14. The Propaganda Ministry

If you haven’t read the previous posts and are just interested in the Propaganda Ministry, you should read Post 9: Checking Out the Neighbours as it has some information on the building and its fate. As I indicated in Post 9, it is possible to get into the building itself as there are often exhibitions or displays. It’s a sobering thought to get inside the building and realise that Dr Paul Josef Goebbels – or the Poison Dwarf if you prefer – had walked the same corridors as he planned the propaganda releases of the day  and the seduction of whichever toothsome young lady had caught his eye.

Here he is with a couple of mates at the Mooslahnerkopf lookout, Obersalzberg. From left: Josef Thorak, sculptor of monumental Nazi art, Blondi checking Thorak’s credentials, Hitler and Goebbels, unknown female:

Adolf-Hitler-c-with-Reich-Propaganda-Minister-Joseph-Goebbels-r-Josef-Thorak-l-walking-on-Obersalzberg-near-Berchtesgaden

And here, in March 1945, congratulating 16 year old Willi Hubner on his award of the Iron Cross. Hubner is the same tyke whose cheek you see Hitler patting in the courtyard of the New Reich Chancellery on March 20, 1945 (see Post 29: Ceremony in the Garden):

Auszeichnung des Hitlerjungen Willi Hübner

You can see the footage here and hear Willi himself describing his actions at 1:24

Here he is with his family. If you stand anywhere near the site of the Propaganda Building it’s worth remembering that all six children were killed by their parents only a matter of a couple of hundred metres away on the other side of Wilhelmstrasse, the oldest son Harald Quandt (from a previous marriage) being the only survivor as he was on duty with the Luftwaffe at war’s end. Thus eight people in this photo died somewhere behind the current site of the Peking Ente restaurant:

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1978-086-03,_Joseph_Goebbels_mit_Familie

If you get into the building and want to take photographs, my advice is: don’t ask permission. I say this because I was at an exhibition and asked permission for photographs and the attendant looked nonplussed and then said NO. I got the impression that he didn’t know whether it was kosher or not but said No just to be safe.

So, to recap. That horrible school building is pretty much where the original wing of the Propaganda Ministry stood. If you walk behind it you won’t get far because the surviving wing is fenced off but you can still see it. The horrible school building is on the site of the main building of the Ministry which had started life as the Ordenspalais in the 18th century and ended life as the Ministry for Enlightenment and Propaganda. Here it is pre-war, with the camera facing the three arched entrances seen before (and which still exist facing Wilhelmstrasse). This is the bit that was demolished:

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Source: https://fotki.yandex.ru/users/grinnols/date/2015-07-28

If that bloke at the extreme right (hmmm … must be a Nazi) were to move his left shoulder, you could see one of the arches. This contemporary photo shows where the original building would have been – the red line shows the frontage corresponding to the previous photo, the two blue lines roughly where the balcony would have been and the green circle is roughly where the bloke with the big left shoulder stood.

Ordenspalais 2

Just in case you don’t believe me:

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And here it is before the school building was … ummm … built, during the demolition of Hitler’s bunker. you can clearly see the remaining wing to the left:

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Now if you walk towards the blanked-off arches and turn left you will find yourself pretty much in the school playground/garden. Probably not a good look for an elderly gentlemen so don’t hang around and don’t wear a raincoat. Best just to trust my photos which I took after school was out. In this one you can see the surviving wing in all three photos:

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And here it is from the playground:

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On this particular day the fencing was down so a curious chappie could sidle a little closer than usual:

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One last look at Wilhelmplatz and the former Propaganda Ministry, this time from across Wilhelmstrasse, a little down from the site of the Old Chancellery. The reinforced concrete in the foreground is probably not from Hitler’s bunker – that is a little way to the viewer’s right. That is probably from the bunker entrance of the Old Chancellery (the Vorbunker). Across the road on the left you can see Hess’ former offices (“Staatsverlag der DDR”) and on the right the buildings which you should be able to recognise by now:

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Now let’s have a look at the back of the building in Mauerstrasse. The quickest way is to follow the orange line in the Google Earth photo below. The red area is the site of the original Ordenspalais, the blue lines indicate the surviving Propaganda Ministry building(s), leave the green lined area I’ll explain it later and head for the pale green area which you should recall is now the North Korean embassy, formerly the Hotel … anyone? anyone? … yes, Kaiserhof! Well done!

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If you’ve walked this far, you’ve gone too far. See the eagle and swastika on the top right? That’s the end of the Propaganda Building and there is a matching one at the other end where you should have stopped. In fact, if you can see either of those eagles you need to stop drinking the local beer as they haven’t been there for seventy years:

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Here it is today. Well, 2010. See? No eagles.

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…and here’s where you should have stopped:

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When it was new:

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1985-013-24,_Berlin,_Propagandaministerium

… and when it wasn’t:

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One last thing before we leave the Propaganda Ministry: I nearly went nuts trying to orient this photo from what I knew of the building:

09080285d4 Propaganda Ministry stadtentwicklung.berlin.de

I counted the windows, compared the number and shape to all the other photos I could find, tried to match the aerials on the bloody roof and finally in despair I threw myself on the mercy of the good chaps at Axis History Forum (https://forum.axishistory.com/). Unfortunately due to the different time zones, all the European … ummm … enthusiasts were sound asleep, still up drinking or watching reruns of “Neighbours”. However, two members of the Forum came to my aid and within twelve hours three blokes from Australia had – courtesy of some sleuthing on the Internet – identified a (still-extant) building from a photo taken over eighty years ago in a city on the other side of the world. What an amazing world we live in! A far cry from my crystal set and going to the pictures in my pyjamas!

So where is this courtyard? The whole saga can be relived here: https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=235205 but I wouldn’t bother. It’s the courtyard marked in green seven photos above (the one I said I would explain later). Here it is again, courtesy of Google Maps:

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At the start of this blog, I said one of my reasons for doing it was to encourage people to go there and see it before it all gets demolished. And here is a final, classic example – once again courtesy of Google Earth. The photo below shows the still intact Ministry building, the modern replacements for bombed/shelled buildings and the reconstructed crossover bridge (red arrows):

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13. The Kaiserhof hotel

The history of European first-class hotels would in itself make an interesting blog but here we are only concerned with those in Berlin and specifically the Kaiserhof.

But first some context: the Grand Hotels in Berlin would include the Adlon – which we’ve already seen on Pariser Platz – the Excelsior, whose main claim to fame was that it was directly opposite the Anhalter Bahnhof and guests could walk to or from the station through an 80 metre long tunnel without having to bother themselves with the pesky real world above. Guests could even buy their train tickets from a booth in the hotel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_Excelsior

The Excelsior allegedly was the Nazis’ first choice as a hotel for Hitler and his mates but the manager, one Curt Elschner, wasn’t mad keen on Nazis so he gave them the bum’s rush, a decision he came to regret.  Hitler moved to the Kaiserhof and the Excelsior was boycotted by the Nazis for all events. Party members were forbidden to patronise it and the loss of income bit Elschner hard. He tried to curry favour by demonstrating a new commitment (or so I’ve read) to Nazi ideals but Hitler was still in a huff and remained at the Kaiserhof. Elschner (surprisingly, IMO) survived the war and died in 1963. The hotel stood in today’s Stresemannstrasse so if you really want to see where it was, you can find the (empty) spot opposite the ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof. Here it is in its heyday:

16b5c66e4b67313aeb9922ba917e1f80 Excelsior

… and the Anhalter Bahnhof in 2011. This ruin can be found about 500 metres from Potsdamer Platz:

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Another Grand Hotel of interest was the Esplanade, which was almost completely destroyed during the war but a section of it survived and can be seen at Potsdamer Platz today. If you’re a fan of the movie “Cabaret” some interior shots were filmed in what was left. (http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Hotel_Esplanade_Berlin)

Berlin, Hotel Esplanade

So much for context. If you check the previous maps, you’ll see the Kaiserhof took up a whole block. Hitler stayed there, Goring had his (second) wedding reception there (the actual wedding – to actress Emmy Sonnemann – was of course held in the Berliner Dom) and visiting dignitaries also stayed there. here is the Wikipedia link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel_Kaiserhof_(Berlin)

However, a word of warning: Wikipedia is often wrong. In this case, the Kaiserhof was not “located next to the Reich Chancellery “. It’s about a good eight-iron away, unless you’re Jordan Speith in which case it’s probably a sand wedge. For me the most interesting thing about the Kaiserhof is this exchange I had on Axis History Forum in which some bloke (an Australian would you believe?) claims Hitler personally strangled Dr Ludwig Roselius in the Kaiserhof in 1943! Must’ve been a slow day for Adolf …

(Roselius, BTW, is worth a Google):

https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=44&t=221718&p=2010872&hilit=Roselius#p2010872

This following photo shows some cool dudes parading past the Kaiserhof in 1936 (check out the Olympic pennant on the extreme right of the photo and the foreign flags outside the hotel). Mind you, if I owned that car I’d be doing a bit of parading too:

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The Kaiserhof site is now the Republic of North Korea embassy. If you walked down to Mauerstrasse in 2015 and turned right, you would find the entrance to this embassy. There are – or were – numerous posters of goosestepping North Korean soldiers waving bright red flags on a board out the front. I’m guessing there’s no word for irony in a North Korean dictionary.

And one last interesting thing about the Kaiserhof … (found on page 439 of Robert Forbes’ excellent “For Europe”):

Image result for for europe robert forbes

During the afternoon of April 29, 1945, Dr Gustav Krukenberg, SS Brigadefuhrer and commanding officer of the remaining French SS soldiers in Berlin, awarded the Knight’s Cross to 21-year-old Unterscharfuhrer Eugene Vaulot for destroying eight Soviet tanks in 24 hours. Shortly afterwards, Vaulot was ordered – hopefully not by Krukenberg – to lead a patrol from Krukenberg’s HQ in the Stadtmitte U Bahn station to the Kaiserhof Hotel to find some table linen, which he did. Table linen? I can’t believe that was the sole reason for the patrol especially when you consider that the Kaiserhof was around 550 metres from the German front line in Prinz-Albrechtstrasse.

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Eugene Vaulot Ritterkreuztrager (Source Axis History Forum)

So when you’ve finished looking at the site of the Kaiserhof/North Korean embassy, walk back down to where the Wilhelmplatz meets Vossstrasse and look down towards the Air Ministry building. On the block opposite (but on the same side of Wilhelmstrasse as the Air Ministry) were the RSHA/ Gestapo HQ in which were holed up the last few French SS of the Charlemagne Division. My point? On the day before Hitler shot himself, a French SS patrol went looking for table linen while their compatriots were holding off the Red army 500 metres away. The only troops on Wilhelmstrasse between the Soviets and Hitler were around 50 – 60 French SS. The other 300 or so French SS who had volunteered(!) to drive/march into Berlin were all dead or wounded. Dunno about you but I find that a major spinout.

If that don’t rock your boat, according to Robert Forbes, another Frenchman may or may not (there is some argument if the award was processed correctly)  have been awarded the Knight’s Cross in that ceremony, one Oberscharfuhrer Francois Appolot. I don’t know if Appolot got his Knight’s Cross or not but (once again according to Robert Forbes) Appolot was a card-carrying member of the French Communist Party throughout the war and after. You’ve got to wonder …

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Ritterkreuztrager Francois Appolot (source Pinterest)

My advice? read Forbes’ book. If you’re not particularly interested in the history of the Charlemagne Division, just read from Chapter 13 (“The First Days at Berlin”) onwards.

The ruins of the Kaiserhof after the war:

kaiserhof ruine sept 1946 potsdamer-platz.org

…  and if you really want to get the location right, compare the building still standing (red circle) next door:

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