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While almost all of Germany was ravaged by the Second World War, few cities have had a history as tumultuous as Berlin’s. While Germany’s capital city has been reconstructed beyond recognition out of the rubble of the war, whichever way you turn in this city, you are bound to come across relics and monuments related to the Second World War and Cold War. Lest We Forget.
During the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie served as the crossing point between East and West Berlin. In October 1961, Checkpoint Charlie witnessed a tank confrontation between the American and Soviet armies that lasted over 16 hours. With sandbags and uniformed guards still in place, this is understandably a favorite photo stop for tourists. The adjoining open-air museum documents failed as well as successful escape attempts through Checkpoint Charlie from East Berlin and educates visitors about the restless political conditions of that time.
The Führerbunker was an air raid shelter used by Adolf Hitler and his staff from 16 January 1945 until the very last week of the Second World War. This was also the venue where Hitler and Eva Braun got married, committed suicide soon after and were cremated. The shelter was demolished during the war, though the underground section remained in its original condition until much later. Though this site is today only a parking lot, it attracts visitors because of its immense historical significance.
The site of a former office building of the Gestapo is today occupied by an indoor-outdoor history museum called Topography of Terror. Three permanent bilingual (English and German) exhibitions walk visitors through the history of the site and the heinous crimes committed by the Nazis. Visitors must be prepared for an extremely disturbing account of how the building that existed in this site was used for torture and execution, before it was razed to the ground during the Second World War.
On the morning of 13th August 1961, Berliners woke up to find themselves cut off from friends and family by the infamous Berlin Wall constructed overnight upon the orders of the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). The purpose of this wall was to prevent the mass flow of East Germans into West Germany during the Cold War. With barbed wire, layers of nails, strong floodlights and deep trenches in place to prevent escape attempts, the Berlin Wall deserved the name given by the locals – The Death Trap. The wall gates were finally opened in 9 November 1989, the occasion celebrated with revelry that rolled on for days. Over the next few weeks, locals from both sides smashed the wall down bit by bit, making way for the great Reunification of Germany. Ruins of the wall still remain as a stark reminder of the senselessness of war and as a symbol of human rights and freedom.
The German Resistance Memorial Center is a part of the Bendlerblock (the Ministry of the Reichswehr after World War I and used by several departments of the Nazi army). The memorial commemorates members of the German army who unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Hitler on 20th July 1944, and were executed by a firing squad at this site. Today, the memorial symbolizes overall German Resistance by individuals and groups against the National Socialist dictatorship between 1933 and 1945 and is also a center of learning.
Soviet War Memorial is a massive military cemetery in Berlin’s Treptower Park, and one of the three Soviet memorials in the city. It is the final resting place of 7,000 of the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who were martyred while fighting to capture Berlin in April-May 1945. The memorial was inaugurated four years after the end of the Second World War. The highlight of the memorial is a a 12 meter (3.2 ft) tall sculpture of a soldier holding a sword and a child, erected in honor of Sergeant of Guards Nikolai Masalov who had risked his life to rescue a little German girl.