviation.
    • Bowman, Martin. (2014). Voices in flight: The Wellington Bomber. Pen & Sword Aviation. 
    • Bowman, Martin. (2015). Voices in flight: The Heavy Bomber Offensive of WWII. Pen & Sword Aviation.
    • BRITISH BOMBING SURVEY UNIT (1998).The Strategic Air War Against Germany 1939 - 1945 - The Official Report of the British Bombing Survey Unit. Frank Cass.
    • Churchill, Winston. (1949). Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin.
    • Delve, Ken. (1998). Vickers-Armstrongs Wellington. The Crowood Press.
    • Overy, Richard. (2013). The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane.
    • Tress HB. Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 1982. 
    • Tweddle, Paul. (2018). The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press.
    • Ward, Chris. (2007). 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books. 
    • Ward, Chris and Smith, Steve. (2009). 3 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books.
    • Williston, Floyd. (1996).Through Footless Halls of Air: The Stories of a Few of the Many who Failed to Return. GSPH.


    Previous post >

    Pergamonmuseum in Berlin: Post 1945

    Kriegsende und Neubeginn

    Photo: AC Byers / Hein Gorny / Collection Regard.

    When World War II ended in Europe in May 1945 and the Third Reich capital was seized by Soviet troops, Berlin’s Museumsinsel was in a desolate condition; most of the buildings were badly hit by air strikes and the artillery fire from the final battle between the Red Army and the fierce defence by the German garrison; now the long post-war period began. In the case of Pergamon museum, surrounded by rubble, bombs and fire had blackened its walls and shattered the windows and glass roof but the building has survived without great structural damage.  

    The main room of the museum, where the Altar von Pergamon has been exhibit, was now left in ruins without the friezes, that were secured at the Zoo’s Flak bunker as we have seen in our previous post. In the adjacent rooms, the remaining artifacts and built-in archaeological monuments (the Ishtar Gate, the Market Gate of Miletus, and the Mschatta facade) were hit by debris and were now also exposed to weather.[1] First priority during summer of 1945 was to secure the art works that had survived and remained in the museums, and some of the buildings itself, with the surviving curators and employees trying to reunite the collections housed in the eastern area of Berlin, despite the ruined state.[2]

    [Two 1945-views of the Markttor von Milet room at the museum. During the war, the roof above the gate was destroyed by fire-bombs and although it was covered by a brick shield to protect from the air raids, it suffered some degree of damage: its right wing collapsed and it was damaged by fire and debris. The later exposure to elements led to a rapid deterioration, something incremented by indoor atmospheric effects, during the next years until restoration was started in the 1950s.][3]

    Photo: FD E 030 038 (Vorschaubild) © DeutscheFotothek.

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv.

    [Pergamonmuseum, 1947: note roofless condition due to fire-bombs; some battle-damage from artillery shells is visible on the portico of the museum’s south wing too.]

    Photo by Reich. ullstein bild (E & O).

    At first, Soviet occupation’s purge and revenge included that all the properties and objects were confiscated during this initial period, including art works, but after they restored basic services of the Mitte district and bring order to the devastated capital, Soviet Commander Col Gen Bersarin (the first town mayor after the war) tried to restart art and cultural institutions as soon as possible.[4] From July 1945, Museumsinsel and its museums was located within the Soviet sector in the eastern part of the city and, under the new Kommandatura leadership, cultural institutions back to life: indeed, the first committee set up was for cultural affairs on that very month, but the ruined conditions of the capital prevented many employees back to work and clean-up and reconstruction work required great effort.[5]

    [Museum employees and workers posing for the camera during the reconstruction at the courtyard of the Pergamon in 1950.]

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv (ZA 1.1.3./03065).

    [Reconstruction work at the museum already began in the same year that the war ended, summer 1945.]

    Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv (ZA 1.1.6./06892).

    Follow the back to “normal life”, the four occupying powers started a denazification program, which included all German university professors, museum curators and cultural institutions staff too.[6] After this investigation process, some of them were reestablished to their positions again, such was the case of the already mentioned Prof Unverzagt,[7] or Prof Walter Andrae. The latter’s decision to not remove for safe-storage the permanent fixtures of the Vorderasiatisches Museum at Pergamon saved them almost intact from war bombings and from the Soviet art looting after the war.[8]

    [Prof Walter Andrae, curator of the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin, posing for the camera in a damaged south wing room of the Pergamonmuseum, circa 1945. Note in the background one of the museum’s Assyrian lamassu, a human-headed winged bull from Nimrud, today exposed in the building.]

    Photo: Aufnahme- Eschen - Studio /ullstein bild.

    [Photographer Harry Croner took in 1947 these two views of Kupfergraben from the adjacent railway bridge looking south with battle-damaged Pergamonmuseum and the bridge entrance over the canal. The surviving building at Dorotheenstraße 1 is seen after the war’s fire and destruction. Note the ruined cupola of the Stadtschloss in the background and part of one of the Dom’s front towers.]

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin SM (CronerNeg 108/B3).

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin SM (CronerNeg 108/B2).

    A divided city: reconstruction between 1948 and 1959

    Clearing debris’ effort by Berliners allowed reconstruction of the museums and exhibition halls to begin in 1948, undertaking rebuilding measures in Pergamon museum, but political and administrative division of the city led to the division of the museums and its collections too.

    For over a decade, the surviving art treasures were initially exhibited here in their ruined condition or partial restoration. The good condition of Pergamon helped the transfer to their rooms of many artworks from the destroyed Altes and Neues museums. Restoration work was made at the main rooms of the north and south wings too, affecting from 1948 the Mshatta facade and the Asian collection and from 1952 extensive work was made on the Miletus Gate.[9] After the roof was restored in 1951,[10] the museum was partly opened again to the public in 1953. 

    [“Trümmerfrau vor dem Pergamonaltar”, photo taken by Liselotte Orgel-Köhne (Liselotte Purper before 1945) with her Rolleiflex camera in 1949. Note the absence of the marble friezes on the Altar.]

    Photo: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (11417/3).

    [Several scenes of the reconstruction work of the Mshatta Facade during 1948. The monument itself was not hit during the war, but the room that houses it was severely damaged during the US air raid on February 3rd, 1945.[11] The photographic documentation taken during its excavation were essential during the postwar reconstruction shown here. Further restoration was started in 2016. The man standing at middle is Ernst Kühnel, Direktor des Museums für Islamische Kunst.] 

    Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv. ZA 2.11./03267.

    Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv

    Photo: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst.

    [Museum employees saving Asian archaeological artifacts from war damage in July 1949.] 

    Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-18000-2443.

    [A view of Spree’s Kupfergraben and its railway bridge, between Pergamon’s north wing and the Bodemuseum, taken by Illus Junge in December 1951.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-12947-0003.

    But what had happened with the friezes of the Great Altar?

    The Pergamon panels, secured in crates, had been carried by Prof Unverzagt to the Tiergarten and put in storage into the Zoo’s Flakturm. Safeguarded by its thick walls, the ”Goldkisten”, awaiting evacuation, survived unscathed the bombings and the fierce battles with the Red Army but can not be finally transfer to a safer area outside Berlin.[12] When the bunker surrendered on May 1st, 1945, the Soviets had already established a “trophy and cultural party” under the direction of their Arts Committee to inspect and confiscate all the German art treasures found there and in private collections. Two days later, Dr Otto Kummel, director of the Berlin museums, escorted them through the sites and the Russians made Unverzagt “director of the Flak Tower Museum” to hold the collection.[13] As the Zoo-bunker lays in the future British zone, Stalin ordered its commanders to loot all the objects inside (same scenes happened at the Flakturm Friedrichshain and the Martin-Gropius-bau) before the transfer process to the British troops began; the crates were opened, sealed again and inventoried, being transferred in June to a Soviet depot on the eastern outskirts, and finally carried by plane to Moscow and Leningrad.[14]

    [The Zoo-bunker or Flakturm-I, a real “fortress of art”, seen after the war at Tiergarten Berlin.]

    Photo: still from film, Chronos MEDIA.

    On July 13th, the Altar panels were taken from Berlin: “The last things to leave were a panel of the large frieze of Pergamon, a cabinet with antique cameos, and the Treasure of Priam from Troy” reported in those days archaeologist Carl Weickert.[15] According to the Preußischer Kulturbesitz“over 2.6 million works of art, more than 6 million books and kilometers of archival materials were brought to the USSR in this way”. Hundreds of paintings and antiques like islamic carpets, manuscripts and books had already been lost during the war, many of them sold by the Nazis while others were gutted by fire from the battles.[16] 

    Just one crate, containing heads from the Telephos frieze, made its way to a Western storage, kept in Charlottenburg until the reunification in 1990.[17] When the Western Allies finally entered the city rest of the panels, confiscated secretly by the Russians, were thought to be lost or destroyed. 

    Finally, among other cultural assets, the frieze panels of the Altar were returned to East Germany in 1958, among many other objects looted from the pre-war ’Antikensammlung’ collectionAround half a million objects and 500 boxes were returned by the Soviet Union in this way to the German Democratic Republic (GDR-DDR) from the beginning of the 1950 decade.[18] Some sources states that this return was a political action in order to achieve the East German support for the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.[19] In contrast, thousands of artifacts and treasures disappeared, considered as lost during the war by Western institutions, but were kept in secret in the Soviet Union museums storage rooms until the end of the Cold War in 1991.[20]

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv (ZA 2.2./08480).

    Back in Berlin, a new permanent Altar was installed, with some differences from the 1930 one. The reconstructed ‘Great Altar of Pergamon’ was reopened on 4 October 1959 to match with the 10th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, so the friezes were quickly reinstalled without a deep restoration. Finally, a new building entrance was inaugurated in 1982 at the end of the main court and a new entrance bridge over the canal was built.

    [The frieze slabs being reinstalled to the Great Altar reconstructed walls, during the 1958 works at the museum.]

    Photo: © Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    Photo: © bpk/Herbert Hensky.

    [A close view from the colonnade at Pergamon hall, one of the main cultural attractions of the East Germany state, taken in 1961 by Ralf Goetze.]

    Photo: © Stadtmuseum Berlin SM 2014-1765,72.

    [The city’s tram Linie 22 pass by the Pergamonmuseum main entrance at Am Kupfergraben, during the last DDR period in 1986.]

    [Although many buildings were refurbished war memories were still present in East Berlin during the final days of the DDR-socialist regime.]

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv (ZA 1.1.6./06764).

    [Facade battle-damage seen in this still from film from a February 1990 footage, three months after the East Berlin border was reopened.]

    Photo: still from film, video credit: videohai02.

    When German reunification came in 1990, and the city’s art treasures were reunited again, the Pergamon Altar and the Zeus and Telephos friezes, reunited too, were finally restored between 1994 and 2004. Through the years cornice has been repeatedly cleaned and partly restored, and although was already renovated between 2007 and 2009, signs of battle-damage and scars from the war days are still visible when you look at the museum’s facade.

    Photo by the author, 2014.

    Photo by the author, 2018.

    Photo by the author, 2018.

    Photo: Pergamon-Colin Utz Photography/Alamy

    Photo: Damian Entwistle.

    Photo: Damian Entwistle.

    Photo: Pergamon-Colin Utz Photography/Alamy

    [Inner courtyard of the museum with the modern 1980s visitors entrance, as seen during a spring “sunny” Berliner day in April 2008.]

    Photo by the author, 2008.

    [Reconstruction of the Zeus Great Altar of Pergamon at the Berlin museum, just before the building been closed to public to start the last and great renovation in 2012.]

    Photo by the author, 2012.

    Since 2012-2013, the museum has started a complete renovation and extension as part of the Masterplan Museumsinsel to integrate it into a whole museum complex. The north wing and the Hall of the Pergamon Altar remains closed to the public until 2024; the south wing will remain open. It is expected that the building will be completely accessible to visitors again in 2025/26. The bridge over the Kupfergraben and the tempietto entrance in the Court of Honor will be rebuilt adding a new wing -the fourth- to the museum.[21]

    During this time, a new visitors centre and gallery designed by architect David Chipperfield, the James-Simon-Gallery, has opened in 2019 located at the narrow strip of land between Pergamon and the Neues Museum next to the Eiserne Brücke (already reconstructed in 2008). 

    Photo: Simon Menges.

    © SPK / ART+COM, 2015


    Notes and Citations:

    [1] WINTER, Petra. Invasion auf der Insel: 75 Jahre Kriegsende auf der Museumsinsel. Blog der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz <>
    [2] History of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin <>
    [3] SIEGESMUND, Siegfried and MIDDENDORF, Bernhard (2008), “The Market Gate of Miletus: damages, material characteristics and the development of a compatible mortar for restoration”. Environmental Geology. 56 (3–4): 753–766.
    [4] STIVERS, William and CARTER, Donald A, (2017), The City Becomes a Symbol: The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Berlin, 1945-1949. Centers of Military History United States Army. CMH Pub 45–4. p 70. Available at: <> 
    [5] The Allied Kommandatura was a four-powered control govern established by the victors in Berlin and started its work from 11 July, 1945; STIVERS, CARTERop. cit, p 90; WINTERop. cit.
    [6] STIVERS, CARTERop. cit, pp 102-105.
    [7]  WEMHOFF, Matthias. (2014). Das Berliner Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte in der Zeit des Nationalsozialiusmus. In: Blickpunkt Archäologie 3, 2014, p 43. Unverzagt’s process on 30 July 1945 suggested that he did not act under pressure only but as with many cases with “some Nazi activity”, he was dismissed and a few months later started a new career in East Berlin; GRUNWALD, Susanne. Scientific Capital after 1945 in German Archaeology – Wilhelm Unverzagt and the Archaeology of Hillforts. Archaeologia Polona, vol. 50 : 2012(2019), 85–109.
    [8] Prof Andrae (1875-1956) was the director and curator of the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin (the Ancient Near East) from 1928 to 1952. In 1946 he was appointed full professor of building history and construction at the TUniversity of Berlin and he was one of the supporters of the reestablished Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (German Oriental Society) to promote oriental archaeological research. Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. History of the Vorderasiatisches Museums <>
    [9] SIEGESMUNDop. cit, p 754.
    [10] HEILMEYER, Wolf-Dieter. (1996), History of the Display of the Telephos Frieze in the Twentieth Century. In: Dreyfus, R (ed). PERGAMON: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, Volume 1. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. p 34.
    [11] WINTERop. cit. Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin Museen zu Berlin. Museum für Islamische Kunst. Mschatta im Fokus - Das jordanische Wüstenschloss in historischen Fotografien. 3. Oktober 2014 bis 15. März 2015 - exhibition flyer.
    [12] ALLEN, Susan Heuck (1999), Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik. University of California Press, p 248.
    [13] ALLENop. cit. p 250.
    [14] Ibid
    [15] HEILMEYERop. cit. p 34; WINTERop. cit.
    [16] Kriegsbedingt verlagerte Kulturgüter in Russland. Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. <>
    [17] HEILMEYERop. cit. p 34.
    [18] HEILMEYERop. cit. p 36; Kriegsbedingt verlagerte Kulturgüter in Russland. 
    [19] ALLENop. cit. p 252. “The official position is that after this time [1960] no German cultural assets of significance were held in Soviet custody anymore” states the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesit.
    [20] IbidKriegsbedingt verlagerte Kulturgüter in Russland. The so-called Soviet ‘Trophy Brigades’ were revealed in 1990 when two Russian journalists discovered the “Beutekunst” story to Western media: during the next years a legal battle started with many ‘lost’ art objects returned to Germany (like the Priam treasure of Troy or the Adolph Menzel’s Iron Rolling Mill) and many others still at Russia today. Since reunification, the German federal government has been negotiating with Russia over the return of cultural assets. The Soviet Union declared at the time that those cultural assets were part of its war reparation, seized on a land with no legitimate government in May 1945.
    [21] Pergamonmuseum. Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz 


    • Andrae, Walter (1961), Lebenserinnerungen eines Ausgräbers. De Gruyter.
    • Bilsel, Can (2012), Antiquity on Display: Regimes of the Authentic in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, Oxford University Press.
    • Chapuis, Julien and Stephan Kemperdick, Stephan. (2016), The Lost Museum: The Berlin Painting and Sculpture Collections 70 Years after World War II. Michael Imhof Verlag. 
    • Demps, Laurenz. (2014), Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag. 
    • Landesarchiv Berlin; LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.
    • Pollitt, Jerome J. (1986), Art in the Hellenistic Age. Cambridge University Press. 
    • Shirer, William L. (1997), Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books.
    • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013), Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.


    Previous post > 

    Pergamonmuseum in Berlin

    Telephos and the Großdeutschland myth

    Photo: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Zentralarchiv; CC NC-BY-SA

    If there is a museum of the many that Berlin has that dazzles all its visitors and it is unique in transferring the modern visitor to the Ancient world and mythology, that is Pergamon. From its discovery during the 19th century in Turkey to the German reunification more than a hundred years later, the museum and the altar on display has been a central figure of the city, also during the dark years when NS organizations ruled the country and lead their compatriots to war and defeat.

    The monumental altar dedicated to Zeus was discovered in 1878 by Carl Humman, a German engineer and archaeologist, during his work at the Greek ancient centre of Pergamon (Turkey), a powerful city during the first half of the 2nd century BC. Archaeologist Alexander Conze joined him and started a deeper excavation where many parts of the ruined Acropolis were excavated. The reliefs and sculptures found were taken to Berlin with the Ottoman government permission -and a payment of 20,000 goldmarks after Bismarck mediation-, where a group of experts began to reassemble the many fragments of the complex, one of the greatest archaeological treasures of the Hellenistic period (a 3 D reconstruction model of the altar and friezes can be seen at the museum website)

    A new museum, designed by Fritz Wolff, was erected and opened in 1901 next to the Stadtbahn at the Museumsinsel to house the newly discovered artifacts. From the beginning, this museum resulted too small and was considered as ‘temporary’ with a planned larger new building to be built at the same location. This early museum was closed and demolished in 1908 due to deteriorating foundation and its sculptures were housed in the eastern columned hall of the adjacent Neues Museum

    [The first and smaller Pergamon museum in Berlin, 1898-1908, captured in film by Paul Meyer.]

    Photo: © Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin in der Universitätsbibliothek (F 2060).

    Photo: Pergamum, Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.), v. 21, 1911, Plate I (bottom), facing p. 142.

    A new larger three-wing building in Neo-classical forms was proposed by art curator Wilhelm von Bode, managing director of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum at the time, Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann, to accommodate the new artifacts and objects discovered on the excavations in Middle East. It was planned to be a four museums building: a Middle East museum with Assyrian, Hittite, Sumerian, Babylonian and Persian objects (Vorderasiatisches Museum), a German art painting and sculpture gallery (the Deutsches Museum), an Islamic culture and art room, and the Pergamon Hall for the reconstructed Greek altar discovered by Humann and the Market Gate of Miletus. Only the last carried the name Pergamonmuseum actually but it remained for the whole complex during the years. Many objects came from the overcrowded rooms of the Altes Museum.

    Construction work began in 1910 but First World War outbreak in 1914, the following German crisis and the inflation during 1922/1923 delayed working progress. It was not until 1930 that the complex could be inaugurated but some elements of the building remained unfinished and other never built.

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museum zu Berlin/ Zentrlarchiv.

    Photo: ©Staatliche Museum zu Berlin/ Zentrlarchiv.

    [Taken circa 1920, this picture which shows the construction site of the 2nd Pergamon-museum, oriented to the southwest towards the Spree.]

    Photo: © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg (Nr. 1.102.718)

    [Architecture plan for the Deutsches und Vorderasiatisches Museum with its location at the Berliner Museumsinsel.]

    Photo: ©Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin.

    [Construction works of the Great Altar display and stairway at the Pergamon hall, circa 1911. The museum exhibits a reconstruction without the original dimensions, far greater than the building, of the west wing of the Altar with only partly sculptures and the stairway with colonnades; many panels of the friezes are missing.]

    Photo: Architektur museum, TU Berlin (47681).

    [The new Pergamonmuseum opening was presided by the Generaldirektor der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Dr Wilhelm Waetzoldt, in October 1930 in front​ of invited guests and with the Pergamonaltar display as background.]

    Photo by Ernst Gränert: ©bpk - Photo Agency/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    [Berliners admiring the reconstruction of the blue ‘Babylontor’ or Ishtar Gate from Neo-Babylon king Nebuchadnezzar II-period (605 BC–562 BC), also installed brick by brick at the Berlin Pergamonmuseum, in February 1932.]

    Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13149.

    Pergamon under the Third Reich

    When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they tried to emphasize all German cultural institutions to praise Aryan culture with exhibitions, events, parades and speeches, a “cultural propaganda” aimed to show to their enemies the power of National Socialism and the resurrection of the new Germany, linking it with the cultural past and mythos of the Ancient world but also to racial and dark doctrines. The NSDAP organized weekly visits to show German people -those faithful to the movement- the treasures contained in Berlin’s museums, including Pergamon. Also, new archaeological excavations led by new archaeologists were started to fill the showcases of the German museums. One of them was Prehistorian and archaeologist Prof Wilhelm Unverzag (1892-1971). His Zantoch’s research matches with the cultural-political and ideological National Socialist discourses and let to a closer connection with the Ahnenerbe and the SS leaders, especially Alexander Langsdorff, which appointed him as chairman of the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte and member of the Reichsbundes für Deutsche Vorgeschichte. Unverzag would have a leading role in the ultimate fate of the Great Altar’s friezes during the war and at its conclusion.

    [Wilhelm Unverzagt (left) during a Nazi-tour at the excavation in Zantoch, Poland (1932-1934).]

    Photo: Wemhoff, M. Blickpunkt Archäologie 3, 2014.

    [The monumental entrance of Pergamonmuseum in 1937-38 as viewed from the bridge over the Kupfergraben Spreekanal.]

    Photo by Harry Croner: ©Stadtmuseum Berlin.

    [Adolf Hitler attends the opening of the ‘Altjapanischer Kunst’ (”Old Japanese Art”) exhibition of the Deutsches und Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin at the Pergamonaltar hall on 28 February 1939. Japanese ambassador Hiroshi Oshima holds the opening speech.]

    Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00250990_p)

    [The Führer leaving the exhibition at the Pergamon museum. Visible around him are Nazi leaders von Ribben​trop, Rust, and Göring. Behind them are Heinrich Himmler, Scha​ub and Albert Bormann.] 

    Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-E03058.

    [The Nazi games: Participants line up in formation at the stairway of the Pergamonaltar during this reception in honour of the advent of the Olympic Games in the summer of 1936.]

    Photo: Getty images

    [Mythos under darkness: ceremony with torches for new BDM leaders at the Great Court of the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin, in June 1936.]

    Photo: ullstein bild.

    [Nazi-Jungmädelbund (the “Young Girls’ League”) members are committed to BDM leaders in the courtyard of the Pergamon Museum, June 1937.]

    Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00336104).

    Pergamon am Bombenkrieg

    When the war broke out in September 1939, Nazi authorities prepared the museums and antiquities of the city for protection against future attacks. Well before that, Hitler had ordered to categorize all works of art in Berlin as Class 1 (Irreplaceable), Class 2 (Very Valuable) and Class 3 (Other). 

    As the air bombings intensified in September 1940, the Führer ordered Generalbauinspekteur Albert Speer urgently the start of a self-defence program under the name of ‘Führer-Sofortprogramm’ (“Emergency program”): air-raid shelters were constructed, a more careful blackout policy was implemented and the main cultural buildings and monuments were protected with masonry and sandbags from the effects of the war from the air. This included Pergamon, which was closed to public since then and secured: basement windows were walled in, and the friezes of the Great Altar, the hall and the other rooms were covered with sandbags and wooden-walls. 

    Photo: bpk/ Elisabeth Rohde.

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (ZA 2.2./08415).

    Photo: bpk/ Bayerische Staatsbibliothek | Heinrich Hoffmann.

    [Museum employees during the works to protect the ancient two-storey Propylon of Athena sanctuary from modern ‘Bombenkrieg’ in 1940-41.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./08417).

    [The Umayyad Mshatta Facade at Pergamon with its splinter-protection in 1940. This stone facade comes from a desert palace that was erected near the Jordanian capital of Amman circa 740 and was a gift from the Ottoman sultan in 1903; it was shown at the museum since 1932.] 

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (ZA 2.11./03258).

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.11./03256).

    [View of Am Kupfergraben street during the war years. Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum is partly seen at extreme left.]

    Photo: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00298429_p).

    In January 1941, the friezes were dismantled and with the rest of the museum collection stored in crates; at first at the building basement but later were taken to the cellar of the Reichsbank (this included the Priam’s Treasure too, taken from the Martin-Gropius-Bau). When the first Flakturm was built in the Zoo-Tiergarten area months later, the crates were taken to the Großer Zoo-bunker there along hundreds of paintings, gems and other cultural artifacts: the first floor, rooms 10 and 11, took Nefertiti’s portrait head, the Schliemman’s treasures from Troy and the Pergamon panels and dismantled Zeus Altar. From mid 1943 Bomber Command started a stronger and dedicated bombing campaign on Berlin, so Unverzagt tried to secure the rest of the museums’ art objects on the bunker towers along to prepare the evacuation to safer place out of the capital. He took himself residence there too. 

    [Bomb-damage to the museum room that houses the reconstructed Markttor von Milet (Market Gate of Miletus) and the Trajanshalle in 1943, which were secured by a wooden structure and sandbags. The two-storey gate combined Greek and Roman elements from 180 AD. It was discovered in 1903 by Germans Theodor Wiegand and Hubert Knackfuß and its fragments carried to Berlin.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./05110).

    [Debris and sandbags covering the Hellenistic period room of the museum, pictured in 1943.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (ZA 2.2./0511).

    [The partly damaged Saal III with the Great Altar and stairway with the colonnade as seen circa 1943-44.]

    Photo: © bpk - Photo Agency/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    Pergamonmuseum, now a closed site, was finally hit during the British RAF heavy air raid on 28/29 January 1944 -677 bombers were dispatched to bomb Berlin with heavy losses- by a stick of incendiary bombs (more than 300,000 were dropped during the raid) that caused severe damage to the building’s roof and the skylights. The museum was hit again during the big US strike on Berlin Mitte on 3 February 1945 (937 heavy bombers), several bombs caused great damage on the building, including the Mschatta’s room and destroyed the footbridge which linked the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum.

    [This picture taken in 1944 shows the Mschatta-Saal this time after being hit by the enemy’s raids.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (ZA 2.11./03260).

    [War comes to the Museumsinsel: View of Am Kupfergraben and Pergamon museum in September 1944. Wartime economy and bombings forced Berliners to use trams as freight trains -note bomb damage to the museum’s roof and the walled in protection on the trams.]

    Photo: Tagesspiegel.

    Further damage was inflicted during the final Soviet assault on the capital during April-May 1945, but the museum survived mostly intact to the ground battles. Artillery shells damaged it, which was hit by shrapnel and small-arms fire, and windows, doors and skylights were destroyed but the building was in much proper condition than the surrounding museums of the island, for example both the Neues and Altes museums were gutted by fire and left in a ruined state until the end of the Cold War. On May 1st, Red Army’s 266th Rifle Division took the northern part of the island and occupied the museums, reported by archaeologist Gerda Bruns, an employee of the museums: „Am Vormittag um ½ 11 Uhr betritt der erste russische Soldat die Museumsinsel.“

    [Courtyard of the partially destroyed Pergamon Museum as seen after the 1945 air-bombings. Note that one of the twin-towers has collapsed due to the damage taken.]

    Photo: ©Zentralarchiv/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz (ZA 1.1.6./07218).

    [Fallen debris from the destroyed roof and snow covered the Pergamon Hall floor in the museum after the war, Winter 1945/46.]

    Photo: ©bpk - Photo Agency/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

    [Two more views of the ruined and devastated state of the museum after the war, in 1946.]

    Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo (00332755_p).

    US reconnaissance image taken on 22 March 1945 by PR aircraft of the 22nd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron over Berlin-Mitte, showing the damage inflicted to the Museumsinsel and the destroyed skylight roof of the Pergamonmuseum, gutted by fire. Note the adjacent bombed out Neues Museum, all before the ground battles of April-May.

    Photo: NARA: sortie US7/0072/D. frame: 4167.

    By war’s end, the new Pergamonmuseum had been open to the public just nine years before the outbreak of the Second World War obligated to close it, and had become a ruined building only fifteen years after its glorious inauguration. 

    But what happened to its treasures, secured on the Flakturm’s Zoo-bunker, when the Soviet Red Army reached the city in May 1945? 


    Sources and Bibliography:

    • Allen, Susan Heuck (1999), Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik. University of California Press.
    • Bilsel, Can (2012), Antiquity on Display: Regimes of the Authentic in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, Oxford University Press.
    • Demps, Laurenz. (2014), Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag. 
    • Hastings, Max. (2010), Bomber Command. Pan Macmillan. 
    • Heilmeyer, Wolf-Dieter. (1996), History of the Display of the Telephos Frieze in the Twentieth Century. In: Dreyfus, R (ed). PERGAMON: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, Volume 1. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
    • Klartext Zur Geschichte des Bode-Museums von 1875 bis 2020: Chronologie. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin <>
    • Landesarchiv Berlin; LAB, A Rep. 005-07, Nr. 559, o. Bl.
    • Middlebrook, Martin and Everett, Chris. (1985), The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. Reprint Edition 2014.
    • Moorhouse, Roger. (2011), Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books.
    • Pergamonmuseum. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin <>
    • Pollitt, Jerome J. (1986), Art in the Hellenistic Age. Cambridge University Press. 
    • Shirer, William L. (1997), Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941. Galahad Books.
    • Wemhoff, Matthias. (2014). Das Berliner Museum für Vor-und Frühgeschichte in der Zeit des Nationalsozialiusmus. In: Blickpunkt Archäologie 3, 2014, S. 40-43.
    • Wildt, Michael and Kreutzmueller, Christoph. (2013), Berlin 1933-1945 - Stadt und Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus. Siedler Verlag.
    • Winter, Petra. Invasion auf der Insel: 75 Jahre Kriegsende auf der Museumsinsel. Blog der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz <>


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