Now you know where you can have a meal and a beer, time to familiarise yourself with the immediate area. For the purposes of the next few posts, we will be concerned with the area bounded by Unter den Linden, Friedrichstrasse, Vossstrasse and Hermann-Göringstrasse … sorry, Ebertstrasse. One SBS documentary too many.
Now let’s start by walking from Unter den Linden down Wilhelmstrasse in the direction of Tempelhof, i.e. you start with the British Embassy on your right. This is the same route you will have previously taken to get to the offices of the Apartments am Brandenburger Tor except today you are continuing down Wilhelmstrasse towards the previously-mentioned Wilhelmplatz. Here is the British Embassy, pre-WW2 and pre-bombing by British and US air forces:
And here it is in its current iteration:
Ironically, this whole block as far as the front of the Adlon (far right) is today protected from terrorist bomb attacks by bollards. Directly opposite is this original-ish building – the former Education Ministry during the Third Reich (you can see the aforementioned anti-terrorist bollards):
You will notice also from this map that this building was originally the Marine Ministry. The red line indicates your route down Wilhelmstrasse. I do not intend to identify every period building site as there are a number of historical markers which will show you what used to stand where. I will just (as above) indicate the origin of sites if there is no historical marker and/or supply additional information where appropriate:
You will notice also that Behrenstrasse originally stopped at Wilhelmstrasse. Today it continues through to Ebertstrasse and if you continue down Wilhelmstrasse, about halfway to Leipzigerstrasse and just before Wilhelmplatz:
You will find this building:
which is the former office of Rudolf Hess.This is the doorway through which he walked on his many official and other excursions. At some point in time, he walked through this doorway for the last time. There has been a lot written about Hess, much of it speculative. The man apparently flew to Scotland on a peace mission, was captured, declared mad by pretty much everybody and locked up for the rest of his life. He spent the last thirty years or so of his life as the sole prisoner in Spandau Gaol.
The book that caused a huge stir in 1979 was “The Murder of Rudolf Hess” by Dr Hugh Thomas. Thomas claims to have examined Hess in Spandau and discovered no evidence of him ever having been shot, despite Hess’ medical records indicating he had been wounded during the First World War. Thomas’ argument is that Hess was murdered and replaced by a double. I find the first proposition possible but the second highly improbable. A recent (Sphere, 2001) publication entitled “Double Standards: The Rudolf Hess Cover-Up” offers some additional and more revealing information despite being, IMO, in places poorly written and poorly argued. The “Double Standards” book provides – for me at least – evidence that makes the whole Hess situation less muddy although I still don’t believe the ‘double’ argument. The most intriguing argument suggested by “Double Standards” is that Hess was expected in Scotland in 1941 by a fairly influential peace movement, possibly involving the Royal Family, and was even to be aided in his return to Germany. This possibility, if true, goes a fair way to explain some of the more bizarre subsequent occurrences in this saga. If you want to read a useful book and make up your own mind, I recommend “Double Standards”. Both books are readily available online.
The Padfield book will give you an overview but if you are already familiar with the case you might want to consider the Melaouri book: he was a male nurse who looked after Hess and wrote this book without permission after working with Hess in Spandau. He arrived at the scene of Hess’ death and is not convinced that Hess wasn’t murdered.
If you are interested in the Hess case, you might find this interesting: I went to Spandau Gaol in 1982 just to have a look and to take a photo or two. On arrival at the gaol I was naively surprised to see signs warning against approaching the gaol and stern warnings deterring photographs, including the warning that lethal force might be applied. Someone was obviously afraid that there might be an attempt to spring their only prisoner. While I was outside wondering whether to risk a clandestine photo, a jeep came out of the main entrance and a red-faced officer and two MPs confronted me. The officer started yelling threats at me in German and ordered me to surrender my (brand-new and expensive) camera. I, being young, stupid and Australian, replied aggressively in English that that wasn’t going to happen whereupon he stopped – appeared to consider the publicity issues of getting involved with what was obviously a young, stupid Australian – and then dropped his voice. He then said between his teeth words to the effect of “All right, I’ll tell you what. You keep your camera but if you don’t fuck off now, we’ll take you inside and give you a fucking hiding.” I momentarily thought of saying something like “I’d like to see you try you fat bastard” but decided that honour had been satisfied and that a wiser course of action would be to fuck off which I did. I got some distance down the street, stuck my camera on the roof of my mate’s car and hit the timer. We pretended to look in a shop window and ten seconds later I had my photo of the gaol. At some safe distance. I will post the photo when I find it but it’s really just a long distance shot of the gaol. Don’t bother going to Spandau to replicate my performance as after Hess died/was murdered the gaol was demolished to stop it becoming a neo-nazi shrine. Or so they said …
Continue walking and you will come to the Wilhelmplatz.