1.Reconstructing Berlin

Statement of Purpose:
I am writing this blog for my own amusement and possibly for the amusement of others. My intention is to show what historic sites can be seen in Berlin today – on foot – starting roughly at the Brandenburg Gate. My field of interest runs from unification (1871) to the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). My main interest is in the New Reich Chancellery, Speer’s short-lived creation, and in Voss-Strasse itself, hence the title of this blog. There is no political intent, implied or otherwise.
Pretty much everything I write about here can be found on the Internet in greater detail. I aim to supply interesting stuff for those who couldn’t be bothered ploughing through hundreds of websites. If you’re in Berlin and want to know where certain events happened or what happened near where you are staying, hopefully this blog might help.


Rip It Down And Start Again?

I recently watched “Bridge of Spies” and it reminded me that I had promised/threatened to post a travelogue on Berlin while I was there. It’s going to be more of a rant, actually, so if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. Bit like commercial television really.

The question is: how do you rebuild an historic city that has been pretty much completely destroyed in a war? Berlin is a metaphor for all the cities destroyed in all the wars and I only chose it because I’ve been there in the 1970s, 1980s and the 2010s and I like the history . In this blog I propose to write about what I consider to be interesting things and to start with all of the ‘interesting things’ will be within walking distance of the Apartments at Brandenburger Tor car park.

As far as I can see there are three options in rebuilding this city: you clear the rubble and build new, modern structures; you tidy up the surviving buildings and re-use them or you leave them the way they are.

I propose to look at a few examples of what’s remaining of historical interest (to me anyway).

Let’s start with the DDR. If you want to go and see what Berlin was like under the East Germans (from now on I’ll simplify that to DDR to avoid having to distinguish between East Germans and Soviets) you should go now. The inner city is being gentrified at an alarming rate but there are still things to be seen. The DDR did not go out of its way to reconstruct Berlin after the war – they largely concerned themselves with tearing up (or down) old Nazi sites, the Reich Chancellery and a selection of cemeteries for example. This means that large sections of the city remained untouched for decades. For example, in the 1970s I did a bus tour into East Berlin (across the Berlin Wall). The young East German woman who provided the commentary on the bus waxed lyrical about how the government was going to build wondrous new sports complexes and government buildings and so on but outside all we could see were vast tracts of fenced off land that had literally not been touched since 1945. There were of course the odd Communist Party buildings which were a bit tarted up but in general the whole place gave an impression of being depressed and depressing. At the end of the tour, the young host had to disembark on the Eastern side and Russian and East German guards – armed with automatic weapons – came on the bus and began checking IDs. They then ran dogs under the bus to check that no desperate, disenchanted East German had decided to do a Cape Fear and defect by hanging on under the bus. When we got through Checkpoint Charlie, the bus driver told us – wryly – that the young host had had to learn her entire 90 minute spiel off by heart to get the tour guide job and that the Bad Guys were in the habit of slipping a fake ‘tourist’ on the bus to check that she wasn’t editorialising. Apparently, she was allowed to see members of her family briefly when she got on the bus in the West.


Here’s an example of the changing of the political guard in Berlin.


The above photo was taken in Behrenstrasse – which runs off Wilhelmstrasse – in 2010. I took the one below almost exactly five years later. Now this large (un)polished image of Lenin was still on this building  – and only a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg Gate – twenty-one years after the Wall came down. Check the dates on the photographs.


As late as 2011, you could still find Cyrillic lettering in the foyers of some apartment blocks in central Berlin.

Because the Communists did not do a great deal of rebuilding you can still find old buildings from before the Second World War but you will need to hurry – because the Wall has come down a lot of these places are disappearing. A case in point is the corner of Wilhelmstrasse and Voss-Strasse.  This corner originally (i.e. pre-war) was the site of the Reichs-verkehrsministerium (Reich Traffic Ministry). It can be seen in its heyday in the centre of this photo (red arrow), the Finance ministry is to the left of the photo (blue arrow), the Air Ministry (still standing in pretty much its original form) (orange arrow) can be seen further down the street and the Borsig Palais (green arrow) to the right:


Here’s a comparison with the above photo taken in 2015:

Verkehr 3

Here’s what it looked like in 2010. The buildings on the left hand side of Voss-Strasse (the street the red Mini drives down) had been there since the war (1945). You could still see battle damage on pretty much all of them.

Verkehrersministerium.jpg 2




Here’s what it looks like now:


These changes took place in only five years. See what I mean about getting there quickly if you want to see original stuff?

Interestingly, if you look at the very first photo I have posted – the one with the two women with cake tins on their heads in front of the U Bahn entrance – you will see a large building directly behind the entrance. That building -the Ritterschaftsdirektion -(and the U Bahn station itself, but not that entrance) still survives and can be seen on the Wilhelmplatz today. More detail on that building when I get around to the Wilhelmplatz.

So here’s the plan. I intend to post a series of …ummm … posts on touring Berlin with an interest in the history of the place. To start with I am going to suggest places of interest within walking distance of the car park behind the Apartments am Brandenburger Tor. The Apartments am Brandenburger Tor run along Wilhemstrasse from the Adlon Hotel and up Voss-Strasse in a vague U shape. They also wander around various other blocks. Suffice it to say that that whole block bounded by  Peter-Behrens-Strasse , Wilhelmstrasse, Voss-Strasse and Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse constituted the lion’s share of the Regierungsviertel, or Government Quarter from Bismarck’s time to 1945. The current Holocaust Memorial, the car park, the apartments and sundry other structures pretty much made up the Ministry Gardens.

For some reason some of my posts are appearing in random order therefore I intend to number them so anyone bored enough to be reading this can read them in order. A complete list of the posts so far can be found here: https://wordpress.com/posts/vossstrasse.com although I have no idea why posts 4 and 5 are in the wrong order.


I assume in writing this that anyone who wants to visit the Bendlerblock will know the history of the July Plot. If not, here’s your homework: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20_July_plot

A visit to the Bendlerblock is, IMO, a must. As the centre of the July Plot in 1944 it has its place in history but unlike many other such buildings, it still exists in pretty much its original form, despite some serious damage in 1945 as you would expect. It has been tarted up a little but the layout remains the same and you can walk in off the street, free of charge, and be – as opposed to see – where it all happened. You can wander though the offices of all the major conspirators and if the mood takes you, you can even piddle in their dunny (it’s just down the corridor from von Stauffenberg’s office). There were pistol fights in the corridors of the building but I could find no evidence of damage. There is also an excellent exhibition of the German Resistance to Hitler (and its consequences). You’ll need at least half a day if you are to get the full value of your visit.

Blue Line on map:

To get to the Bendlerblock from Potsdamerplatz you have a choice. You can walk back up Ebertstrasse in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate until you get to Bellevuestrasse (only a hundred metres or so from memory), turn left into Bellevuestrasse and walk up to where Tiergartenstrasse joins Lennestrasse and turn left again. Then it’s a straight walk along Tiergartenstrasse until you turn left again into Stauffenbergstrasse (wonder where they got that name?) which will take you to the Bendlerblock. The advantage of this route is that it passes (on your left) the Memorial to the Victims of the T4 (Euthenasia) Program (which I have twice forgotten to photograph):


Red Line on Map:

Or you can take the B1 (aka Potsdamerstrasse) from Potsdamerplatz and follow it as far as Sigismundstrasse where you turn right and follow it up to Stauffenbergstrasse where you turn left. The advantage of this route is that you pass St Matthaus Kirche which was severely knocked around during the final battles for the government district in April, 1945. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who looms large in the narrative of Resistance to the Nazis, was pastor here from 1931:


This is the frontage of the building which faces the Landwehr Canal:

By Jörg Zägel – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8476114

On the extreme lower left of this photo you can see a round portico with a silver railing. When we were walking past in c. 1976, one of the locals told us that that was Canaris’ office and that he used to occasionally come outside onto that balcony and talk to passers-by.

You however will come in the entrance on Stauffenbergstrasse:

My photo.

And this is what you will see – the very spot where the conspirators were executed:

All photos with a date are mine.

And this is what it looked like in April/May 1945:

If you walk to the end of the courtyard and turn around, you will see this:

And had you been there on the morning of July 21, 1944, you would have seen this (minus the tourists of course):

The SS officer raising his hand is generally acknowledged to be Otto Skorzeny. When you enter the building, you go in through this door. If you look closely, you’ll see the only significant difference between the period photo and the modern photo is the tree. That indicates, I think, how little the place has changed. You will be standing in the place of execution and you will probably realize as I did how small the area is. I paced it out and I think it was about thirty paces from wall to wall so the condemned would have been shot at very close range.

Probably their last view although it was at night and they would have been blinded to some extent by the truck headlights used to illuminate the scene:

Let’s go in. Remember you are welcome to walk all through the area where the conspirators worked. You won’t be challenged but you may have to wait for school groups to finish listening to a lecture/looking at their phones. You will be walking through the same doorways and up the same stairs as von Stauffenberg, Fromm, Olbricht et al (and the SS who came to end the insurrection). If you go on a weekday, around midday, it can be very quiet and you almost feel the oppressive nature of the place. Well I did anyway.

My photo. The exhibitions are on several floors so be sure to check them all out.

You can see a period photo of von Stauffenberg’s office here:


And here it is today:

Two things you might notice. If you compare the original photo to von Stauffenberg’s office (in the link above) with the one above, you will notice that the heaters appear to be original – but when you get there, check out the floor. Interesting pattern in the parquetry:

I can’t believe that this hasn’t been ripped up – not that I think it should be. The powers that be have gone to great lengths to sanitise much of the history of these places (for obvious reasons) to the extent of banning the swastika on original aircraft, for example, but this has gone unchanged.

The various rooms have a great deal of documentation on the walls indicating who was where and what had happened. For example:

There is similar documentation for each of the conspirators and it’s worth remembering the high drama of that night in July 1945. You may find yourself standing in the very room where Generaloberst Ludwig Beck shot himself in an unsuccessful attempt at suicide. I think this is the very room but am happy to be contradicted:

A few final thoughts:

For those who are interested in such things, it’s worth knowing the Helmuth Weidling used this building as his HQ during the final battle for Berlin and it was from here that he set out to surrender to the Russians. Also, as much as I hate to admit it, I think the Tom Cruise ‘Valkyrie’ movie was surprisingly good (and uncharacteristically accurate):


AFAIK, there are no known gravesites for the conspirators although there are a number of memorials. Ironically, perhaps, there are two memorials to plotters in the Invaliden Cemetery (which we will visit if I ever get my finger out). Where’s the irony? The memorials are in the same cemetery as one of their victims:

This memorial reads: “Fritz von der Lancken, Oberstleutnant, 1890, verhaftet (arrested) 20.7 Hingerichtet (executed) 29.9.1944.” Wikipedia has this bloke as the headmaster of a boarding school but his villa in Potsdam was the meeting place of the conspirators as seen in “Valkyrie”. He was arrested at the Bendlerblock on July 20, was sentenced to hang by Roland Freisler on 29.9.1944 and was executed the same day.

We will visit Moabit Prison if I ever get organised but for now we must leave the Bendlerblock, turn right into Stauffenbergstrasse and head towards the Shell House and a search for railings!

32. Potsdamer Platz

If you cross Leipziger Platz, you will come to the once-famous Potsdamer Platz, once a hub not just of Germany but of Europe. These days it’s largely a tourist trap but there are a few points of interest, depending on where you’re coming from. I think it would be safe to say that no original buildings have survived since the war and the fact that Postdamer Platz had the Berlin Wall running through it meant that the area was pretty much wasteland for just shy of thirty years. You can see some very good postwar footage of the area in 1987 in Wim Wenders’ “Der Himmel Uber Berlin” (“Wings of Desire”):

The good stuff starts around 39:00 and although the movie won Wenders the award for best director at the Cannes Film Festival it’s tedious, pretentious poop IMO. Makes me want to reach for my Browning.

However, as I said, Potsdamer Platz was once a cultural and social centre of both Berlin and Europe. This is what it looked like before the war:

The buildings you will need to recognise and remember are the Furstenhof Hotel (three turrets at left), Haus Vaterland (domed building partly hidden), Potsdamer Bahnhof (with the five main arches) and Pschorr Haus (conveniently labelled) at far right. You will need to remember them so you can recognise them in photos after they have been ruined by the war and neglected during the Wall period (if I ever get around to writing it up). Also, how else are you going to impress your friends (if any)? Another building which will help you orient yourself is the ultra-modern Columbus Haus. Had you walked up Leipzigerstrasse and through the two Potsdam Gatehouses (facing each other) back in the day, you would have seen the Columbus Haus:

It was, in its day, as flash as a rat with a gold tooth:

But six and a half years of air raids and a ferocious series of street battles will knock you around more than a tad:

Here it is in happier times:

You may recall that there is a surviving S Bahn sign at Potsdamer Platz. Here it is to save you going back:

Sorry about the reflections. If it’s a problem, take your own bloody photo.

Could it be the same one in the photo above? I reckon the chances are pretty good. The one is the foreground is buggered beyond repair but the shy one in the background seems to be in better nick. See what you think:

You can tell it’s the same sign in both comparison photos by the orientation with the NRK in the background. I think this (below) could be the same sign which would be an amazing survival story given the scale and intensity of the fighting at Potsdamer Platz in April 1945:

Why the emphasis on a dumb old sign? Well, it could well be the only original relic from the Potsdamer Platz of days gone by. So what can you see there of historical significance? Not a lot. If you haven’t been there before you will be surprised at just how close Potsdamer Platz is to Voss-Strasse, one whole side of which you will remember housed the NRK. You may also remember that a report (probably incorrect as it turns out) of Russians in Voss-Strasse and Potsdamer Platz accelerated Hitler’s decision to hang up his cue. So as you stand there you may want to let it sink in just how close the Russians were. Had they known he was in the NRK, the battle would have almost certainly been much shorter. You may recall that a U Bahn line also ran from Potsdamerplatz to an underground station under the Wertheim department store. Had the Soviets been aware of this they could have popped up across the street from the NRK and saved themselves a lot of trouble, assuming of course that they had captured Potsdamerplatz before the surrender.

There are a number of famous photos of this area after the surrender, amongst them this one:

That is the Tiger II of Karl-Heinz Turk outside the Potsdamerplatz Hauptbahnhof. This is he:

You can read of his exploits here (and a zillion other places):

I post on the AHF as ‘Mannheim’, hence the occasional overlap with this blog. Incidentally, the Tiger II is/was a seriously big intimidator. This is a surviving one at the Munster Panzer Museum (take note of the shackle on the rear right-hand side):
…and to give an idea of the size of this bugger, this is my hand on the same shackle:
I am 182cm tall and I had to reach up to touch the deck on which the turret sits.

If you are standing in Potsdamerplatz you will see, behind the entrance to the U Bahn, a long strip of elevated grassland. That’s where the Hauptbahnhof and associated railway lines used to stand:

That’s it behind the pagoda-shaped …ummm…pagoda. Turk’s Tiger stood just to the right of that bus.

I have made myself a promise not to get bogged down in detail so we’ll leave Potsdamerplatz very shortly but one last look at one of the ironies of history. In 1945 Soviet tanks were fighting to liberate Berlin (well, that’s one way of putting it) and here they are again in 1953, just eight years later, once again on the streets of Berlin only this time putting down an insurrection by the ungrateful blighters to whom they had brought the glory of communism:

Note the undemolished ruins of the Hauptbahnhof at rear.

Now, on to the Bendlerblock…

31. Further up Leipzigerstrasse …

Having left the Air Ministry building we walk a little further up Leipzigerstrasse in the direction of Potsdamerplatz. Howevere we’ve barely gone a few steps when over the road (right) we recognise our old friend the annex of the Transport Ministry from Post 16(a): Voss-Strasse The Left-Hand Side:

LS looking west 1

and a little further on, on the left-hand side we encounter the Herrenhaus (Prussian House of Lords) again:


So what’s interesting about Das Herrenhaus? Not much, apart from the fact that it’s still there and was built on the site of a palace owned by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s father – yes, that Mendelssohn, the musician bloke whose grave, incidentally, we will eventually visit while working our way down Wilhelmstrasse. The other interesting thing is that this building was used as the original courtroom of the Volksgericht (The People’s Court), however the proceedings were soon moved to Bellevue-Strasse 15 in Potsdamerplatz (now the Sony building) and I believe this is where the July 20 plotters were ‘tried’ and where Roland Freisler was killed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Court_(Germany)

Here’s a pre-war photo of the area we have so far explored:

PP Fin

The blue arrow shows the Transport Ministry annex and the red arrow indicates the Herrenhaus. The photo is quite early, i.e. pre-1933 at least,  because the houses on the north side of Voss-Strasse haven’t been demolished and the whopping great lump which constitutes the Wertheim store is still intact. And here it is:

Roaring Berlin 1

The woman on the right looks like she has just realised that she left the stove on in this great photo from the Facebook page “Roaring Berlin: Die Vergessene Metropole”, found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/roaringberlin/ and those trams would most likely end up on their sides as barricades later in 1945.

However, remember the stone-throwing protesters in the 1953 uprising? This photo comparison shows where the event occurred:

LP 1

The building on the left in the left-hand photo is the Wertheim store, presumably patched up, in 1953 (note the shape of the only visible archway and compare it to the arches in the building on the right and then trust me it’s the same building). It does show us that the Wertheim remains were still standing in 1953. And so does this:


The stone throwing must’ve really upset the Soviets because they soon reduced Leipzigerplatz to:

LP 1

and finally to:

RC 73


In the first photo (i.e. after “And so does this …”) you can make out the Propaganda Ministry building and Hess’ office (top left) and the demolition of the NRK (middle left). The middle photo shows the distinctive shape of Leipzigerplatz and the mid-incarnation of the Berlin Wall. We know it’s not an early version of the wall because it’s a wall (not a fence – shades of Trump!) and it’s not a late version because it’s not covered in graffiti. In the third photo, the trees at far mid-left indicate the edge of the Tiergarten and you can make out the Propaganda Ministry at mid-right. The green square in front of the Propaganda Ministry constitutes half of Wilhelmplatz before the awful school buildings were inflicted on it. Thus the area bottom-left is Potsdamerplatz and both Leipzigerstrasse and (parallel to it) Voss-Strasse can be seen running left to right across the bottom half of the photo.

It is, IMO, worth remembering as you walk up or down both Voss-Strasse and Leipzigerstrasse that before 1989 you would have been cut down by rifle fire had you walked in those very same spots. More on this shortly …







30. Ministry of Aviation/Leipzigerstrasse

So you’ve come back down Voss-Strasse with the site of the former NRK on your left and have reached Wilhelmstrasse again (red circle). Turn right (in the direction of Tempelhof, i.e. south). This is our planned route: the short red line is Wilhelmstrasse and the longer red line takes us back past Mohrenstrasse U Bahn station and through Zietenplatz to Glinkastrasse. It gets tricky here: for some unDeutsch reason Mauerstrasse turns into Glinkastrasse and then turns back into Mauerstrasse. Anyway, walk down Glinkastrasse until you reach the intersection (blue cirlce)with Leipzigerstrasse (up which we are going to walk to Potsdamerplatz):

moals 1

Leipzigerstrasse runs for yonks in an easterly direction but we are interested in walking west towards Potsdamerplatz so you should come to this corner:


Feel free to venture into the building on the right to discover the wild side of Berlin but 74 years ago it would have discovered you in this very place. Cross the road and you’ll see what I mean. The building with the bloke on top holding up (yet another) globe is the former Reichspostamt:


and I’m including this following shot simply because I think it’s a wonderful watercolour:

cnr mauerstrasse

You notice in today’s iteration of the building, the two towers flanking Globeboy have disappeared, almost certainly because of battle damage and there is still evidence of it to be seen on the Mauerstrasse side:





What an eloquent and desperate story these spang marks could tell. Leipzigerstrasse was one of the few major streets still in German hands when the capitulation occurred. It was the staging area for a number of armoured vehicles during the battle so these spang marks must show the limit of Soviet penetration when they were made. Now the building is a Communications Museum, a Mecca for phone enthusiasts i.e. pretty much everybody these days as far as I can see…

Hmmm… just an aside: if you are like me and find all these references to north, south, east and west confusing, here is a little map of this area to help you out:

lzs map 2

You are currently where the green circle is on the map above. Now if you walk back up Leipzigerstrasse  – which is to say in a westerly direction – you will eventually come to a corner (just before the blue arrow) across which you will see this building:

bundesarchiv_bild_146-1979-074-36a,_berlin,_reichsluftfahrtministerium (1)

This is the former Ministry of Aviation, built from February 1935 to August 1936, at the time the largest office block in Europe. Runs an entire block along Wilhelmstrasse. It was comparatively undamaged in WW2 and what you see is pretty much what you would’ve seen back in the day minus some embellishments such as swastikas and bas reliefs of marching soldiers. It is a biggie:

1920px-luftaufnahme_detlev-rohwedder_haus (1)

You can make out the Topography of Terror exhibition in Niederkirchnerstrasse (formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, yes, home of the Gestapo HQ back in the day) at the extreme left and Leipzigerstrasse at extreme right. Incidentally, the current Topography of Terror exhibition (highly recommended) has some of the former cellar/cells on display under what appears to be solar panels in the previous photo (extreme left). It was in those very cellars that Henri Joseph Fenet


and his men were holed up when the order came to surrender in May, 1945. If you go back to the first photo in this post, you will see that the French SS – the only ones in Wilhelmstrasse between the Soviets and Hitler when they surrendered – were only two city blocks from the NRK. In fact, Fenet and the Charlemagne survivors were intending a ‘last stand’ at the NRK. Talk about “None shall pass!”


Now there are lots of photos on the internet of various funerals at this building, including Molders and Udet (in fact I think Udet suicided in this building but I wouldn’t put my house on it) so I’m not going to post them. Google them if you haven’t seen them. Instead, here’s a nice shot of the building in its heyday (notice the eagles on the gateposts):


The building was comparatively not-knocked-around too much after the battle in 1945 and was used by the Communists as “The House of Ministries”. Around 1950, the authorities decided they need a giant mural so they commissioned a bloke called Max Lingner to produce it. Max did a slap-up job with lots of cheery East Berlins waving and smiling that smile usually peculiar to advertisements for exercise machines. However, the authorities decided it needed more of a political bent so poor old Max had to finesse it so much even he got sick of it. The final iteration can be seen today in that open courtyard fronting both Wilhelmstrasse and Leipzigerstrasse:

Mural 1

You’ve got to wonder if the local East Berliners didn’t crack jokes about the hokiness of it all given their knowledge that the Stasi were reading their Christmas cards, shopping lists and what-have-you. Max would’ve been better off drawing a long line of dobbers …

However, on June 16th 1953 an uprising began which really started the next day after masses of protesters forced their way onto the above courtyard and demanded reform. The Soviets sent in tanks and were embarrassed when photos like this (taken in Leipzigerstrasse) were published worldwide:

06.16.1953 East German uprising

There is a memorial to this uprising and it is in the same courtyard. If you can’t see it, look down. You’re standing on it. Here’s an article on the Uprising: https://libcom.org/history/1953-the-east-german-uprising

If you’re interested in the WW2 side of things, walk back down to the main gates. Turn around and look back in the direction Of Unter den Linden and you’ll see that you are standing where this happened:


And finally, if you have one of those neighbours who makes you want to vote for the death penalty just for saying “Hello” to you and if said neighbour is gloating about his/her new Mercedes, just ask them with a straight face why Mercedes don’t use this ad anymore:


Moving right along …



29. Hitler Youth Awards: Ceremony in the Garden

There can’t be many of those interested in this period of history and the battle in this city who haven’t seen the “last footage” – as far as is currently known – of Hitler greeting some Hitler Youth in the Ministry Gardens just outside his office. The footage (with translation) can be found here:


although the author of this text feels the need for a little editorialising: “Willi Hübner was compelled to tell his story for the cameras“.

“Compelled”? As far as I can see the little bugger looks dead chuffed. The rest of the text gives a little of Willi’s later biography. You can find some info on the kid standing next to him here:


and you might note Artur Axmann, the HJ leader, saluting with his left arm as he had lost his right arm on the Eastern Front.

2015-04-18 07.42.44


2015-04-18 07.44.36

These next two photos show Willi Hubner being decorated in Lauben where he earned his Iron Cross Second Class, first by Dr Goebbels and then by General Schorner(?).



Willi Hubner was 16 at this time even though he looks 12, which was the age of Alfred Czech, the kid standing next to him in the following photos from the NRK terrace.

Hitler arrives. Note the greenhouse and a corner of the ornamental pool on the right. This will become important when we try to establish where on our barren ground this event took place.

2015-04-18 07.45.28

Hitler greets Alfred Czech:

17973475_10155357410223689_7642822119876454573_o WW11 Pictures

… and Willi Hubner:

17966753_10155357409673689_6516410251305185044_o WW11 Pictures

… all carefully recorded by the cameraman (rear):

2015-04-18 07.44.36

So where did it happen? Can you see the spot today? Answer: I don’t know but I believe you could still in 2017. I am typing this in Sydney, Australia, one year (2018) after I took the photos of Voss-Strasse in the previous post so I don’t know if it’s been built upon yet. But it will be. But let’s assume you can still access the site.

Here’s a photo I pinched from Axis History Forum. Ignore the Villa Kempka caption – that was from the original poster whose name I forget but whom I thank. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, the redline. You will see that the ruined Propaganda Ministry building points pretty much to the spot on the terrace outside Hitler’s office and the blue circle shows the corner of the ornamental pool we saw above:

Aerial 3

If you look at the next photo from Google Earth you will see a green line.

Hj awards 1

That is the orientation of the former Propaganda Ministry wing (today a school), as above. It points to An der Kolonnade ( a street which didn’t exist pre-war and is marked in blue). If you cross the street to where the red line is, the first part of An der Kolonnade points pretty much to the back of the Chancellery, roughly outside Hitler’s office where the award ceremony took place. What makes me think this? Have a look at this second photo which I found on Pinterest and you will see an overlay of the Chancellery and the current buildings. You should see that the line of An der Kolonnade points to the area in question, I believe:

HJ a 2

Now look back to the previous photo (the Google Earth one) and you’ll see that the red cross indicates some barren ground to the right of this white building:

Dead SS Google 1

… and that would be this barren ground, keeping the white building as a reference point:


Now you might recall from Post 18. The West Wing that the white building pretty much marks the end of the west wing of the NRK so we need to go about halfway down the Mittelbau (and remembering that the red cross will be in line with the middle of the Mittelbau, i.e. Hitler’s office) we find this patch of bare ground:


Moving from the footpath of Voss-Strasse towards where the red cross should be (and you’ll need the Google Earth photo above with you to work out how far to walk) you’ll come to this spot and that, I believe , is where the HJ award ceremony occurred seventy-three years ago:


As close as I could get due to the bloody fence but I believe the ceremony took place just on the other side of the fence:


Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

28. The NRK Today: So What’s Left There Now?

Short answer: not much. As I have indicated before, the surviving unbuilt-upon area is shrinking. I first photographed the area (i.e. Voss-Strasse) in 2010, at least when I was walking on it. I had photographed it earlier, for the first time I think in c. 1978/9 when we were obliged to look over the Berlin Wall courtesy of a viewing platform, access to which the poor buggers on the eastern side were denied (unless you were a bigwig with lots of medals and/or money). Here JFK looks over the Wall (he would be dead almost exactly five months later).

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There were viewing platforms at various places all along the western side of the Wall. If you stood on top of the one at the Brandenburg Gate and looked to your right you would see this:

Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, Ehemaliger Mauerstreifen

OK, the photo was taken in 1991. So sue me. But it is the same area that was presented to us tourists back in the 1970s. The NRK is completely gone and if you draw a line directly down from the Alexanderplatz Tower (middle centre) you’ll see a small hill. The guides told us that was where Hitler’s bunker was. I suspect that they were only regurgitating either Party instructions or local lore but, IMO, they were wrong. Anyway, that rubbish road on the middle-right is Voss-Strasse and you can make out the branch of the Transport Ministry still standing as it does to this very day at further mid-right. And here’s how you might see it if you were Doctor Who:

Bundesarchiv 2

The tour guides were wrong – or were being deliberately deceptive, for the same reason that the red marble in the Mohnrenstrasse U Bahn station came from Thuringia (if you get what I mean…)

Consider this:

Red line 1Not very clear but the red line in the photo on the left shows the placement of the “hump”, i.e. Hitler’s bunker, and the distance to Voss-Strasse. The red circle in this Google Earth photo shows the same placement and distance.

Hump 2

However, we now know – or believe (and I trust those more knowledgeable than I am) – that the bodies of Mr and Mrs Hitler were burned on the corner of Gertud-Kolmar-Strasse and In den Ministergarten (white circle). So the ‘hump’ that the guides told us was the position of the bunker was in fact in front of the wrong block of flats and was way too far to the right. So the tour guide chappies were ill-informed. Or they lied.

Have a look at this excellent footage from Youtube and you’ll see that the ‘hump’ is in front of the u-shaped block of flats (apartments to Americans) whereas the Transport Ministry (Number 33) is behind those flats (you can see what I mean in the opening 16 or so seconds but it’s all great footage):


I believe the ‘hump’ is in fact detritus from the demolition(sob!) of the NRK.

We now know where everything stood on Voss-Strasse. But what can you still find?

Answer: apart from the Ministry of Transport building on the southern side, nothing. The following photos – some of which were posted in miniature before – show the accessible, bare ground on which you could walk in 2011. Most of this ground was previously occupied by the NRK and is, as I’ve pointed out before, rapidly being built upon. This aerial shot shows the general area (red rectangle) where the following bare patches stood/stand:

Ruin map

So, as Percy Bysshe Shelley once said – how come no-one’s called ‘Bysshe’ anymore? –

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”



OK, so who can guess on which piece of currently (as of 2011) barren ground this much-published event took place?


Answer in the next gripping instalment!


27. There Passed a Weary Time: Demolition and the Fahrerbunker

Between 1947 and 1949, the destruction of the NRK began in earnest. Here the Soviets and their running dog minions of the DDR have demolished the West Wing:

destruction 3 AHF

The Mittelbau follows:


… although to be fair, I think the previous two photos were taken at roughly the same time. Next is the destruction of the Mittelbau: the following photo shows (on the right) that Hitler’s study, its columns and the terrace have already been demolished. The remaining structure in the photo on the right is the last element of the Mittelbau – compare the square windows with the windows at the far left of the photo on the left.

ruins 2

And obviously the Ehrenhof had to go. What a pity from an historical perspective although it does improve our view of our old friend the Ritterschaftsdirektion:

ehrenhof reste AHF

And through it all, like a little brother watching his big brother get spanked, sits the lonely Ministry of Transport building (notice the emergency exit block still lies on its side):


Bunker Bunker der Neuen Reichskanzlei

In 1987, photographer Robert Conrad got inside the NRK as it was being demolished and a secretly took a great series of photos. These are – if you’re into this stuff like I am – sensational:


and also here:


Equally exciting, IMO, was the discovery in 1990 of the Fahrerbunker (Drivers’ Bunker). This bunker – for the drivers of Hitler’s fleet of vehicles (well, derrr…) – lay undiscovered until 1990 when it was uncovered during clearance operations for the Pink Floyd concert “The Wall” which was to be held after the Berlin Wall came down. Who knew Prog Rock bands could be good for something? Apparently there was worldwide shaking of heads, waggling of fingers and groans of anguish when it was discovered that the Nazis had drawn on the walls of their bunker, if you believe  some sources. Here are some examples of the cause of this hand-wringing:

Fahrerbunker Sink AHF

Fahrerbunker toilets AHF

fahrerbunker wall painting 2 AHF

fahrerbunker wall painting AHF

That dunny looks to me to be very much like the one in “Trainspotters”. And that last photo indicates a function of the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler of which I was previously unaware: they were to offer heroic protection to any blokes who felt like enjoying a quiet ale or two.

Anyway, AFAIK, the garage was sealed up again so that the Free World would not be morally corrupted by murals.

An excellent article on the Fahrerbunker can be found at the Britlink site here:


More on this as it comes to light.

26. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi: Damage to the NRK

Allegedly the last photos ever taken of Hitler – and for my money you can forget the ‘allegedly’. Hitler looking at the ruins of the NRK with his adjutant Julius Schaub:

hitler-chief-gruppenfuhrer-schaub-inspect-damage-fuehrerbunker (1)Notice the damaged sconce on the wall behind them (below). That would fetch a pretty penny on the collector’s market (but don’t forget my advice about collecting this stuff). I would have expected a genuine NRK sconce to have reached more than $6 000 even if it were auctioned in 2011 (scroll about half way down):


Schaub (below) trying to get Hitler to look on the bright side:

hitler-chief-gruppenfuhrer-schaub-inspect-damage-fuehrerbunker-last-imagesDuring the battle for Berlin the NRK was badly damaged (unlike the Air Ministry a little further down Wilhelmstrasse) although I have been unable to find any evidence of actual fighting inside the building despite such claims from some Soviet sources. German sources suggest that those who could leave pretty much did – or they shot themselves. The building was soon stripped of what was lootable and then fell into decay. As noted before, the marble from the Mosaic Hall was used to clad the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park and, IMO without doubt, Mohrenstrasse U Bahn  station which at the time was renamed Thalmannplatz after the pre-war leader of the KPD. (It was re-named – again – in 1968 as Otto-Grotewohl-Strasse after the first German prime minister of the DDR). In 1949, the building was demolished using a narrow-track railway to remove rubble.

0_10aa1_40515ecd_orig Feld

Here’s a view of the terrace outside Hitler’s office, looking west from the rear of the Reception Hall of the Old Chancellery. The Bunker entrance would be to the photographer’s right. At a guess I would suggest 1946. Notice the bronze horses are already gone:

Ruin 1

In this photo below, the photographer in the previous photo was standing inside the round structure to the right through whose shattered windows you can make out the covered walkway which ran some 150 metres plus alongside the Dining Room.

2a8aaa94d4087466_large2 Pin

Some shots inside the Old Chancellery Reception Hall. In the first there are three pillars still standing at the far side:

destroyed reception hall above vorbunker after war AHF

reception hall destroyed 3 AHF

One pillar left:

Reception Hall Destroyed above vorbunker AHF

Ruins 3

The winter of 1945 was particularly severe and trees in the Tiergarten were cut down for firewood. In the Spring vegetable gardens sprang up wherever there was spare ground, including the grounds of the former Ministry Gardens. This first photo shows Trummerfrauen working in the Ministry Gardens close to the wall which separated the SS barracks from the gardens. Notice the far end of the covered walkway appears to be already demolished:

2014-07-23 08.55.34-1

This following photo may prove contentious. Traudl Junge in her memoir “Until the Final Hour” mentions at one point that some part of the roof of the Fuhrerbunker protruded above the ground . This caused no end of a kerfuffle at Axis History Forum as it was news to a number of otherwise educated-better-than-average-about-the-NRK anoraks, including Your Humble Narrator. Some of the more argumentative types frankly refused to believe it, presuming that Traudl had confused it with Adolf’s skateboard ramp or somesuch. However, Traudl proved to be correct. Fancy that!

Ausflug/Schülerinnen v.Reichskanzlei
Pädagogik: Schulausflug.-Gruppenbild: Schülerinnen vor der kriegszerstörten Reichskanzlei in Berlin.-Foto, 1948.

… and here’s more evidence (the blown up bunker exit and tower in the background). Who would’ve thought that someone who was there would get it right?

reste 1952

Incidentally, consider this photo from the car park in Gertrude-Kolmar-Strasse:

pyre 2

If you’re standing where the blokes with the bikes are (i.e. slightly centre-left), informed opinion has it that you are standing in front of the concrete emergency exit seen toppled in the photos above. The funeral pyre of Adolf and Eva Hitler was roughly where the red circle is. Feel free to believe tour guides, information boards and Sandra Sully to the contrary if you like but those I trust (including Rochus Misch) put the site where the red circle is. Give or take a metre. I will give a link later to confound those who want to argue the toss (henceforth ‘tossers’).

…and here’s three Australian blokes with a faulty compass looking for Lasseter’s Reef:

Demolition bunker 1959 AHF

This photo following was obviously taken before the previous two black and white photos. These two Trummerfrauen are lost in thought while sitting on the edge of the pool between Hitler’s office and the greenhouse. In the background can be seen the Reception Hall of the ORK and the tower and bunker exit seen toppled in the previous photo.


The women below are tending one of the previously-mentioned vegetable gardens. In the background is the SS wall with the SS barracks – or the remains thereof – behind.


Moving right along …



25. Another Warning: More Fakes

Who has never collected anything? What joy to find the last piece in your amazing collection of stuffed squirrels! The piece that will make your fellow stuffed-squirrel collectors green with envy!

squirrel 2

Yes, collecting is a wonderful if expensive pastime as long as your wife doesn’t find out, particularly if you like collecting Third Reich stuff. Here’s how to avoid spending – and probably losing – a vast deal of money in collecting Nazi stuff, specifically New Reich Chancellery stuff.

Don’t do it.

Well that was pretty easy but a further word for the desperate, addicted relic-collector: I started collecting at around the age of 14 or 15 years. In a moment of uncharacteristic intelligence, I decided to collect belt buckles because they are very difficult to fake. Unlike paper documents or cloth uniform collectibles, the financial investment required to create accurate, fool-an-expert dies would deter most fakers. Also, if you’re going to spend a tidy sum developing the process, you’re going to have to do a big run of buckles to make a profit and as soon as large numbers of any given buckle or maker hits the market, values go down simply because the buckle is so common. So fakers would consider buckles way down the list of profitable fakery. Or so I thought. Turns out that theses days there are a number of factories churning out pretty much everything Third Reich related, including belt buckles. Don’t take my word for it (and these are pretty good, IMO):


Which brings me to the point. Have a gander at this:


Reverse of the cloakroom chits:

Gaderobe Chits - reverse

A collector of NRK desiderata would respond to the above like Alex responds to Beethoven in ‘A Clockwork Orange’: “Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, (they are) gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh.”

Sad, isn’t it?

However, the items shown above are real and genuine and come to us courtesy of Axis History Forum. Imagine if you owned an entry token into the Fuhrer-Garage on Hermann-Goring-Strasse! Or a cloakroom token or two with swastikas and numbers on them! Your mates would have to go back to squirrel-collecting. But how would you know if they were real? Short answer: you wouldn’t. You’d have even more trouble with these:



Amazingly, some genuine NRK stuff has survived:


Above we see a NRK menu, small plate, piece of NRK marble, a place setting (or perhaps a tablecloth?) and a Wellner teapot and some cutlery. On page 119 of Cowdery’s book he mentions that large amounts of this stuff have been faked. You will find similar problems with the provenance of all Third Reich collectibles, particularly those from Hitler’s Berghof at the Obersalzberg, Berchtesgaden. Sadly, there is probably a lot of genuine stuff still in the hands of Russian families whose grandfathers etc fought in the battle. It’s unlikely that those who have genuine relics will achieve their true value should they decide to sell due to the proliferation of fakes.

However, here’s a souvenir that would make a great picnic table in someone’s backyard:

Stone souvenir

… and here’s a close-up of the sign:

Souvenir stone sign

Sadly, this foundation stone is no longer in situ at the previously-mentioned boardwalk. As of 2017, this stone and the boardwalk itself have disappeared. Pity.

I just found this on Facebook today (02.12.18):


This is an enlisted man’s Waffen SS belt buckle. The seller wants £390 for it, which is 25 cents off $680(Aus) at today’s conversion. I bought my first one in 1964/5 for $5(Aus). If you’re thinking of entering the market, you’ve missed the boat

So once again, if you are thinking of starting a collection of NSDAP relics, particularly if a bloke down the pub has a genuine SS dagger that his father found in the ruins of the NRK, my advice is still…


Let’s get back to the tour …

24. Another Desk …

Published photos of “Hitler’s desk” are often if not usually the work of ignorant or lazy authors. Here’s how to impress all of your friends who are interested in Hitler’s NRK desks. First, let’s have another dekko at his study/office. Take note of the eagle above his door on the right (and the direction in which it is pointing) and the wall sconces as they will get a guernsey in this blog eventually:

Reddit 1

So on any of the apparently rare-ish occasions that Adolf may have been sitting at the desk above, had he looked through the French windows to his left, he would’ve seen the terrace (the one with the Russian officers standing on it in the previous ‘globes’ post), the bronze horses, an ornamental pool and across the grounds the greenhouse which was used for, inter alia, growing flowers for the NRK. The skeleton of its roof can be seen in the previous ‘globes’ post behind the two boys sitting on the remains of some globes:

Garten RK AHF

Source: AHF

The door to his right with the eagle above it led to the Mosiac Hall. And also take note of that lump on the left-hand side? That’s Hitler’s map desk. It has a solid marble top. Don’t take my word for it:

207ba04dbdd9aa7926bb16c7e76103f6 Pin

… and here it is again. Through the French window you can make out the Greenhouse/Orangerie/Gewachtshaus:


As the Russkies closed in on the NRK this sumptuous map table was pushed over against the French window as a sort of barricade to provide protection from small arms fire. Now I don’t know about you but if I were dictator of Germany and I had to push over my beautiful map table to keep out some interlopers whom I had obviously offended, I’d be thinking the jig was pretty much up. You’ve got somewhere just shy of 3,000,000 Russian (and Polish) soldiers attacking  and you’ll planning on holding them off with a few machine guns from behind a map table?

So what’s the point of this map table? The point is that this table is often presented as Hitler’s working table. Notice that unlike the real Hitler working table – not that he did much work at it from all accounts – it has five sturdy legs. Compare these  photos of it after it has fallen on hard times:

0_7f6cd_2ae90583_orig AHF0_7f6ce_c0596d0c_orig AHF0_10a75_992e565a_orig AHF0_19e57_75746576_orig AHF0_b2546_6292e52a_orig AHF1

You’ll notice that the table has been broken in half in the photo with the nonchalant bloke enjoying a leisurely durry. Notice also all of the cheery – and why not? – Allied soldiers, both Russian and British, grinning like bezoomny while they savour victory over the Arch-Beast. I wonder how cheerful they would have been had they had access to a Tardis and had the chance to read the next post?