The Flying Suitcase

One of the three bombers types beside Wellingtons and Whitleys which participated on the first British attack over Berlin in August 1940 was the Handley-Page Hampden, model HP 52. 

[A two-ship formation of Handley P Hampdens from No 44 Squadron RAF over England.]

[Photo: LIFE images.]

That first night over Berlin, 46 Hampdens bombers from Nos 49, 50, 61 and 144 Squadrons were sent to attack the ‘Big City’. Of these six were lost, five through fuel shortage and one missing believed also to be from the same cause. Two of these losses were from 50 Squadron. The last raid a Hampden was dispatched to bomb the Nazi capital was on 21 September 1941. Over the period of thirteen months 20 Hampden raids were made averaging twenty six aircraft per raid. The largest concentration involved fifty aircraft and the smallest ten. During the period 34 aircraft were lost of which 23 (58%) were due either certainly or probably to fuel shortage. By contrast only seven were attributed to enemy action. 50 Squadron lost nine aircraft, of which seven were out of fuel, one shot down by enemy action and one through a forced landing due to engine problems. There were six fatal casualties and two POW’s. On a trip to Berlin a Hampden’s bomb load would equate to four 500-lb bombs plus some incendiaries. Its endurance with this load was just over ten hours.

[One of the six Hampden medium bombers lost the night of 25/26 August 1940 during the first bombing of Berlin by the British RAF was P2070 VN-X from No 50 Squadron, seen here after forced landing.]

[Photo: Aircrewremembered by Michel Beckers.]

[They took off from RAF Lindholme at 21.58 hrs and after bombing Berlin it is believed that had to force landing due to fuel starvation near Lautersheim, Germany.]

[Photo: Aircrewremembered by Michel Beckers.]

[All four crew-members, led by P/O Rober D Wawn (Australian) were captured and sent to various POWs camps, surviving the war.]

[Photo: Aircrewremembered by Michel Beckers.]

At the outbrak of war, Bomber Command was equipped with 6 operational squadrons of Hampdens under No 5 Group. The Hampden made its combat debut on 3 September 1939 searching German ships off the coast of Heligoland. It was a twin-engined medium bomber, with a crew of four and a max speed of 247 mph (397 km/h) at 13,800 ft (4,210 m); the bombload was of 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) bombs. The newest of the three RAF bombers, the Hampden, was often referred to by aircrews as the ‘Flying Suitcase’  because of its cramped crew conditions.

The RAF took a total of 1,432 Hampdens, the last of which was delivered in March 1942. The bomber ceased operational service in October 1943, but was retired from frontline raids over Germany a yerar before due to the increasing power of Third Reich defences. Almost half of the Hampdens built, 714, were lost on RAF Bomber Command operations, with 1,077 crew killed and 739 reported as missing. German Flak accounted for 108, 263 Hampdens crashed because of “a variety of causes” and 214 others were classed as “missing”.

[A Handley P Hampden Mk. I of No 455 Squadron RAF in flight.]

[Photo: Imperial War Museum.]

​[An RAF pilot sits in the cramped cockpit of his Hampden bomber ready to take off.]

[Photo: Handley Page Hampden. Allan Hall, Warpaint Books.]

[The instrument panel and flying controls of an RAF Handley Page Hampden, showing the almost impossible task of getting into the nose compartment. The bomber’s fuselage was only three feet wide, similar to a single engined fighter at the time, so the pilot was more or less stuck on his seat for the entire flight, sometimes up to 9 hours. Note the rear view mirror top of the front plexiglas panel.]

[Photo: © IWM (CH 1207).]

[The ventral rear gunner’s position in a Handley Hampden of No 106 Sq RAF at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, viewed from the starboard side. Operating the twin .303 Browning machine guns is Flight Lieutenant Chisholm, the Squadron Gunnery Officer.]

[Photo: © IWM HU 42438.]

[British HP.52 twin-engined bombers near completion in the assembly line at Handley Page’s plant at Radlett, Hertfordshire during the first year of the Second World War. Handley Page would go on to manufacture nearly 500 of them and English Electric a total of 770 Hampdens, built under subcontract between 1939 and 1942].

[Photo: © IWM (HU 106248).]

In this British newsreel we see Viscountess Hampden christening at Radlett Aerodrome the latest type in the RAF Bomber Command inventory in 1938: the Hampden.

[Video credit: British Pathé (FILM ID:1658.28)]



  • Aircrewremembered. 25/26.08.1940 No. 50 Squadron Hampden I P2070 VN-X P/O. Robert D. Wawn. <>
  • Hall, Alan W. (2000). Handley Page Hampden and Hereford. Warpaint Series No 57. Warpaint Books.
  • Hill, Colin. THE LAST FLIGHT OF AD730 Hampden Bomber of No. 50 Squadron RAF. Background to the Hampden and its Crew < /chapter_2.html>
  • Middlebrook, Martin. (2014). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation.
  • Ward, Chris. (2007). 5 Group Bomber Command: An Operational Record. Pen & Sword Books Ltd.

The Offensive starts

During the Battle of Britain in the Summer of 1940, Germany bombed British Royal Air Force (RAF) bases and their personnel in order to annihilate Britain’s air defences. Suddenly, on the night of August 24th, some Luftwaffe bombers drop, probably by mistake, some bombs over the City of London. This was probably not intentional, as it was in defiance of Hitler’s strict instructions that central London should not be attacked.

[A view of Rotterdam from the White House at the Beurs train station after being devastated by the Luftwaffe May 14, 1940.]. 

[Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-

The prelude: London

Next day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered an action to revenge the honor of the British citizens, who in case of a German raid on London, have warned the RAF to had the capability to reply immediately against Berlin.

He wrote: (..) “The War Cabinet was much in the mood to hit back, to raise the stakes, and to defy the enemy. I was sure they were right, and believed that nothing impressed or disturbed Hitler so much as his realization of British wrath and will-power. In his heart he was one of our admirers.”  [Churchill, Their Finest Hour, 1949.]

[A view of London with St Paul’s Cathedral engulfed in flames in the aftermath of a Luftwaffe raid, December 1940.]

[Photo: LIFE.]

On the very next night, 25/26 August 1940, Bomber Command (the bombing arm of the RAF) sent 86 medium bombers, a raid force comprising Wellingtons (Nos 99, 149 Squadrons), Hampdens (Nos 44, 49, 50, 61 and 144 Sqn) and Whitleys (Nos 51, 78 Sqn) -other sources says about 95, an unusually large figure for this stage of the war, the Command’s records on this night are not clear on the numbers dispatched- from its squadrons to attack Berlin as a retaliation. Main targets were Tempelhof Airport (coded as H324) near the centre of the capital and Siemensstadt (a huge factory complex) in the northwest part of the city. The raiders were greeted by searchlights and intense Flak anti-aircraft fire, some 57 managed to reach the Greater Berlin area and just 37 reported to have drop their bombs on the capital or its outskirts because of thick cloud, and while the damage was slight, the psychological effect on Hitler and the Berliners was greater.

Ten Hampdens managed to bomb the Klingenberg power station (B57). One crew bombed the Henschel airframe factory claiming direct hits. Flt Sgt Clayton of No 44 Sqn failed to locate his target due to haze and clouds, but released his load of four 500-lb bombs on a large building at Johannistal (sic), with devastating effect.

To reach Berlin, British aircraft had five times as far to travel as German aircraft had to bomb London, in a round trip of eight hours and 1,200 miles, close to the maximum range of the Wellington and Hampden bombers with full tanks and minimal bomb load. Bomber Command had switched to night bombing from late 1939 due to heavy losses (particularly on 18 December when 12 of 22 Wellingtons sent were shot down by German fighters), but this made early bombing operations mostly very ineffective.

[One of the Hampden medium bombers lost on the night of 25/26 August 1940 during the first bombing of Berlin by British RAF aircraft was P2070VN-X’ from No 50 Squadron, seen here after crashing. They took off from RAF Lindholme at 21.58 hrs and after bombing Berlin it is believed that had to force landing due to fuel out near Lautersheim, Germany.]


This first air alarm had an official German reaction surprisingly muted, the event warranted only six lines in the newspapers the next morning. There were no casualties reported -just 11 people resulted injured- and it was asserted that no bombs had been dropped on the city itself and the report concluded that the raid was “extremely small”. Actually most of the damage reported came from splinter shells by anti-aircraft fire in response of the raid. Damage of this attack was estimated at a mere 3,000 Reichmarks, but to Berlin morale was a terrible blow. Many bombs landed, due to thick cloud, on several farms owed by the city in the western outskirts and country areas and quickly the famous Berlin sense of humor came to the rescue: ‘Now they are trying to starve us out’, but the actual situation was the alarm and anxiety for Berliners, after they had lived the destruction of aerial bombing.

[Frontpage of the The New York Times newspaper the following morning. The British were very optimistic about the bombing: Berlin suffered minor damage actually, but was a warning of what will comes].

Photo: The New York Times, Monday, August 26, 1940.

[Monday August 26th, 1940, Daily Mirror frontpage after the British raided Berlin the night before. Also covers the Luftwaffe bombings on London the South East, the first air bombings on both cities. “While Hitler’s bombers were making another raid on the London area early today, R.A.F. bombs shook Berlin.”. Poor bombing accuracy was admitted even by British press: “Listeners in the centre of the city estimated that the bombs were falling about twenty miles away.” ]

[Photo: John Frost Newspapers / Alamy.]

The RAF lost 6 airplanes on this operation, but no Flak or Luftwaffe unit made claims on that night. Bad weather, high winds and the long distance was the main cause of those losses, and three of the bombers ditched in the North Sea due to fuel starvation. 

During this early phase and the autumn period, Berlin would be regularly included in routine raids ordered by the War Cabinet, the number of aircraft sent by London was usually small and normal targets for this period of the war -power stations, factory complex and marshalling yards- were chosen for attack, but poor navigation (mostly by reckoning) and bad bombing pattern and thick cloud made bombers to drop bombs on some residential areas. 

Two days later, the RAF once again appeared over the capital. The German indiscriminate bombings had turned back against Berlin. The air raids prompted Hitler to order the shift of the Luftwaffe target from British airfields and air defences to British cities, at a time during the Battle of Britain when the British were critically close to collapse. It has been argued that this action may actually have saved Britain from defeat. 

It would be the first of many to Berliners and RAF crews.


Sources and Bibliography:

  • Aircrewremembered. 25/26.08.1940 No. 50 Squadron Hampden I P2070 VN-X P/O. Robert D. Wawn. <>
  • Boiten, Theo. (2018-2020). Nachtjagd Combat Archive. A comprehensive operational history of the German night fighter force on all fronts and an analysis of all claims including Flak units against RAF Bomber Command. Wingleader. 
  • Bowman, Martin. (2011). Bomber Command Reflections of war. Volume I: Cover of darkness 1939-May 1942. Pen & Sword Aviation.
  • Bowman, Martin. (2014). Voices in flight: The Wellington Bomber. Pen & Sword Aviation.
  • Churchill, Winston. (1949). Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin.
  • Demps, Laurenz. (2014). Luftangriffe auf Berlin. Die Berichte der Hauptluftschutzstelle. Ch. Links Verlag.
  • Donnelly, Larry. (2004). The Other Few: The Contribution Made by Bomber and Coastal Aircrew to the Winning of the Battle of Britain. Red Kite / Air Research.
  • Forces War Records. The first raid on London by the Luftwaffe <>
  • Hill, Colin. THE LAST FLIGHT OF AD730 Hampden Bomber of No. 50 Squadron RAF.  Background to the Hampden and its Crew < /chapter_2.html>
  • Middlebrook, Martin. (1985). The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book. Pen & Sword Aviation. 2014.
  • Moorhouse, Roger. (2011). Berlin at war. Life and death in Hitler’s capital, 1939-45. Vintage Books, London.
  • Overy, Richard. (2013). The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945. Allen Lane.
  • Smith Richard & Creek Eddie. (2004). Kampfflieger. Bombers of the Luftwaffe Volume Two July 1940 - December 1941. Classic Publications.
  • Tress HB. (1982). Churchill, the First Berlin Raids, and the Blitz: A New Interpretation. Militaergeschichtliche Zeitschrift, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 65–78. 
  • Tweddle, Paul. (2018). The Other Battle of Britain: 1940: Bomber Command’s Forgotten Summer. The History Press.


    Previous post >


    The Freya systems of the German early warning radars were highly successful, but they need another set to help in targeting air objectives.

    Anti-aircraft targeting radars, or FuMG (from Funkmeßgerät, or radar) were not in service when the war broke out. From 1939, GEMA and Telefunken starting to develop more accurate radars with a more concentrated beam to firing accuracy of the heavy anti-aircraft artillery’s guns.

    This radar, called the Würzburg FuMG 39 operated on 50 cm wave length and had a range of 25 km with a range accuracy of 25 m. A rotating dipole antenna and a pulsed radar was used. The rangefinder was provided with a cathode-ray tube screen (CRT). The distance and ranging data would be provided to a command and control system at a Flak battery. Twenty of these units were delivered by 1940 to the Ruhr area. By the end of the war, over 4,000 units of this and upgraded models (Würzburg D) had been deployed in Europe, making it the standard radar system with the Luftwaffe. They were manned by a crew of six. 

    [These photographs show a Würzburg FuMG 39/62, model T, seen with its wooden traverse plate.
    This radar unit was set up atop the control tower of the FlakTurm at Berlin Tiergarten, in Zoologischer Garten and was on duty to track and control the AA guns which protect the western sector of the city. Note brush paint to camouflage the radar’s dish and
    Siegessäule (‘Victory Column’) at background. The women next to the radar were famous American singers, the Andrew sisters, examining the site after the war during a United Service Organizations (USO) tour, July 1945.]

    [Photo: LIFE images © Time Inc.]

    [Photo: LIFE images © Time Inc.]

    [Another Würzburg radar placed at the Tiergarten, apparently used by the Germans as traffic control unit at the improvised Ost-West-Achse’s landing strip during the last days of the Berlin garrison. Note the Siegessäule column in the background.]

    [Photo:© shram.kievua.]

    [Two images of a German Luftwaffe crew manning a Würzburg at a radar site; the man in the foreground is moving the system on its lateral axis. He is looking into the range and bearing indicator in front of him. Behind, other crewmember operate the elevation crank of the radar housing while watching the elevation monitoring. These monitors are covered with weather protectors.]

    [Photo: Muller W. Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing, 1998.]

    [Photo: Muller W. Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing, 1998.]

    [The control tower as viewed from the main Flakturm located at Berlin Tiergarten, in Zoologischer Garten. A Würzburg FuMG 39T and a Würzburg-Riese (at left) can be seen atop of the roof. The Reich’s capital had three of these complex of towers to lead the AA guns, the one at the Zoo manned by the 123 Turmflakabteilung.]

    [Photo: Muller W. Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing, 1998.]

    In 1941, Telefunken followed up on their successful Würzburg system with a larger, more sophisticated set fittingly known as FuMG 65 Würzburg-Riese (“Giant”). Making use of the same conical-scanning system, the Riese was a much larger system with a 7.4 meter antenna and much more powerful transmitter that gave it a range of up to 70 degrees. Combined with the added accuracy afforded by the conical scanning system, the Würzburg-Riese provided the Luftwaffe with a long-range system capable of providing accurate enough information for gun-laying. with a range of about 60 km. This type began to enter service in 1941, and over the course of the war roughly 1,500 would be built. 

    [The massive FuSe65 Würzburg-Riese radar atop of the L-turm at Humboldthain in Berlin.]

    Photo: Foedrowitz, Michael. (2007). Flak-Towers.

    [A disabled Würzburg-Riese system after being captured by US forces, installed next to a Normandy Arromanches-les-Bains beach in June 1944.]

    [Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / National Archives USA.]

    Today, an original Würzburg-Riese radar unit can be seen at the Luftwaffenmuseum Berlin-Gatow.

    [Photo taken by the author, 2008.]

    Several types and improvements were developed by Germany during the war, increasing range and facing British radio countermeasures, being the Jagdschloß radar antenna-array the other great advanced unit. This system, called FuG 404, became operational in 1944 and it was very difficult to jam. Just 80 of them were built. With a detection range of 300-400 km, long range warning devices like this or the FuMG 41/42 Mammut radar unit (six or eight Freya switched together) detected enemy formations assembling over the North Sea prior move towards the Reich, alerting German defences for incoming air raids. 

    [A Jagdschloß type II at a German radar site located in the Danish coast.]

    [Photo: Museumscenter Hanstholm.]

    [The cathode-ray screen of a German Jagdschloss radar shows the RAF offensive on Berlin with approximately 400 bombers, on 30 January 1944. The circle constitute the 100 km range marker, the gap in top indicates ‘geographical north’.]

    [Photo: Nordmarke.]

    All German systems and radars were highly jammed by the British countermeasures chaff from the summer of 1943, named “Window” (known as ‘Duppel’ by the Germans), metal strips with aluminium foil. This obliged the Germans to improve their early warning system -the Kammhuber Line- and radar AI devices (airborne radar) with new frequencies and create new night fighting tactics.


    Sources and Bibliography:

  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (1997). The Flak Towers in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna 1940- 1950. Schiffer Publishing. 
  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (2007). Flak-Towers. By the author.
  • Funkmeß(ortungs)stellungen in Deutschland. Deutsches Atlantikwall Archiv  <>
  • Muller W. (1998). Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing.
  • Zaloga, Steven. (2012). Defense of the Third Reich 1941–45. Osprey Publishing.
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    Previous post >


    RADAR was the acronym for Radio Detection And Ranging, with the first sets being tested by British and Germans at the same time during the early years of the 1900s.

    Its combat debut was during Second World War. It was an invaluable air detection aid whenever bad weather, darkness or the enemy’s action made impossible to track and locate an incoming raid. During the next years, RAF and Luftwaffe will play “cat and mouse” in radar procedures in the ensuing Bombenkrieg.

    [This picture shows the GEMA complex and buildings, where the German radar was developed located at Berlin. In 1940, more than 6,000 people worked here.]


    The birthplace for the German radar was GEMA company (Gesellschaft für elektroakustiche und mechanische Apparate - “Association for Electroacoustic and Mechanical Equipment”), founded by Paul-Günther Erbslöh (1905–2002) and Hans-Karl von Willisen (1906–1966). They worked together and after left Telefunken, developed the first air warning radar system.

    The installation was overrun by the Soviets in May 1945. Most of the equipment and many of the people were deported to Russia as part of the war bounty. 

    The first radar unit developed by GEMA in 1937 was the FuMG 403 Panoramagerät Stützpunkt (Plan Position Indicator-PPI) display radar, built in 1941 at Tremmen near Berlin (40 km west of the city) at a cost of 500,000 Reich Marks (RM). The 20 m large antenna is located in the top of the concrete tower and it rotates through 360 deg. at 6 rpm. Range is 120-300 km. The radar display station is located in the base of the tower and a PPI display. The tower was linked by landline to the headquarters of the 1st Flak Division in the Zoo’s Turm. The site was blown up after the war by the Russians.  

    [One of the rare known views of the Project C Panoramagerät Tower PPI.]

    [Photo: Foedrowitz, M. The Flak Towers. Berlin, 2007.]

    [A view atop of the Panorama Turm with its 20 m long beam equipped with 16 dipoles.]  

    [Photo: Foedrowitz, M. The Flak Towers. Berlin, 2007.]

    From the early works on Panorama, GEMA created an advanced and more compact unit, and this would be the start of the radar net of the German defences.

    [A Freya RADAR system at one of the thousand radar sites placed all over the German-occupied Europe.]

    Named after the Norse Goddess Freyja, the Freya FuMG 450 was the first operational early warning radar defence system. Before the beginning of WWII, in 1938, just eight of these units had been delivered by GEMA and deployed along the German border manned by the Luftwaffe.
    The early versions had a range of 60-80 km which was later increased to 120 km. Azimuth accuracy was 1.5 degrees and better. Developed from a Kriegsmarine (Germany’s war navy) radar, its lower frequency range (120-166 MHz vs 368 MHz), longer wavelength (2.5 m vs 50 cm), and longer range. It was more advanced than the British system, but more complex what it means that it was not totally readied and needs improvement when the first raids came.

    Freya was first successfully used on December 18, 1939 when two stations detected an approaching daytime raid on Wilhelmshaven by 22 RAF Wellington bombers at a range of 113 km and guided fighter planes toward them via radio, downing half of the enemy’s force. This early success of radar left the Luftwaffe so impressed that Freya network was the chosen one to guard Germany’s western border.

    Anyway, these radars were only able to spot and track incoming aircraft, not to determine the exact range and height.

    [An RAF photograph of the Freya radar installations at Auderville, France as viewed during 1941.]

    [Photo: Wikimedia.]

    [An illustration of a German Pole Freya Radar from an US Army study after the war.]

    [Photo: US War Department - TM E 11-219 “Directory of German Radar Equipment”.]

    [A Dreh-Freya radar and a FuSE 62D ‘Würzburg’ unit of the Versuchsfeld Werneuchen beim Fliegerhorst at Werneuchen-Brandenburg, some 30 km northeast of Berlin.] 

    [Photo: Peter Spoden via Deutsches Atlantikwall-Archiv.]


    Sources and Bibliography:

  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (1997). The Flak Towers in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna 1940- 1950. Schiffer Publishing. 
  • Funkmeß(ortungs)stellungen in Deutschland. Deutsches Atlantikwall Archiv  <>
  • Muller W. (1998). Ground Radar Systems of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. Schiffer Publishing.
  • Zaloga, Steven. (2012). Defense of the Third Reich 1941–45. Osprey Publishing.
  • ______________

    Previous post >


    The Nazis developed a complex net to defend the Reich and occupied Europe from air raids. This superb detection net goes from observation of incoming attacks to the latest and more sophisticated elements of electronic radar and radio to track enemy planes and to assist the AA (anti-aircraft) guns in their role against the Allied ‘Terror-bombers’.

    At the beginning of the war, German air detection was based on primary methods and systems like the observation sites.

    [Here, a Luftwaffe officer (note the shape of the Eagle in the uniform’s chest) teaches young Flakhelfers to use a range finder device and binoculars, the simplest method to know the range and height of incoming bombers from local ground level.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    After plotting enemy aircraft the site will pass this essential information to the defence and fighter direction centres to defend the Reich territories. This method was highly successful during the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 employed by the British Royal Observer Corps (ROC). At night, it had obviously no usefulness.

    The air-defence instruments also consisted of sound location equipment. The Germans used a complex system, called Horchgerät, during early stages of the war, and revitalized during the Summer and Fall 1943 after their radar defence net failed as a consequence of the introduction of the first electronic countermeasures like ‘Window’ (ERC & ECM) by the British.

    [A Horchgerät viewed on October 1939 at the outskirts of Berlin, more specifically a Ringtrichter-Richtungshörer (RRH) zur Einweisung der schweren Flak.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    [Photo: Sammlung Berliner Verlag/Archiv.]

    The system idea was to hear the sound of the engines of the incoming aircraft and track their height, warning the defences of an incoming enemy raid. For typical aircraft speeds of that time, sound location only gave a few minutes of warning.

    It consists of four acoustic horns, a horizontal pair and a vertical pair, connected by rubber tubes
    to stethoscope type earphones worn by the two technicians left and right. The stereo earphones enabled one technician to determine the direction and the other the elevation of the aircraft.

    [A Flakhelferin am Horchgerät poses for the camera in January 1943.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    Berlin Wintergarten (Part II)

    In the end, Berlin’s WinterGarten collapsed under the carpet of bombs dropped by the Allies during the last year of the war.

    [Main gate of the Wintergarten kabarett as viewed during her golden years.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    Already damaged during the 1943-44 British bombing campaign, the theatre was destroyed on 21 June 1944 during an American raid; that day 606 US heavy bombers dropped their bombs over the German capital. Finally, it took a heavy toll again during the large US attacks of February and March, 1945.

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    [Frühling 1945 Luftangriffe: Civilians and German soldiers working on the debris on front of the destroyed building which formerly housed the WinterGarten Variete after the bombing in February/ March, 1945. Original caption dated it on March 21st, so most probably it was 18 March 1945 air-attack aftermath.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    [Friedrichstraße with Dorotheenstraße corner, with the WinterGarten and Central Hotel completely destroyed just after the war.]

    [Photo by Martin Badekow; Getty images.]

    [Dorotheenstraße’s Wintergarten damaged facade as seen in 1946.]

    [Photo: AKG-images (AKG60909).]

    A new-born Wintergarten Varieté-Theater was built at Potsdamer Straße 96, opening in 1992. 

    [Today’s view of the new Wintergarten sited at Potsdamer Straße.]

    Berlin Wintergarten (Part I)

    The Berlin Wintergarten theatre was a large variety theatre (“Varieté-Bühne”) placed in Friedrichstraße Ecke Dorotheenstraße.

    [German soldiers outside of the WinterGarten theatre on Dorotheenstraße 16 in Berlin, 1941.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    Owned by Hermann Gebers, it opened in 1887 as a recreational center of the Berlin Central Hotel, but also as a venue for concerts and theatrical performances. The Skladanowsky brothers showcased the first short movie presentation ever at the theatre in 1895, making it the first movie theater in history. But it was a multi-use variety theatre, not a true kino (‘cinema’).

    Against a background of inflation and depression, Berlin drew the talent and energies of the rest of Germany towards its glittering cabaret performances and burgeoning sex tourism industry.

    [Presentation in the WinterGarten, 1 July 1940.]

    [Photo: Reichsbahnzentrale für den Deutschen Reiseverkehr, Berlin. Bundesarchiv.]

    Berlin’s interwar reputation of hedonistic decadence and debauchery is familiar, but the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) privileged an outpouring of cultural creativity in the Bauhaus movement of modern art and the development of the ‘International Style’ in modern architecture too. The rise of the Nazis to power and government stop all of this and make the city back to the 1900s.

    [WinterGarten dressed with swastikas, the Berlin flag and UK and France too, maybe during the 1938-Munich meeting.]

    [A 1935 street-view of Friedrichstraße 143-149, with the WinterGarten at left and the elevated walkaway of Bahnhof Friedrichstraße at background.]

    [Photo: Landesarchiv Berlin.]

    Das Altes Museum

    The Altes Museum, sited in the Museuminsel near the Berliner Dom was built between 1823 and 1830 by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781 – 1841) in the neoclassical style to house the Prussian royal family’s art collection. It was called the Königliches Museum (Royal Museum) until 1845 and it was decided to display only “high” art in the building.

    [The Altes Museum in ruins, view from the other side of the Lustgarten, dated 1950.]

    [Photo: Herbert Donah, Bundesarchiv.]

    Highly bombed during World War Two, the museum resulted destroyed by Allied bombs and by street fighting with Russian troops during May 1945. The Museum was rebuilt from 1951, the first in the insel to undergo reconstruction and restoration.

    [Another shot of the museum, with the Löwenkämpfer statue (´The Lion fighter`), made by Albert Wolff in 1851 in bronze, as view after the war ended. Notice sheltered status of the building.]

    [Photo: Bildarchivpreussischer.]

    [Red Army´s soldiers made an improvised Victory parade in front of the museum in May, 1945.]

    [Photo: German-Russian museum collection Timofei Melnik.]

    [An aerial view of the destroyed and ruined center of the city with the Stadtschloss in the foreground, the Dom at right and the Altes Museum behind, in July, 1945.]

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    During National Socialism, the Altes Museum was used as the backdrop for propaganda, both in the museum itself and upon the parade grounds of the redesigned square Lustgarten.

    [Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels and Führer Adolf Hitler speaking at the gates of the Museum in Lustgarten during a Nazi-parade, 1938.]

    [Photo: LIFE.]

    [Photo: LIFE.]

    Today, Berlin has restored its condition as one of the most influential cities in art, mixed with her old classic tradition in architecture and neoclassical culture. Example of this wasALL ART HAS BEEN CONTEMPORARY, as reads a neon by italian-artist Maurizio Nannucci in 2008 at the modern Altes Museum. This bright red neon contrast clearly with the dark and burnt afterwars façade.

    [Close-view of Nannucci’s red neon behind the Ionic order columns. Note the dark shades, consequence of 1945-battle fires and fumes.]

    [Photo by the author, 2008.]

    Victory Graffiti

    May 8th means to European countries V-E day: the victory over Nazi-Germany in 1945.

    To Berlin, it means the start of a new era. From the ashes of the destroyed Third Reich would raise a new-born country that would be the economic and political engine of the European Union together with her old enemy and neighbour, France. 

    No other nation, in Contemporary history has been decimated until annihilation like Germany was in 1945. There was no armistice, no peace, just a total and unconditional surrender. 

    Maybe this unique fact made possible the advent of this second generation country, that marks, firstly the stalemate, and later the rising of the 20th century and the beginning of the project of Europe as a sole and complex unit.

    [A German couple seated in front of the ruined Brandenburger Tor after the end of the war. This is a photomontage, not a real image.]

    [Photo: Pinterest.]

    [Soviet troops celebrating the victory in the ‘Great war for the Fatherland’ aboard their tanks in front of the Siegessäule, the Prussian Victory Column at Berlin Tiergarten, May 1945. During the 1945 Battle of Berlin, Soviet Troops nicknamed the column “the Tall Woman”.]

    [Photo: LIFE.]

    [The destroyed interior of the Reichstag fullfilled with hundreds of hand-made inscriptions by Soviet soldiers.]

    [Photo by William Vandiver, LIFE.]

    After seizing the Reichstag building and raising their Red flag on its roof on 30th April, Soviet soldiers left their marks in other ways, writing their names, feelings, thoughts and hometowns on the walls and columns. Written in Cyrillic script, these victory graffities were made by soldiers from the 380th, 674th and 756th Rifle Regiments, the units that made the final assault against the Reichstag, many of them were Kazakhstan-born men.

    The Graffiti written on the walls were uncovered when the building was converted to house of the German Bundestag. Architect Norman Foster began to remove its inner covering of gypsum fibreboard and asbestos. Paul Baumgarten, the first architect to remodel the building, in the 1960s, had installed the sheets of fibreboard in front of the walls of the original nineteenth-century structure, concealing historical evidence behind new interior surfaces. In an act of what Foster has termed ‘civic vandalism’, Baumgarten had also destroyed the original architectural decoration in many places and removed all traces of history from the walls. By an irony of history, some nineteenth-century decoration and some traces of the battle that raged around the Reichstag building in 1945 survived precisely because they were hidden by the fibreboard.

    [Several other Graffiti remains today at the Reichstag’s rooftop, and can be seen by visitors of the building as a historical evidence and first hand memories of the men who were forced to suffer those terrible days in Human history.]

    [Photo taken by the Author in 2012.]

    The Bitter End

    On 2 May 1945, the last garrison which defended Berlin finally surrendered to superior Soviet troops. Hitler had committed suicide on April 30th.

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    In the photograph, in front of the destroyed Brandenburger Tor and a Soviet IS-2 heavy tank is Yevgeny Khaldei, the Soviet war photographer who took the famous photo of the reenacted flag raising over the Reichstag. The Stalin tank was turret number 414 and belonged to the 7th Independent Guards Heavy Tank Brigade.

    [Photo: from the fonds of the RGAKFD.]

    [Photo: from the fonds of the RGAKFD.]

    [Photo: from the fonds of the RGAKFD.]

    [Three more views from a different angle of the scene above related in front of the Brandenburger Tor; these photographies were probably taken on 7 May 1945. The white band brushed to the tank´s turret was an ID to avoid be attacked by Allied fighter-bombers.]

    The “Thousand-Year Reich” finally only lasted 12 years and the dream/nightmare started by Hitler and the Nazis caused more than 60 million people dead in the greatest war in History. Between 16 April and 6 May, the Soviets had 304,887 killed, wounded and missing, along with the loss of 2,156 tanks and self-propelled guns, 1,220 artillery pieces and 527 aircraft, althought the true cost is likely to be higher. It is almost impossible to give an accurate figure of German military and civilians died from this last battle.

    [Photo: Bundesarchiv.]

    [A Soviet soldier walks on Berlin´s already defeated Friedrichstraße with Oranienburger Straße (notice U-bahn Oranienburger Tor entry at left, same spot as today) with a dead German soldier laying on the ground. Note Iron Cross on German´s body chest and the FG-42, a machine-gun usually provided to paratroopers.]

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