Five War Museums you should visit when in Berlin
The Second World War left quite a prominent mark on the city of Berlin. During the final years of the war, Berlin suffered from many bombings. During the final battle in 1945, known as the Battle of Berlin, the city was reduced to rubble and a lot of its historical buildings were lost. However, thanks to various museums in the city there’s still a lot to discover about the Second World War. When visiting Berlin, you should definitely visit the following five museums.
Berlin was a city with one of the largest Jewish population in the world at the start of the 20th century, a legacy that The Jewish Museum represents in its exhibits on two millennia of Jewish history and culture.
The museum uses many different ways to tell these stories to the public, including contemporary art installations, temporary exhibitions and special displays.
The building itself, partly designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind, is considered as an architectural masterpiece. The spectacular structure has firmly established itself as one of Berlin’s most recognisable landmarks. Rich in symbolism, the building itself makes German-Jewish history palpable.
Topography of Terror
As the capital of the Third Reich, many headquarters and ministries of the Nazi regime were located in Berlin. The headquarters of the Gestapo, the SS leadership, the security services of the SS, and the main office of the ‘Reichssischerheitshauptamt’, were all located at the same site. As such, this location formed the centre of Nazi terror.
All of the headquarters were seriously damaged and demolished after the war. The site then became a wasteland, except for the basements of the Gestapo headquarters, where the prison cells, torture chambers and execution rooms were located. The basement continues to exist to this day, and is part of the museum complex.
Because of the historical sense of place, the Topography of Terror was created. This permanent exhibition tells the stories of the repressive institutions and the crimes they organised. Due to the topic and some of the images displayed, the exhibition is not suitable for children.
The Allied Museum tells a unique story. It features the events that happened from the German defeat in the Second World War to the division of West and East Berlin after the war.
The museum’s permanent exhibition is called ‘How Enemies Became Friends’. When visiting it, you can follow the events that occurred in the Cold War, based on various subjects, such as ‘From the end of the War to the Berlin Airlift,’ ‘Threats to access to West Berlin,’ and ‘From Checkpoint Charlie to the Two-plus-four-Treaty.’
Highlights of the collection include the guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie, an RAF Hastings, as well as a section of the Berlin spy tunnel, the largest SIS/CIA operation ever!
Looking for an adventure? Then you should definitely visit the Berlin Underground!
Before and during the Second World War, hundreds of bunkers and air raid shelters were built in Berlin. Most of these installations were destroyed in the post-war years. However, traces of some of these spaces can still be found.
The Berlin Underground is located in a former air raid shelter at Berlin Gesundbrunnen underground station. While exploring the site on a guided tour, you can discover bunkers from the former government quarter, war rubble and archeological finds that act as poignant reminders of the Second World War. The difficult topic of military construction and historic preservation is also discussed in the exhibition.
At other locations in the city, the Berlin Underground offers tours of otherwise inaccessible buildings. You can for instance visit the ruined flak tower in Humboldthain park or the former gasometer in Kreuzberg’s Fichtestraβe.
German-Russian Museum Berlin Karlshorst
On 8 May 1945, Germany signed the final capitulation of Europe in Berlin-Karlshorst. The Russians insisted on this capitulation, so the eastern front would be lifted, and so there would be peace in Europe. This event marked the end of the Second World War. The German-Russian Museum is located on this exact location.
The museum is a place where two former wartime enemies come together to recall some of their common, though very violent history. The permanent exhibition documents this war from the perspective of both parties, German and Soviet.
What makes the museum special is that you can visit the original capitulation hall. You can also have a look at old Soviet tanks and other military arsenal, so the museum is a must visit for Second World War lovers!
Article written by Karin Koersvelt, The Netherlands
Europe Remembers is a campaign of the Liberation Route Europe to commemorate and celebrate 75 years of freedom in 2019-2020.