The first stop on our trip to Germany was Berlin. Behind me is the Brandenburg Gate. The last time I was in Berlin (1984), the gate was behind the Iron Curtain and the only way to get this close to it was to travel into East Berlin. Now it's a thriving center of activity. They even have a Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks one hundred feet from me.
Alison and I stayed not too far from Potsdamer Platz, the old government center of Berlin. Just around the corner from our hotel was the remains of the Anhof Railway Station, once the second largest train station in all of Europe. The below pictures are what the station looked like before World War II and in 1945 after having enduring the Allied air offensive against Berlin.
The Reichstag, the old parliament building in Berlin, only a few minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate. Stalin gave the task of taking Berlin to two of his best generals, Marshal Georgi Zhukov commanding the 1st Belorussian Front and Marshal Ivan Koniev commanding the 1st Ukrainian Front. The victor would be the first front to storm and capture the Reichstag.
This view of the Reichstag was taken from Moltke Bridge that the 1st Belorussian Front's 3rd Shock Army used to cross the Spree River as it stormed the Reichstag. You can still see bullet holes on the bridge. The 3rd Shock Army captured the Reichstag on 30 April, shortly before Hitler committed suicide.
Hermann Goering's Ministry of Aviation, one of the few Nazi-era structures to survive the war intact. This structure used to reside in East Berlin and was used by the Soviets as an administrative building. Today it's used as a backdrop for movies, including Tom Cruise's Valkyrie. The wall in the foreground is a remnant of the Berlin Wall. The railing in the very forefront denotes the location of Heinrich Himmler's SS Headquarters. All that remains of SS Headquarters is the foundation and a few of the basement rooms, which are visible in the second photo.
The Reich Chancellery, which was just down the street from the Ministry of Aviation, was the seat of government and Hitler's office. The Reich Chancellery, and the Fuhrer Bunker behind it, were heavily damaged by Allied bombing. After the war, the Chancellery was torn down (with the red marble used in the subway station across the street), the Fuhrer Bunker was covered over, and the entire are remained isolated in the no man's land between the Berlin Wall for decades. This is what the Chancellery looked like in 1940.
This is the area today.
Underneath the grounds behind the Chancellery sat the infamous Fuhrer Bunker where Adolf Hitler lived underground for the last six months of his life as the Reich crumbled around him. After the war, the Soviets buried the Bunker so it would not become a shrine to Nazism. When they erected the Berlin Wall, the Bunker existed as a mound of dirt inside no man's land. With the collapse of East Berlin and the tearing down of the Wall, the Bunker was dug up, completely destroyed, and a residential area built on the site. Below is a photograph taken after the war showing the exit stairwell for the bunker (the box-like concrete structure on the left) and the air vent for the complex (the conical tower in the center). The bodies of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were unsuccessfully cremated in the darkened area to the right of the tower.
Below is the same view today. The stairwell would be in the center of the photo.
Me standing at the spot where Hitler and Eva were partially cremated.
Last but not least, the Berlin Flak Towers. After the British RAF first bombed Berlin in 1940, Hitler ordered three flak towers to be built to defend the city. Each had walls over ten feet thick and enough room inside to serve as air raid shelters for up to 10,000 people (during the Battle of Berlin, close to 30,000 lived inside each tower). After the war, the tower at the Berliner Zoo was completely destroyed, and the tower in the Friedrichshain district was mostly destroyed. Only the flak tower in Humboldthain remains partially intact.
Next stop: Wannsee.