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’s 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. 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.
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) 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. On the opposite side, former air-gunner L Donnelly completes the chronicle with a more detailed breakdown of the night operations, but fails in describing the exact distribution of the assigned forces meanwhile author Paul Tweddle gives the more complete narration of the raid, although not listing the force numbers.
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.
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.
[A view of the Großkraftwerk Klingenberg power station, which supplies at the time nearly half of the electricity used in Berlin.]
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.
‘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. 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.
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.’ 
[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.]
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.
[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.]
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. 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.
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.. 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.
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. 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.
[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).]
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. 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.
[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 DSODFC (pilot) and Sergeant Byrne.]
The German report of this air attack claimed one of the attacking enemies as shot down by anti-aircraft artillery before it reached Berlin but as previous raid no Flak unit or aircrew filled any claim to the OKL and there was no Nachtjadg reaction either.
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’.
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.
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. 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”.
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.
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. 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.
[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.]
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. 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.
[Museum employees and workers posing for the camera during the reconstruction at the courtyard of the Pergamon in 1950.]
Followthe 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. After this investigation process, some of them were reestablished to their positions again, such was the case of the already mentioned Prof Unverzagt, 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.
[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.]
[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.]
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. After the roof was restored in 1951, 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.]
[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. 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.]
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. 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. 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.
[The Zoo-bunker or Flakturm-I, a real “fortress of art”, seen after the war at Tiergarten Berlin.]
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. 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.
Just one crate, containing heads from the Telephos frieze, made its way to a Western storage, kept in Charlottenburg until the reunification in 1990. 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’ collection. Around 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. 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. 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.
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.]
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.
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.
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).
 WINTER, Petra. Invasion auf der Insel: 75 Jahre Kriegsende auf der Museumsinsel. Blog der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz <https://blog.smb.museum/invasion-auf-der-insel-75-jahre-kriegsende-auf-der-museumsinsel/>  History of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin <https://www.smb.museum/en/about-us/history/>  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.  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: <https://history.army.mil/html/books/045/45-4/index.html>  The Allied Kommandatura was a four-powered control govern established by the victors in Berlin and started its work from 11 July, 1945; STIVERS, CARTER: op. cit, p 90; WINTER: op. cit.  STIVERS, CARTER: op. cit, pp 102-105.  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.  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<https://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/vorderasiatisches-museum/collection-research/about-the-collection/>  SIEGESMUND: op. cit, p 754.  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.  WINTER: op. 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.  ALLEN, Susan Heuck (1999), Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik. University of California Press, p 248.  ALLEN: op. cit. p 250.  Ibid.  HEILMEYER: op. cit. p 34; WINTER: op. cit.  Kriegsbedingt verlagerte Kulturgüter in Russland. Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.<https://www.preussischer-kulturbesitz.de/schwerpunkte/provenienzforschung-und-eigentumsfragen/kriegsverluste-der-sammlungen/kriegsbedingt-verlagerte-kulturgueter-in-russland.html>  HEILMEYER: op. cit. p 34.  HEILMEYER: op. cit. p 36; Kriegsbedingt verlagerte Kulturgüter in Russland.  ALLEN: op. cit. p 252. “The official position is that after this time  no German cultural assets of significance were held in Soviet custody anymore” states the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesit.  Ibid; Kriegsbedingt 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.  Pergamonmuseum. Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz <https://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/pergamonmuseum/about-us/profil/>
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.
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.]
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.
[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.]
[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 withthe Pergamonaltar display as background.]
[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.]
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).]
[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.]
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.
[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 740and was a gift from the Ottoman sultan in 1903; it was shown at the museum since 1932.]
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.]
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.]
[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.]
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.]
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.
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 <https://www.smb.museum/fileadmin/website/Museen_und_Sammlungen/Bode_Museum/Ausstellungen/Klartext/PDF/Klartext_Chronologie_Bode_Museum_SMB_deutsch.pdf>
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 <https://www.smb.museum/museen-einrichtungen/pergamonmuseum/home/>
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 <https://blog.smb.museum/invasion-auf-der-insel-75-jahre-kriegsende-auf-der-museumsinsel/>
The use of military aviation as an instrument of war had its first days years before the First World War, and since its birth, it had a dizzying evolution that would make air power an essential element in the war plans of the next two decades. At first, aviation was employed in a role of direct or indirect support to the battlefield and the troops that fought on it, however, with technical evolution in constant development, military strategists were able to devise new ways of waging war. The most advanced way to execute this aerial power was put into practice on attacks in enemy areas in long-distance flights, beyond the other types of bombing. A faster, cheaper and ‘cleaner’ war was promised beyond the frontline.
During the 1914-1918 war, both the British and the Germans planned to attack the enemy’s cities by air: thus several attacks by zeppelins first and huge bombers later were carried out from 1915 with varied results but in general with little or no consequences for the development of the war. Of course, it had been made clear that in future wars, the delimitation of the battlefield no longer existed. It would be fought both in the battlefront as in the home front. This is how the new “warrior” appeared, the one who would suffer the most from the harshness and cruelty of the battles of the 20th century: the civilian population. This new war extended its destructive power even to non-combatants. Modern air warfare was born with the planners of the Kaiser’s Empire: starting from reconnaissance flights over the frontline to destroy a military target that resides in an urban area.
[German armourers ‘bombing up’ a Gotha G.V bomber in November 1917 during the First World War.]
With this new way of waging war, another element that strategists and generals would have to count on: moral (which includes morality and morale). Lt Col Ash defines military morale: “If morale is the desire to continue the fight, then strategist must target morale in order to break the enemy’s will to resist. This is why morale is so important. It can lie at the heart of targeting for effect”. That morale also extends, as von Clausewitz said, to the leadership of society. The theory was simple: the enemy nation should also be attacked in its own territory, in its facilities, in its cities and in its homes to nullify the possible future combat capacity of its inhabitants, either as soldiers or as workers of the war effort. Directly choosing moral as an objective involved attacking group goals, cultural histories and traditions, symbols, and ideology. In addition, it should be achieved in this way to break the trust of the society placed in their leaders, and prevent them from continuing to abide by their directives; an army is sustained by soldiers and weapons, so if the people were prevented from filling their ranks, no one would handle the manufactured weapons. On the other hand, this strategy also wanted to achieve the double effect of demoralizing the battlefront soldier, who when seeing his home city -and therefore, his family- reduced to rubble, would lose faith in victory. That is to say, in times of war, the will to fight is attacked. In World War II, the moral bombing strategy involved both positive (which gives strength, given the success achieved) and negative (which, on the contrary, leads to depression and defeat after seeing the enemy superiority).
Ash signaled on the direction of the attacks: “…leadership influence can be eliminated by cutting command or social-structure linkages so that society no longer associates its confidence with its leaders. Another indirect option involves bombing the society at large so as to kill the populace or at least cause loss of sleep and reduced worker performance. That sounds like direct targeting, but it is not. It eliminates the confidence of the victims, but the actual target is the confidence and morale of the surviving population.” 
This attack on morale will be extended and completed with the inclusion of raids on the elements that produce the another’s war effort, such as facilities, factories, oil refineries, docks, warehouses and marshalling yards should be attacked wherever they are, which implied to fly over enemy territory crossing defended airspace in great risk.
In the interwar years, the different powers analyzed the military contributions of strategic air attacks, appearing a whole doctrine of bombing and air warfare, with several representatives who formulated the basic guidelines to follow in future conflicts. In Great Britain (which has always been one of the leading powers in air development) Lord Hugh Trenchard, Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, had a great importance. His are the dogmas that “in air warfare the greatest defense is counterattack”  and that “the country that resisted the bombardment the longest would win in the end.”  He will bet on the creation of a powerful bombardment arm among the British air ranks, believing that the moral effect of the bombings was much more effective than the physical one, and that in the future the bombers would win the battles alone. Critics have accused him of his dogmatic approach to offensive tactics against morale and of promotion of bombing of urban populations.
[Marshal of the RAF, Lord Trenchard (middle), talks with the aircrew of a Fairey Battle light bomber during a tour of AASF Wings in France in 1939.]
Even more extreme were the conceptions of the Italian army General Giulio Douhet in his book Il dominio dell’aria (first published in 1921), head of aviation at the Mussolini’s fascist regime. He considered air warfare as a saving element that would prevent the slaughter between soldiers on the ground; the bomber would break the stalemate of the war, seeking the surrender of the enemy by annihilating its defences, for which, according to him, the large-scale slaughter of civilians was justified. Douhet also approved the bombardment with toxic gases, with attacks that “slowly emit gas, thus poisoning the atmosphere for weeks”. He appropriated Trenchard’s basic idea and carried it to its logical, amoral conclusion. Douhet believed that the decisive action against the enemy should be the attack on the population itself and that the instrument for this was the bomber. Frankland says that the figure of the Italian general as the sole mentor of this doctrine is questionable, but he granted his later influence in the USA, meanwhile Taylor believes that Trenchard’s ideas, and even Douhet’s, could carry deterrence at their heart:“So terrible would be the damage the bombers would inflict that in the future no sane leader could envisage unleashing a European war.”. Friedrich states of the impossibility of dissociating the concepts of “bomber”, “State” and “war” since then, and that“making war means, above all, to bomb cities. This was indicated by the Trenchard doctrine, the raison d’être of the Royal Air Force”, a highly accusatory judgment, possibly because its country of origin (Germany) was the main victim of these theories.
The evolution of these theories after the First World War led to an increase in the air branch of each nation, especially the bombing arm, with a constant technical improvement that allowed the maximum bomb load to be carried as far as possible.
Bombing aircraft were the weapon of the future, and with them the enemy would be defeated. In the 30s, the “Multiplace de combat” theory, would pick up this concept, with large and heavy bombers -but slow- armed with numerous machine guns in turrets, for self-defense, that would make their way into the enemy’s skies alone.
The great conflict of that decade, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), would further contribute to assert this principle. From Spain experiences, great powers drew very wrong conclusions (and which would pay on the first years of the imminent world war), led to the conviction of the bombing aircraft power and its ability to survive against enemy defences alone, but this was due to the very special circumstances of warfare of the Spanish conflict (a mix of traditional strategies and new weapons yet to be tested). Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union tested bombing aircraft in Spain, developing their weapons and training their crews. Both Germans and Soviets started to develop a new type of bomber too: the sleek, monoplane, and fast plane which carried a small bomb load designed to penetrate enemy airspace and leave behind the fighters thanks to its greater speed and defensive fire (examples of that were the Luftwaffe’s Heinkel He 111 or the Soviet SB-2 Katiuska).
The civilian population would suffer for the first time a sustained and aimed bombing campaign targeted to break its resistance: Madrid, the capital city, had the “honour” of being the first city in the world to suffer the moral bombing strategy (since October 1936) with daily attacks by German and Fascist Italian aviation which supported General Franco [see our “Evacuad Madrid” post]; the following year both Barcelona and Valencia cities would suffer daily punishment from the air with hundreds of civilian killed, just as the most famous air bombing was also carried out in Spain by Legión Cóndor aircraft: Guernica (or Gernika), on April 26th, 1937.
[A Spanish Republican Potez 540 bomber, the French ”multiplace de combat”, employed during the first months of the Spanish Civil War by the government against the Nationalist rebel forces.]
[This image, taken by Juan Miguel Pando Barrero during the war, shows that Spanish civilians used Madrid subway every night as an air-raid shelter to take refuge from Franco’s bombers, as they would do years later Londoners and Berliners during WW2.]
[A Spanish Nationalist Heinkel He 111B (in the foreground) parked next to its predecessor in the German bombing arm: the Junkers Ju 52 -a converted bomber from the famous civilian airliner- seen at the end of the war.]
[Aerial bombing of Barcelona, 17 March 1938, by Fascist Italian Aviazione Legionaria aircraft.]
Both Great Britain and the United States carefully studied the operations and experiments carried on in Spain and China (where the Japanese bombed civilian targets like Shanghai or Chengdu during theSecond Sino-Japanese War), knowing that they were a prior act of the air war that would be fought in the incoming years. What was learned was put into practice, in different ways, against the inhabitants of Europe (and months later in other parts of the world).
Strategic moral bombing was an attack against community, which in the case of World War II experienced the most critical and high mark moments, although at times it achieved just the opposite result of that aimed by strategists. Civilians morale, far from declining increased, due to the feeling of hatred towards the enemy bomber that bring devastation to their homes. And among the attacking aircrews, the effort and toughness encountered led to demoralization in the face of the losses experienced and the poor visible results.
 FRANKLAND, Noble: Bomber Offensive: The Devastation of Europe, Ballantine Books, 1970,p 10.  OVERY, Richard: Why The Allies Won, Pimlico, 2005, p 150. Overy is also author of a monograph about RAFBomber Command (Bomber Command, 1939-1945, Bookmart Ltd, 2000).  During World War I, the German bombing offensive on British cities had begun on the night of January 19-20, 1915. Attacks were carried out during the following months against Dover, Yarmouth or London. The British, for their part, had already carried out attacks on enemy installations such as zeppelin hangars in places as far away as Cologne or Dusseldorf during late 1914. Ibid. About the London air-raids Taylor says that “For a while an atmosphere of near panic infected the highest circles of British government”. TAYLOR, Frederick: Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945, Bloomsbury, 2005, p 118. The author includes figures about the Anglo-Frenchbombing campaign of that war: in 675 strategic raids mounted against Germany 746 German soldiers and civilians had died and a total of 1.2 million pounds’ worth of damage had been inflicted, compared to losses of 352 aircraft and 246 crew members killed or missing, p 119. See alsoFRIEDRICH, Jörg: Der Brand Deutschland Im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945, Verlag Ullstein, 2005,p 61. Further reading about the London bombing campaign in CASTLE, Ian: London 1917-18: The bomber blitz, Osprey Publishing, 2010.  TAYLOR: op. cit., p 117.  ASH, Eric:Terror Targeting: the Morale of the History. Air and Space Power Journal, Winter 1999, p 34. <https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portals/10/ASPJ/journals/Volume-13_Issue-1-4/1999_Vol13_No4.pdf  Ash states that “Morale during World War II was usually higher in active theaters [of combat] than in noncombat areas, despite the increased danger”. op. cit., p 35.  Ibid.  FRANKLAND: op. cit., p 12.  TAYLOR: op. cit., p 122.  ASH: op. cit. p 38.  TAYLOR: op. cit, p 125; ASH, op. cit., p 35.  TAYLOR: op. cit., p 125. FRANKLAND: op. cit., p 12.  FRIEDRICH: op. cit., p 64.  France was the country that developed longer this theory with its ‘Multiplace de combat’, designing a high number of huge and bulky planes with gun turrets, which despite its conviction, would be a total failure when operationally tested in the war over Spain (in this case the Potez 54 bomber).  First air raid on Madrid was made on 27 August 1936, and the first one in daylight on October 23rd of the same year. REVERTE, Jorge: La batalla de Madrid, Crítica, 2004, pp 117-118. In 2019, two Spanish architects, Luis de Sobrón y Enrique Bordes, have published the first complete and well-researched bombing map of Madrid: https://diario.madrid.es/carteles/madrid_bombardeado/  Further reading about the air bombing raids during the Spanish Civil War in SOLÉ I SABATÉ, Josep Maria; VILLAROYA, Joan: España en llamas, Temas de Hoy, 2003. During the Guernica air attack were killed about a hundred civilians, SALASLARRÁZABAL, Jesús: “La campaña del Norte”. Enciclopedia de la Aviación Militar española, Quiron Ediciones, Nº 10 (2000), p 151. For an overall study of the air war over Spain, see PERMUY LÓPEZ, Rafael: Air War over SPAIN, Ian Allan Publishing, 2009.
About the author: Pablo López Ruiz researches the bombings of Germany and the Third Reich by Allied forces during WW2. His work was defended as Bachelor’s Degree Final Project as part of his BA in History at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in 2007.
It was a few years ago, December in Berlin and I was with some friends at a celebration at Alexanderplatz next to the typical Weihnachtsmarkt. When the fireworks began, explosions of colour, noise and lights fell in the middle of the intense cold and the first snowflakes. Around me, everyone gaped to the wonderful show in the sky while enjoying a glass of ‘Glühwein’.
Me, however, could only think how ironic life is. 70 years ago, no Berliner would have stayed in the middle of the street looking at the sky laughing and enjoying: that wave of green, red colour flares (TIs) and white colour, air burst markers, was only the prelude to the rain of fire and bombs that minutes later would be dropped by hundreds of bombers flying over the city.
But Berliner sense of humor not fail: those flares resembling bunches of grapes or upside down fir trees when detonated in the air, hundreds falling on the Reich capital to illuminate it, were known by 1940s Berliners as ‘Weihnachtsbäume’ or ‘Christbäume’ (Christmas trees).
However, I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again I returned to the pleasant feeling of living in peace and harmony, far from Nazism and the air bombings that so many cities suffered. That was the night that the idea of starting a blog about Berlin and the bombings crossed my mind, to share the thousands of stories from both sides who had to live those terrible moments of war and death.
Berlin: 8-9 May 1945: 75 years ago, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander and Gen Carl Spaatz Commanding United States Strategic Air Forces, arrived at Berlin-Tempelhof aboard an RAF C-47 on behalf General Eisenhower to ratificate the German
unconditional surrender signed the day before at Reims. The act took place at the Soviet headquarters in the city at Karlshorst, now the Deutsch-Russisches Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, where World War II came to an end in Europe now in presence of the Soviet commander Marshal Georgy Zhukov. The German delegation, composed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, General-Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedebur (Kriegsmarine) and Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen Stumpf (Luftwaffe) signed the capitulation at 1.00 hrs 9 May.
It is quite significant that the highest rank of the Western Allies’ air power -Tedder and Spaatz- the men who lead the Strategic bombing campaign, were the ones chosen to represent Eisenhower and the winners on this act which marks the end of the Third Reich.
[Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht, signed the declaration in Karlshorst. The war is over.]
[An unidentified air- and groundcrew of RAF No 627 Squadron posing for the camera in front of a Mosquito wooden bomber in Britain. Note the mission bomb log painted on the nose of the aircraft.]
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the last strategic air raid on Berlin during the Second World War. For more than 70 years the ‘honour’ of which RAF Bomber Command aircrew dropped the last bombs on Berlin was bestowed to a No 109 Squadron crew. But it was in 2017 that Richard Stowers found evidence during his research that actually there was another Mosquito crew which dropped their deadly load later on that night.
The last Allied air raid on Berlin took place on the night of 20/21 April 1945. Bomber Command sent 76 de Havilland Mosquito bombers in six separate attacks to disrupt the German capital, a few hours before Stalin’s armies reached the eastern suburbs of the sieged city.
[A trio of Bomber Command No 128 Squadron Mosquitoes B XVIs, equipped with gas drop tanks on the wings, taxiing ready to take-off at the start of another night sortie to bomb the ‘Big City’ in 1945.]
The long-credited pair, F/O Arthur C Austin (pilot) and P Moorhead (navigator) were flying MosquitoXVIMM929, one of eight bombers dispatched on that night by the squadron for the ‘Big City’. They took off from RAF Little Staughton and flew to Berlin where they dropped four 500-lb bombs at 02.16 hrs (GTM), landing back at 04.30 hrs safely. “Bombed target from 28,000’ by A.R.5513 at 0214 – Cloud 10/10 St. – Defences nil.” we can read on the Operations Record Book of the squadron (National Archives, AIR 27/856/8.)
A few miles away, eight No 105 Squadron -a Pathfinder unit- Mosquitoes prepares to take off for Berlin too from Bourn near Cambridge. One crew was composed by Flt Lt David W. Young of New Zealand, and his navigator P/O Malcolm B. Skinner (an Australian) when a malfunctioning engine on their aircraft when taxiing forced them to change their kite for the sortie for a spare bomber already bombed up. Finally they were airborne twenty minutes late at 00.35 hrs on MosquitoXVIPF407 “A”, 22 minutes after the last 109 Sqn Mosquito. They reached Berlin alone in the dark, dropping four 500-pounders after an ‘Oboe’ signal with Alexanderplatz as aiming point. The RAF crew landed back at 04.44. Both men’s logbooks and the entry on the squadron’s ORB only registered “Primary attacked” and the depart /landing times (National Archives, AIR 27/828/8) but Stowers found a signed certificate issued by the Intelligence Officer of 105 Sqn dated June 4, 1945 in which is detailed based on the ‘Oboe’ release signal on target that they salvoed their explosive cargo 12 minutes later than Austin and Moorhead, precisely at 02.26.2 hrs on 21 April 1945.
[The ORB of No 109 Squadron recording the RAF unit combat sorties during April 1945. In this case, the page showing operations on April 20th on the Nazi capital. Young and Moorhead’s sortie is the last one listed on 20-4-45 here, the second one from below.]
‘Mac’ Skinner later stated: “Flying Officer Arthur Austin, 109 Squadron, was reported in The Daily Mirror on 10 October 1945 to have dropped the last bomb at about 2.15am. He was probably briefed to be the last one but as we had to change aircraft because of engine trouble, and then encountered a cold front causing delay, we evidently usurped position by at least 10 minutes.”
[A fine portrait of the 105 (PFF) Sqn airmen: P/O David Young (left) and P/O ‘Mac’ Skinner.]
[And the RAF Bourn certificate dated June 4, 1945 and signed by the Intelligence Officer of the station which claimed the last bombing ‘honour’ as a 105 Sqn achievement. Notice the aiming point: Alexandre Platz (sic), Centre of Berlin.]
Terrible for its habitants, Berlin was a regular target for the fast twin-engined bombers, main stars of the Royal Air Force’s LNSF(Light Night Striking Force), especially during the final months of the war. During January-May 1945 LNSFMosquitoes flew almost 4,000 sorties over the Reich with the loss of just 57 aircraft.
Thus ended the British air campaign over the German capital -stopped to not interceding on the Soviet final assault- an enterprise started five years early on a very different dark summer night, but that’s another story.
[RAFMosquitoes were very active during the final weeks, making clear to the Führer that he has no escape from the sieged capital. Here, Adolf Hitler and Julius Schaub examine the huge damage done by Allied bombs on the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on 20 April 1945, a nearly miss on the Führer’s bunker.]
Located at Gutsmuthsstraße 27/28 ecke Schloßstraße 4/5, the Titania-Palast is a cinema-theatre and concerts hall built in the south-western Berlin suburb of Steglitz during the 1920s decade. It was one of the icons of this area, a place of reference to culture life in the German capital.
The Titania-Palast cinema-theatre was built in as a luxury 2,000 seater building designed by architects Ernst Schöffler, Carlo Schloenbach & Carl Jacobi in 1927 in the style of “Neuen Sachlichkeit” or New Objectivity Social realism. The big building was criticized by many contemporary observers and architecture experts due to its deliberately asymmetrical arrangement and entire facade parts are dummies without function. It had an organ, full stage facilities and a cafe room.
[A view of the new brand Titania-Palast theatre in 1928.]
This huge cinema was opened in January 1928 with a big party and the gala premiere of the silent film ‘Der Sprung ins Glück’ (“Jump into Happiness”), starring Italian actress Carmen Boni, Berliner star Hans Junkermann and cabaret stalwart Rosa Valetti.
[A poster announcing the gala premiere of the silent film ‘Der Sprung ins Glück’ at the Titania and a 1929 programm of the theatre.]
The first films were accompanied by an orchestra of 60 musicians, and a program of cabaret and vaudeville. Within 18 months of the cinema’s opening, the first ‘talkies’ (movies with sound) were being screened and the crowds flocked in for the next years. The first sound film was Al Jolson in “The Singing Fool” which opened on 29 October 1929.
In 1933, the Titania-Palace was taken over by the Nazis like many other Berlin culture places and sold to Ton-Lichtbild-Reklame AG, which in turn passes on half to Hugo Lemke. One year later, in 1934, the theatre along with a number of other cinemas, was expropriated in favor of the UFA led by Nazi authorities, becoming the flagship of the company and Dr Goebbels’ Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (“Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda”).
[The front facade of the theatre in December 1935, under the management of the Nazi authorities.]
During the British big air-raid on 1/2 March 1943 the Titania was slightly damaged when RAF bombs hit the nearby buildings at Schloßstraße, and the cinema appeared again on the city’s damage reports on 24 August 1943. It was used also as ‘Sammelunterkünfte’ a place of collective accommodation for bombed out and evacuated Berliners. Having surviving nearly intact to the air-bombings and the Soviet assault on the city, this cinema as all the south-western suburb of Steglitz came under control of the US occupation forces from 4 July 1945. During three years, American forces seized the theatre, but allowed selected events to use it. At the end of that month, several USO shows with Bob Hope and Mickey Rooney and singers were hold at theTitania to entertain occupation troops at the city.
Since the Philharmonic at Bernburger Straße had been destroyed during bombing raids in January 1944, the modern building of Steglitz provided a welcome alternative and for a long time became the permanent home of the Berliner Philharmoniker, until 1954-55. On May 26, 1945, the Berliner Philharmoniker were able to give their first concert at the Titania after the end of the war. The former chief conductor during the Third Reich years, Wilhelm Furtwängler, was under investigation by US authorities until December 1946 and only officially resumed his duties from 1952.
In 1951 the Americans return the building to its ‘original’ owner Hugo Lemke.
[July 1945: two views of the Titania during the early days of the US occupation of the city. Notice an U.S. Army Willys jeep at far left on the first image and the big American star and stripes flags decoration on the “American theatre”.]
[Berlin summer 1945, view from the Titania-Palast entrance into the Schloßstraße Ecke Gutsmuthsstraße with the photographer facing north to Friedenau district. Notice American military members (men and women) at centre and severe bomb-damage on the facade and roof of the buildings across the street.]
From June 1951 West Berlin opened the Berlinale (International Film Festival in Berlin - Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin) under the direction of Dr Alfred Bauer and took place in the Titania. It was a cultural-political initiative by American Film Officer Oscar Martay of the American occupation military government to serve as a “showcase of the free world” in the divided city. The opening film was Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” with American actress Joan Fontaine. In 1953 this cinema was equipped with CinemaScope.
[Berlin 1955, view of the Titania-Palast main entrance adorned to present ‘Es geschah am 20. Juli’, a German film directed by Austrian director Georg Wilhelm Pabst. The movie is about the plot to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, such an ironic event after the “Nazi” past of lived by this cinema. The film premiered on 19 June 1955 and two days later at the Berlin International Film Festival.]
This night image taken in 1956 shows the night city and captured all the darkness splendor of the Titania-Palast cinema-theatre and Schloßstraße. The original exterior lighting of the building was designed by engineer Ernst Hölsche. As we can see, the state-of-the-art theatre has a striking 30-meters height tower surrounded by 27 light rings with a 7-metre flagpole.
Among the famous stars who performed at the Titania-Palast in Berlin Steglitz in the postwar period was Berliner actress Marlene Dietrich (December 1901 Berlin-Schöneberg – May 1992).
She visited the city as a prelude to her Germany tour performing live in large theatres and this performance at Berlin on 3 May 1960 was the first public appearance of the star in Germany after the Second World War. The tour was an artistic triumph, but a financial failure. Photographer Harry Croner (1902-1992) documented Dietrich’s visit to Berlin from her arrival at Tegel airport. Marlene’s performance at the theatre in 1960 drew adulation and glamour and she received a standing ovation during the performance but a concentration of protesters too, opposed to the famous actress and her tour of Germany, which they considered a “traitor” after leaving the country 30 years before. At least one hundred police had to protect the arrival and Dietrich’s departure at the Titania and finally she had to hide from the crowd in the car (see last picture). “The Germans and I no longer speak the same language” says the cabaret actress after the incident; she would never return to the city.
The last film at the Titania was screened in December 1965, and the building was prevented from demolition by the Berliner Städtische Elektrizitätswerke Aktien-GesellschaftBewag, Berlin’s energy supplier, which leased the theatre. Some parts of the building were used as a rehearsal stage for thirty years. By the early 1990’s after the Wall fell and the reunified city, work had begun to restore the theatre and divide the vast auditorium into smaller, more manageable spaces. In May 1995, after nearly three decades retired, the first films were shown in the new cinemas inside this building. A truly part of the history of Berlin Steglitz, hopefully never down the curtain again.
Sources and Bibliography:
Aengeneyndt, Jan-Derk. Südwest-Berlin als Kriegsgebiet. Die Bezirke Zehlendorf und Steglitz von Januar bis Juni 1945. 2003.
Feustel Jan, Köhler Hörst. Lebensader durch Sumpf und Sand, 100 Jahre Teltowkanal. 1. Auflage. Hendrik Bäßler Verlag. 2006.
Friese, Wolfgang. Lankwitz und seine Geschichte. Teil 5: Kloster und Luftangriff. Gabriele Schuster Eigen. 2013.
Grünewald, Rolf. Der Titania-Palast – Berliner Kino- und Kulturgeschichte. Edition Hentrich. 1992.
Hopfe, Christian. Berlin-Steglitz. Die Reihe Archivbilder. Sutton Archivbilder. 2017.
Kunstamt Steglitz (Hrsg.). Alles neu: 50 Jahre Kriegsende in Steglitz. Berlin 1995.
Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin. The Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen. <https://www.deutsche-kinemathek.de/en/collections-archives/digital-collection/marlene-dietrich-collection-berlin>
Moorhouse, Roger. Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books. 2011.
Simon, Christian. Steglitz im Wandel der Geschichte: vom grössten Dorf Preussens. be.bra-Verlag. 1997.
After the end of the Second World War and with the Iron Curtain already instaured, and the subsequent division of the city into four sectors, Berlin Steglitz continued its reconstruction work as an essential part of the US occupation zone. But that effort and money went principally to the main artery of the suburb’s life, Schloßstraße and its surrounding area. With streets cleared of rubble stores, groceries, markets and cinemas reopened and a new commercial life sponsored by the American giant glow on the great avenue that crosses that district from north to south with the red Rathaus building as an a iconic.
In the aerial view of the reconstructed Steglitzer Schloßstraße in the 1950s seen above, it seems like war has ever happened, with clear streets, the majestic Rathaus and the new Volkswagen-pavilion (built in 1951) at left. Notice at right that there is no Hermann-Ehlers-Platz yet.
[A scene in a street market at Steglitz after the war.]
In this silent film footage taken at Steglitz after the end of the war we can see the Rathaus Steglitz from Albrechtstraße with trams and buses running again and finally the street market next to Hermann-Ehlers-Platz, with several scenes showing Berliners’ new life at Schloßstraße. Notice the Albrechtshof-Lichtspiele cinema at Albrechtstraße (01:47) and the Titania-Palast theatre views’ (02:05).
[Video credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Theodor Röckle Collection. ID:3917.]
Much of that American economic support was managed by the High Commission for Occupied Germany - Alliierte Hohe Kommission (AHK). Established in 1948, the USHICOG was created by the victorious Western Allies to supervise and regulate the politic, economic and social directives of the new born West Germany. For example, in 1951 a program of USHICOG was carried out with 8 1/2 million Deutsche marks to deliver food between the population.
[Here we see food distribution in the hall of a Steglitzer Grundschule (a primary school) in November 1950 at Berlin Steglitz.]
One of the highlights of Steglitz district throughout its Berlin history has been transportation, as we saw in previous posts the world’s first electrified tram line ran through there in 1881. As the rest of the Western zone, it had to restart and rebuild the entire transport and communications network after the war, a very hazardous enterprise not only difficult due to the economic precariousness but also due to the recent tension and division of the capital by the victors.
The Berliner Verkehrs-Gesellschaft(from 1938 known as BVG or Bezeichnung Berliner Verkehrs-Betriebe) was responsible of all tram and omnibus systems, the last was part of the bus network so it carries identical characteristic yellow colour too.
[Taken in 20 August 1948 by Fritz Eschen, this photo captures the first tram running between the districts of Steglitz and Wilmersdorf in Berlin after the war. Note the anti-fascist banner decorating the wagon and the flags of the Four Victorious powers (and the city’s bear flag) on the front.]
[The Siemensbrücke across the Teltowkanal at Siemensstraße in Steglitz was inoperable after been hit by a bomb during July 1944. Until establishment of an electrified alternative route over the Hannemannbrücke / Stindestraße, the BVG’s Oberleitungsbus (Obus) had to be towed by a tower wagon as seen in this image. The air-raids suffered by Berlin on July 1944 were made by RAF Mosquitoes night-intruders, with Bomber Command sending around 25-30 Mosquito bombers per mission to harass Berliners morale. On April 11, 1945 the BVG closed the A32 line.]
[1963: a Steglitz district trolley-bus at Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße. The Oberleitungsbus, Obus or O-Bus system in Berlin city began in 1882 (world’s first) with Oberleitungsbus Steglitz running from 1933. This was the fourth on the current urban area of Berlin existing trolley-bus system and the first modern of its kind in the city. Reopened in 1949, the A32 on trolley-bus lasted until 22 March 1965 with the shutdown of all the trolley-bus operations on West Berlin as a result of the rebuilt of the western tangent. In the background can be seen the Rathaus Friedenau tower.]
[A pre-war colour picture taken in 1937 of that same Steglitz trolley-bus from Linie A32 driving around Schloßstraße Ecke Albrechtstraße to the northwest. Note the red “Adler am Rathaus Steglitz” lettering.]
Next, as a conclusion about the history of this Berlin city district during the air-bombings, war period and subsequent years, we share several scenes of the post-war years. Life goes on at Steglitz and after reconstruction Berliners go about their business, and we hope that never again it be known as ‘steht nichts’ - nothing is standing.
[At the corner Albrechtstraße with the old brick building of the Rathaus Steglitz, seen in 1950.]
[Street scene taken by photographer Ernst Hahn of postwar West-Berlin at the Schloßstraße, near Albrechtstraße in 1947, today here stands the Steglitzer Kreisel tower. Note the Bären Stiefel bear-shaped advertisement on top of the nearest car, a Standard Vanguard Estate produced by the Standard Motor Company England, from 1947 to 1963.]
[Peaceful view from 1953 of Ecke Feuerbachstraße/Schloßstraße in Berlin Steglitz-Friedenau. In the foreground we can see a Kaufhaus Leineweber department store. Note the modernist Titania Palast cinema-theatre in the background at left.]
[A nice nightly colour view of the reconstructed Berlin Schloßstraße taken in December 1955. Leineweber GmbH & Co. KG is a clothing manufacturer based in Herford in East Westphalia, which emerged from a garment factory founded in 1888 by Berlin businessman Bernward Leineweber. It was one of the first manufacturers of men’s clothing, which he produced himself and sold in his shop at Oranienstraße in Berlin.]
[Christmas 1955, Schloßstraße, taken in the direction of Rathaus Steglitz, with Leiser store in the background. Leiser is a shoe retailer founded in 1891 in Berlin Oranienstraße. Owned by a Jew family, it was sold 75% to the Bahner family, owners of the Saxon stocking producer Elbeo, in order to avoid expropriation by the Nazis in 1935.]
In the aftermath of the war, Berliners began the long and arduous reconstruction task. From August 2, 1945, the suburb of Steglitz became part of the administrative US sector of the city, in the new division of Postwar Germany decided by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union during the Potsdam Conference celebrated days before (from 17 July to 2 August 1945). The Soviet troops retreat from the district on 4 July 1945, taking over control the newly arrived US forces led by the experienced 2nd Armored Division and their tanks.
The photo shown above was taken in 1950 from the top of the Rathaus, looking northwards to Friedenau, and allow us to appreciate how effective was the reconstruction of the Steglitz district, without any doubt due to be located within the US occupation zone. But the reconstruction was caused not only by the economic aid of the American giant, but much effort and work for the surviving Berliners, who tried to return to normal after the disaster of the war.
[Here, schoolgirls from the Augusta-Viktoria-Schule work as a chain gang to clear rubble from a bombed out part of their school on 24 September 1945.]
[Another image of German girls of the senior grades at the Augusta-Viktoria-Schule in Steglitz, working to clear away the rubble left after the war. West German population was invited to volunteer for this task, but contrary to the myth, women were a minority. One exception was West Berlin, where large numbers of women and girls (about 26,000) did clear debris from the destroyed city.]
[The Augusta-Viktoria-Schule was located at Rothenburgstraße 18. It was built in 1911/12 according to plans by Hans Heinrich Müller (1879-1951), Gemeindebaumeister (Building supervisor) of Berlin’s suburb Steglitz. He was responsable of all public buildings located there too. Müller served as a lieutenant at the Eastern front during the First World War.]
Days after the end of the war, back from the exile in Moscow, the Communist Party (KPD) established this office in the Berlin district. This image of the main entrance of the office was taken before control of this district of the capital was handed over to US occupation forces. The Order No. 2 of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD - Sowjetischen Militäradministration in Deutschland) of 10 June 1945 made it possible to found or re-establish German anti-fascist parties in the new Berlin. The slogan shown refers to a call made by the KPD to the German people to build an antifascist-democratic Germany and reads ‘Die Einheit aller Antifaschisten ist die Garantie fürden Aufbaueines demokratischen Deutschlands’. Notice Soviet Union and United States flags raised in front of the entrance.
Both countries maintained good relationship although keeping in mind that a new ‘war’ had already begun.
The existing tension was going to rise until provoking the first great crisis of the city in the postwar period. On 18-20 June 1948 a reorganization of the monetary system took place in the Western occupation zones of Germany, directed by Ludwig Erhard. The Western Allies reform intended to eliminate the money overhang and stop the black market, and lay the basis for a functioning market economy, which finally succeeded eliminating the Nazi-Reichsmark (used from 1924), still circulating after the war but nearly worthless due to massive inflation. The new ‘German mark’- Deutschemark DM was born, and every West Berliner received 40 marks. The Soviet Union reaction was to carry out their own currency reform (the ‘Ost-mark’) on the Soviet occupation zone but failed in obtain the same improvement and this led to a greater division between the three Western zones and the East. Four days later, in a great and desperate measure, the Russians started the so-called Berlin-blockade.
On March 20, 1949 the US military government declared the Deutschemark as the only valid currency in the Western sectors.
[Berlin Winter February 1949, several shots showing crowds at an exchange office (Wechselstube) in the Steglitz district. Western Berliners ran to the exchange offices after rumors about the introduction of new issues of the ‘Westmark’ in the US Sector.]
The rising tension in the city led to a nearly war-status, after the Soviets have blockaded all the roads isolating the Western sectors.
On the US sectors, the force in charge of maintaining order and peace were the Constabulary, highly mobile mechanized security force units created by Gen Eisenhower after the war. Using armoured cars, tanks, jeeps, motorcycles and other vehicles outfitted with full radio and signal equipment will be organized soon in occupied Germany on an experimental basis. Units will specialize in patrolling and liaison with other control forces, checkpoints guards and control the population of West Germany. It was officially activated on 1 July 1946 and the unit fell under the command Major General Ernest N. Harmon. The Germans referred to them as the “Lightning Police” because of the insignia unit (a red lightning on a yellow background circled blue with a letter C in the middle being in blue) while the US servicemen called them the “Circle C Cowboys” because of their numerous horses.
[U.S. Army M8 Greyhound armoured cars pass by the Rathaus Steglitz at Albrechtstraße during a patrol in the American sector of Berlin. This picture was taken in June 1948. The yellow and blue stripes on their helmets and the insignia identifies them as men from the 16th Constabulary Squadron (Separate), assigned to Berlin Command as part of the Constabulary occupation force of West Berlin.]
[June 24, 1948: Berliners watch among rubble a “Lightning Police” U.S. Army M8 Greyhound armoured car patrolling at Hauptstraße in the American sector of West Berlin Steglitz / Schöneberg amid rising tension in the divided city. Note the ‘Betreten verboten!’ sign painted on the ruined building behind and the press corner. ]
West Berliners back to normality after the soviet blockade has been lifted in May 1949 thanks to the Airlift, the famous Berlin Luftbrücke.
[Here, a sign in the display window of a wine store at Schloßstraße 105 in Berlin-Steglitz around March 1949 indicates that the blockade on liquor and spirits drinks has ended (“Die Blockade für Likör und Spirituosen aufgehoben!”) and ironically remarks them against the East Germany currency - the Ostmark.]
But despite the American help and money, rubble and ruined buildings are the daily panorama seen by West Berliners during many years after the end of the war, and certain areas of Steglitz suburb remained so affected until well into the 50s.
[1952: this photograph shows the bombed-out Albrechtstraße / Ecke Sedanstraße, near Stadtpark Steglitz.]
Northwest of Rathaus Steglitz we ran into Feuerbachstraße located nearly at Friedenau. Construction of the S-Bahnhof located there (planned under the name Feldstraße) began in 1932 and was opened on May 1933, as seen on the first image taken before the war. This train station was severely damaged during a massive air-raid on April 29, 1944 by American heavy bombers (679 B-17s and B-24s bombed Berlin that day), with the area around Feuerbachstraße and Steglitz being devastated although main target was FriedrichstraßeBahnhof. It was not reopened until June 1945 when the war ended. The famous Empfangsgebäude, the modernistic reception building seen in the picture, designed by architect Richard Brademann (1884-1965), was partly repaired during 1951/52 under Karl Waske direction.
[A view of post war Schloßstraße-Feuerbachstraße in Steglitz during 1946, taken by an American soldier from the US Army Third Infantry Regiment.]
In these two photographs taken by Heinrich Klaffs during the year 1970 we can see in the background the partly restored Feuerbachstraße station during the Cold War era. In 1984 after the result of a study to check the condition of the reception building, it was demolished and subsequent reconstructed as seen today.