8. The Ministry Gardens, Jewish Memorial and Goebbels Villa

I probably shouldn’t advertise the positives of staying at the Apartments am Brandenburger Tor as I may find myself unable to procure a booking in future. So here is the bad-ish news. The apartments were built by the DDR government as ‘luxury’ apartments but be warned: by western standards they are not luxury. They are clean and comfortable but the plumbing – in my experience – hasn’t been brilliant and the washing machine is positively malevolent. The ones along the Wilhelmstrasse were also built hard up against the Berlin Wall in 1988-89. I read somewhere that they were built for DDR apparatchiks and this wouldn’t surprise me. Probably only hardcore party faithful could be trusted not to get a ladder up against the Wall and do the Harold Holt to the land of Big Macs and Starbucks. I doubt these apartments would have been made available to the DDR pole vaulting team.

BTW, the young women who work in the office speak perfect English. They will allow you to leave your luggage in the office area if your room’s not ready.
N.B. If you are driving do NOT park in the Adlon underground carpark while you check in to the Apartments am Brandenburger Tor. I did. It costs a lot. Trust me. Fifteen minutes cost about the same as a Manly ferry. Not a Manly ferry trip – a Manly ferry. There is a carpark between the office itself and the Jewish Memorial. Park briefly there (at the boom gate) and the office will give you a parking space.

Be warned that the rooms generally aren’t ready until at least 2:00pm on the day of check in. If you have time to kill I recommend a short walk to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Walk out of the AABT office, turn left and walk about 100 metres. You can enter the memorial itself or join a tour group.

Mem 1

Source: Wikipedia

When the Memorial was being built the excavators discovered an air raid bunker under what had been Josef Goebbels’ villa. Here is some of the junk that was found therein.


Photo source: Ullstein bild.

Goebbels’ villa stood roughly where Behrensstrasse joins Ebertstrasse (back in the day Behrensstrasse stopped where it joins Wilhelmstrasse, i.e. where the previously-mentioned Hitler Youth barricade had been.)

More on the Goebbels bunker here: http://www.lokalhistorier.dk/Tyskland/Berlin/Behrenstrasse/

GV 2

The blue arrow (above) indicates the offices of Apartments am Brandenburger Tor. The green arrow (around the corner) indicates the boardwalk ( Note: the boardwalk was demolished as of 2017) the red arrow indicates the Jewish Memorial. You can’t miss the Memorial: it takes up a whole block and is invariably swarming with tourists.This whole area from Ebertstrasse to Wilhelmstrasse was once the Ministry Gardens. This is where – in “Downfall” – Eva Braun smoked her cigarettes.

This may give you some idea of how big the Memorial is. In the top left-hand corner you can see the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. Notice that the US Embassy has not been completed in this 2005 photo, nor has the tourist boardwalk to the right of the Memorial.

Mem 2

Source: By Tonythepixel at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Kafuffle using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13248163

This is the original position of Goebbels’ villa, next to the US embassy. Note the urn-type decoration on the wall surrounding the Ministry Gardens. The red arrow indicates the villa, the green circle shows the urn/wall:

GV 1

Photo source: TU Berlin Architektmuseum

Another (similar) shot. This time the Russki tanks roll down soon-to-be-renamed Hermann-Goring- strasse:

GV 2

Source: Axis History Forum

And here is a comparison photo I coincidentally took in 2011:


And here is the US Embassy and the Goebbels villa (right) at the end of the war:


Source: Bundesarchiv

Here is the villa in 1945. If you don’t believe it’s the same building, check the urn decoration and wall in the TU Berlin Architektmuseum photo above.


Source: LIFE

There is a spirited discussion about this villa here: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=154588&hilit=Goebbels+villa

If you don’t want to do the Memorial tour – or if it’s too busy – you can relax on the boardwalk which faces the Memorial. This used to be a nice, friendly area in which several eateries and tourist shops shared a common boulevard/boardwalk but as of 2015 each shop has put up walls turning the whole thing into a series of boxes. Pity. Also you can get a variety of beers here including (strangely) Paulaner which is a Bavarian beer (highly recommended to beer aficianados such as John Cleese and me). And you’ll always have company:

Sparrows 1

If you can’t see the company in the above photo, have a closer look:

Sparrows 2

And here’s the boardwalk before the border disputes which turned it into a Lego set:

board 3

It doesn’t get much better:

Boardwalk 1

Sadly you can disregard everything written in blue above as I discovered on my return to this site in 2017 that the boardwalk had been completely demolished, as had the entire block on the left-hand side of Wilhelmstrasse (in the direction of Tempelhof). I am not going to delete the section though as it brings back fond memories of the beer and wurst and I like sparrows.

7. Getting settled.

We are heading towards the office of Apartments am Brandenburg Tor in Behrenstrasse and have just passed the Reichstag on our left. Ahead we can see the Tiergarten but before that we must cross Scheidemannstrasse. A wise move would be to walk down Scheidemannstrasse to Ebertstrasse (in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate) and cross there. Ebertstrasse used to be called Hermann-Goringstrasse but for some reason the name was changed after the war. When you get to the crossing look to your left. This is what you should see:

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Had you been standing on the same spot in 1945 this is what you would have seen:

Reichstag 1

Photo source: pinterest.

OK, a short walk to your right towards the Brandenburg Gate. Spare a thought: you are about to walk through a place where for nearly thirty years the only people to walk where you are now walking were DDR or Soviet border guards. I took this photo in 1982:


Beyond the (armed) guards is Pariser Platz into which you are about to walk. Notice the barriers where the vehicles are parked. There were more substantial barriers further down Unter Den Linden. Your average East German could not get within coo-ee of the Wall itself. Notice also the viewing platform on the left of the photo. This was for special guests only, as indeed was entrance to Pariser Platz. After 1989, anyone could walk through and have their photograph taken with a giant bear or someone dressed as a giant bear. You can do that later if you must. Here is your journey so far:


The green line is the continuation from the Swiss Legation. Remember: this photo is 1945-ish. The scenery is somewhat different these days. The Tiergarten now has trees again, for instance. You are heading for the Brandenburg Gate:


It’s changed a bit since 1945. That Tiger tank was parked/ knocked out roughly where the person in the white jumper is. The Tiger will feature in our narrative again:


You should eventually walk through here:


and in front of you should be this square (Pariser Platz):

Adlon 5

On your right -where the American flag is – is the US Embassy. Heckle the security guards at your own risk. The dark building behind the fountain used to house Albert Speer’s studio and Hitler used to walk across the Ministry Gardens (behind the studio) from time to time to talk architecture with Speer. I have read that some of Speer’s studio rooms still exist but I haven’t been inside to find out. In 2016 the building housed an art gallery. Those columns on the far right house the tourist office and we will be coming back here.

The large building with the green roof is the famous Adlon Hotel. The original hotel was built by Louis Adlon, a wine merchant, and opened in 1907. This is what it looked like:

Berlin, Hotel Adlon

And during the Third Reich:


And after the Third Reich:


Source: Pinterest

In the photo above you can see a brick wall was built to protect the hotel and its guests from bomb splinters during air raids. There was also a large bunker built beneath it which served as a hospital during the final days fighting in the capital in 1945. The hotel pretty much survived the war but became a victim of some drunken Russian soldiers who got a skinful from the hotel’s wine cellars and accidentally burnt the hotel out. The patients had to be carried outside into Pariser Platz once the fighting had stopped.

9165810dd6f07004ebc7229e3f04f843 pin

Source: Pinterest

So you’ve walked through the Brandenburg Gate and you’re in Pariser Platz. Walk down towards the Adlon Hotel. You may care to spare a moment to see if you can spot any famous people. The Queen stays at the Adlon for example. However, if you look up to your right you can see the very window (circled) where Michael Jackson dangled his baby Doona (or whatever his name is) for the hordes of adoring nincompoops who like that sort of thing.


And had the building not been rebuilt, this would have been the same window in c.1946:


Source: Pinterest.

When you have sated your desire for windows-out-of-which-a-baby-was-dangled, walk down to the first cross street. What stretches ahead of you is Unter Den Linden but we are taking a sharp right into Wilhelmstrasse which was traditionally the centre of government in Germany from about 1870 onwards. Walk down Wilhelmstrasse. You will pass the British Embassy which is still in the same place it was pre-war. It is the weirdly shaped building with the slanted flagpole out the front, where the head of the red arrow is. I think it’s still there but with Brexit and all they may have packed up their tweed jackets and gone back to sunny Blighty. (For photos of the British Embassy, see Post 11: Getting One’s Bearings)

Ad arrow

After you’ve passed the British Embassy, the first intersection you will come to is Behrenstrasse. I did read somewhere that during the Battle for Berlin, the Hitler Youth had established a road block/barricade here. You will appreciate the significance of this once you realise how close this barricade, defended by fifteen-year-olds et al, was to the Fuhrerbunker, i.e. about one block away:


The green line approximates the position of the HJ barricade but if you’re the type of person who, like me, likes to go and stand exactly where historical events took place or old structures stood, be warned – the apartment buildings lining Wilhelmstrasse have been moved back from the original line on which all the government buildings stood. The original building line was about where the green line ends at its right-hand side.

Turn right into Behrenstrasse and  walk to where the red arrow indicates. Be warned again: the current (as of 01.08.16) website for the offices of Apartment am Brandenburger Tor has a photo showing the offices further down Behrenstrasse but they have moved (as of 2015) to the middle of the block (where the arrow indicates).

P.S. The Italian restaurant on the corner (Viale) is well worth a look. The food and service are excellent and the waiter had no hesitation in telling me that the Radeberger beer they served was the second-best beer in Berlin, after Berliner Kindl. I suspect that may not have  been the opinion of the management.

If you walk a few metres past the Viale restaurant back towards Ebertstrasse you will find the offices of Apartments am Brandenburger Tor.