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.
Today we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but November 9, known by Germans as Schicksalstag, is much more than that happy event. For the history of Germany in the 20th century and for the rest of Europe maybe … It is a key day and a turning point in history.
• 9. November • 1918
Saturday, was the birthday of democracy in Berlin. A new revolution led by workers which think in a new world after the disaster of the Great War (1914-18) and the Soviet Revolution (1917), made Kaiser Wilhelm II to abdicate and that would become the end of the Hohenzollern’s time. The new Republic of Weimar was about to start.
Ironically, that newly born democracy and the new Republic would give way in a short time to discomfort of some sectors that would quickly radicalize and led to the uprising of the NSDAP party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) - the Nazi movement, led by Adolf Hitler. Hitler, convinced to be the leader of the change that Germany needed, organized a coup in a brewery in Munich on 9 November 1923, known as “the Munich Putsch”. The rapid reaction of the government forces and the last-minute abstention of several key-members for the assault, would make the coup fail. Hitler would be imprisoned in Landsberg prison, but would return with greater power and with clearer and even more radical ideas for Germany, shown in his book ‘Mein Kampf’.
During the night from the 9th to the 10th of November, 1938, known as the Kristallnacht progrom, Nazi-party SA and SS members led by anti-semite doctrines, wielding axes and torches, rampage synagogues, shops and houses of German Jews. This was the worst attack on the Jewry community since the Nazis seized power in 1933. During the 1938 pogroms, Nazi troops tore down nearly 1,400 synagogues. Thousands of Jewish businesses were destroyed. Over 30,000 Jews were arrested and taken to concentration camps and around 140 died. Testimonies from those dark days say that the local fire departments did not stop the synagogues and Jewish shops from burning; they merely prevented the flames from spreading to neighboring buildings.
[Flames engulfed the Berlin synagogue located at Fasanenstraße in the Charlottenburg district after been raided by paramilitary Nazi-SA troopers during the Kristallnacht. This big synagogue, at the time the largest one in Berlin, was opened in August 1912 and closed by Goebbles’ orders in 1936. Destroyed in 1938, the remains of the building were again devastated during a British air-raid in 1943.]
On the night of November 9, the Wall built by the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) to protect the border that divided the East from the West fell after 28 years, not only in Berlin but throughout Germany, which has been divided into two blocks after the end of the Second World War. [The actual postwar border line which divided Berlin in four sectors is painted across the Potsdamerstraße by order of the British occupation authorities in August 1948 before the infamous Mauer was built in 1961 by East Germany authorities. This action follows incidents in which the Soviet-controlled German police made illegal entries into the Western Zone, in their raids against Black Market activities.]
During the last days of April 1945, when the ‘Thousand-Year Reich’ was crumbling in ruins and blood, in most cities and towns were terrible scenes and murders. One of the most repeated scenes found by the victor Allied troops was the execution of German soldiers by members of the SS, hanged on poles or street lamps in squares as a frightening message to the people. One of those bloody episodes was remembered in Steglitz just after war.
As we have seen on the previous post, on 24 April 1945 the Soviet Red Army started the assault on the southwestern outskirts of capital Berlin. The fight lasted until April 30 when the last German forces were defeated or captured. On the 24th, an unknown German soldier who refused to continue the fight was hanged on the tram-mast by Nazi-SS retreating troops in front of a house at Albrechtstraße 2 next to the Rathaus Steglitz, as a martial execution charged with either desertion, escape, plunder or cowardice from the enemy. The dead body hung for days and it is not known who was involved in this execution.
Immediately after the end of the war a metal sheet was added to the mast by Antifaschistische members to remember this soldier, with the text: “Hier wurde am 24. April 1945 ein deutscher Soldat, weil er den zwecklosen, wahnsinnigen Krieg nicht weiter mitmachen wollte, von vertierten Nazi-Bestien erhängt.” [Here on April 24, 1945, a German soldier was hanged by outlawed Nazi beasts because he did not want to go on with the futile, insane war.]
The commemorative metal plate was changed in October 1947 by a wooden plate with a new text. This was designed by Albert Kraemer, the first art office director in Steglitz after the war and reads: “Von Deutschen wurde ein deutscher Soldat in den Tagen des Zusammenbruchs der Hitlerherrschaft am 24. April 1945 an diesem Mast erhängt.” [A German soldier was hanged on this mast by Germans in the days of the collapse of Hitler’s rule on April 24, 1945.]
In the summer of 1948, due to critical comments from people about this text, a revision was made and Bürgeramt Steglitz changed again the plate. The altered text now reads: “Am 24. April 1945 wurde hier ein deutscher Soldat von unmenschlichen Nationalsozialisten erhängt.”[On April 24, 1945, a German soldier was hanged by inhuman National Socialists.]
Today, the hanged soldier is remembered with a stele at the adjacent Hermann-Ehlers-Platz. This stele was installed in May 2009 by the Amt für Weiterbildung und Kultur of Steglitz-Zehlendorf and designed by Karin Rosenberg with text by Doris Fürstenberg, who has researched this Battle of Berlin episode in “Kunstamt Steglitz (Hrsg.). Alles neu: 50 Jahre Kriegsende in Steglitz” published in 1995. (pp. 88-98). This research along a request of the District Office Steglitz in 1994 led to a potential match to an unknown soldier buried on July 1945 at the Friedhof Steglitz at Bergstraße. The dead man carried no identification tag or papers papers - only a handbag with the inscription ‘Obergefreiter Werner, Batterie 3, Artillerie Regiment’ but today sadly there is no confirmed identification yet.