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