The final major offensive in the European Theatre of the Second World War
The battle of Berlin was one of the last battles of the Second World War in Europe. The war that had proceeded from Berlin returned to the city. Many soldiers and civilians died in widespread house-to-house fighting.
On 22 June 1944, two weeks after the Allied landings in Normandy, the Soviet army initiated its campaign against the German forces. On 16 October Soviet troops crossed the German border. Joseph Stalin, the head of State of the Soviet Union, was in a hurry to get to Berlin before the Americans. He wanted above all to demonstrate Soviet military might and achieve a favourable post-war negotiating position. However, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt was not interested in conquering Berlin. He wanted the Soviet Union as an ally in the war against Japan, and above all as a partner in the creation of a stable post-war world order.
On 16 April 1945, the Soviet forces started the final offensive against the German capital. They tried to encircle Berlin in a pincer movement. But the attempted fast breakthrough into Berlin did not materialize. Instead it took them four days and many casualties to get past the Seelow Heights, situated about 70 km east of Berlin.
On 21 April, the first Soviet units finally entered Berlin. In house-to-house fighting the Soviet soldiers faced desperate German resistance. The Western Allies stopped their air attacks on 16 April 1945. The Soviet Union continued the air war to support the ground offensive in Berlin.
On 2 May 1945, the Berlin garrison surrendered to the Soviet army. The human cost of the battle of Berlin had been enormous. The Soviets counted over 80.000 dead. German losses are estimated at almost 50.000.
After the Soviet troops had occupied the Reichstag on 1 May 1945, German defeat was imminent. On 2 May, Soviet intelligence received a radio message from the German 56th Armored Corps requesting an armistice. Later that morning, corps commander General Helmuth Weidling signed the order of surrender, which was then conveyed to all soldiers of the Berlin garrison.
The Allied Museum tells a unique story: from the German defeat in the Second World War to the division of West and East Berlin between the three Western powers and the Soviet Union. Berlin became the most important scene of the struggle that is known as the Cold War.
The German-Russian Museum is located at the site of the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945 in Berlin-Karlshorst, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe. Today it is a place where two former wartime enemies jointly recall some of their common, albeit very violent history.
The army of the Soviet Union conquered Berlin in April/May 1945. Two months later the Western Allied troops also entered the city. On 4 July 1945, the American Independence Day, U.S. troops officially took charge of their occupation sector in southwest Berlin. In September 1994, after almost 50 years, the Allied troops withdrew from Berlin.
The Berliner Unterwelten Association informs the public about Berlin history from an unusual perspective. Before and during the Second World War hundreds of bunkers and air raid shelters were built in the city. In the post-war years most of these installations were destroyed. But traces of the air raid shelters can still be found in Berlin.
On 16 April 1945, Soviet troops attacked the German line of defense near the town of Seelow, situated 70 km east from Berlin. Because Soviet Marshal Zhukov had underestimated how high the Seelow Heights really were, his commanders were forced to find detours. Chaotic fighting ensued in the Oder Marsh and the Seelow Heights.
On 5 June 1945 the supreme commanders of the Western powers met for the first time with their colleague from the Soviet Union. In Berlin-Wendenschloss they signed the Berlin Declaration, proclaiming the unconditional surrender of Germany and the assumption of supreme authority by the four victorious powers.
Regular air raids on Berlin by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) started in 1944, with almost daily bombardments in February and March 1945. The bombing on 3 February 1945 focused on the government district and was designed to break the will of the Berlin people. This strategy failed until the end of April when the Soviet army conquered the city.
On 26 April 1945, Berlin Tempelhof Airport came under the control of Soviet combat troops led by General Vasily Chuikov. With ready for take-off aircraft parked in underground hangars, Tempelhof provided the last escape route for the Nazi leadership and was therefore a priority in Chuikov’s attack plans.
On 16 April 1945, the Soviet forces started to encircle Berlin in a pincer movement. Five days later first Soviet units entered Berlin from the east and fought their way to the city center. On 2 May, two days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, all remaining German forces in Berlin were ordered to surrender.
With the unconditional surrender of the German Armed Forces on 8 May 1945, the Second World War ended in Europe. The surrender took place in Berlin’s Karlshorst district, where the Soviet forces had set up their main headquarters after the fall of Berlin.
The Reichstag was built between 1884 and 1894. It served as the seat of parliament in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. During the Second World War the building was heavily damaged. Since 1994 it has been rebuilt and renovated. Nowadays, the Reichstag functions as the seat of the German federal parliament.
The Soviet Memorial Tiergarten in the centre of Berlin commemorates the more than 80.000 Soviet soldiers who fell during the Battle of Berlin in the last weeks of the Second World War in Germany. Even though the Tiergarten memorial is located in the former British sector of Berlin, Soviet honor guards were sent every day to perform honorary guard duty. This tradition was maintained even during the harshest Cold War periods.
The Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park is the largest war memorial in Berlin and indeed in Germany today. The imposing figure on top of the mausoleum depicts a soldier carrying a rescued German child. The memorial honours the approximately 80.000 Soviet soldiers killed during the conquest of Berlin.
On 5 May 1945 German commander general Blaskowitz met with Canadian general Foulkes in Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. There they negotiated the surrender document for all German forces in the Netherlands, which they signed the next day. The occupation of the Netherlands had come to an end.
The building of the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin was used as a SS guest house during the Second World War. It currently houses a memorial whose permanent exhibition, ‘The Wannsee Conference and the Genocide of European Jews’, provides information on the history of the persecution of Jews.
The German Resistance Memorial Center is located in Berlin at the historic site of the attempted coup of July 20, 1944 against Hitler. The museum includes different exhibitions highlighting specific topics about the resistance in Germany. The permanent exhibition ‘Resistance against National Socialism’ was opened in July 2014 to document the social breadth and ideological diversity of the resistance against dictatorship.
The Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin tells the story of 2,000 years of German history. The permanent exhibition comprises around 7,000 historical exponents providing information on people, ideas, events and historical developments in Germany. The main floor area is devoted to the Weimar Republic, the Nazi regime, the post-war period and the history of the two German states from 1949 to the reunification in 1990.
The Jewish Museum in Berlin opened its doors in 2001 and serves as a reflection centre on Jewish history and culture. Changing temporary exhibitions depict a broad range of themes, ranging from cultural history to contemporary art installations. The new permanent exhibition, which is currently being remodelled, is expected to open in 2019.