21. Inside the NRK

You’ve walked around the corner with the Peking Ente on your left and after a few metres you’ll come to where I believe the entrance to the Ehrenhof was (give or take a metre or two):

Ehrenhof entrance

Back in the day, inside would have looked like this:

Best Ehrenhof 1

The two statues flanking the doorway are by Arno Breker who was heavily into this heroic stuff. The one on the left was called “Die Partei” and the one on the right “Die Wehrmacht” (by Hitler, Breker had other names for them). There’s a copy of “Die Wehrmacht” in the (highly recommended) Zeughaus museum on Unter den Linden. If you want a laugh or just like the sound of grinding teeth, go up to one of the museum attendants, point at the statue and say “Oh wow! That’s great! Is it the original?”. They love it!

Wehrmacht

Of interest is the news that in 2015, ‘authorities’ discovered a collection or two of Nazi artworks, the Entartete Kunst of today. Allegedly they discovered the original of the Party statue above on an estate in Kiel:

Ermittlungsverfahren Nazi Kunst

They also claim to have discovered the original two bronze horses from outside Hitler’s office but I’ll deal with that later. I have my doubts. How did these large statues survive? The Russians capture the NRK and send eagles, banners and what-have-you to the Red Army museum in Moscow but somehow miss these statues? Even if they did, who transported them to their hideout? I cannot imagine the Russians agreeing to Steptoe and Son bowling up with Hercules the horse to cart away large lumps of statuary. I will be the first to admit I’m wrong when somebody explains the provenance of these things … back to more pressing issues.

So you’re in the Ehrenhof. Turn around in 1936 or so and you would have seen this:

32407360_228476121254909_4030426984495448064_oPOTTR

Remembering that – were those doors open – you could see our old friend the Ritterschaftsdirektion. Don’t believe me?

Ehrenhof 2

OK, this is the quick tour. There are zillions of photos on the Internet of the NRK – try Pinterest, for example. We are going to give the Vorhalle (reception area) the flick and mosey on straight into the Mosaiksaal, or Mosaic Hall in English. This would’ve been some sight: 46 metres long by 20 wide by 16 high(!) and the whole thing done in marble and mosaic.

SALA DE MOSAICOS 3

There were nine of those mosaic panels with each holding a fine mosaic of two eagles. I have read that one of these panels has survived and is in the Zeughaus on Unter den Linden but I have yet to see it.

SALÓN DE LOS MOSAICOS

These things were eight and a half metres tall and two and a half wide but I can only find one photo of someone actually standing beside one – it’s Ullstein 00042099, as seen in Ronald Pawly’s book. To give you some idea of how big these buggers were I’ve invited the Beatles to stand in for the Nazis even though they only got lousy MBEs instead of a Blood Order:

Beatles Mosaic

This also gives some idea:

0_22703_7f2ce090_orig AHF

The Mosaic Hall was the setting for the major Nazi funerals, specifically those of Reinhard Heydrich, Hans-Valentin Hube and Fritz Todt among others. Here’s Heydrich’s funeral:

Heydrich funeral

Source on photo.

…and here’s Hans-Valentin Hube’s (Hube was a  general who had been awarded the Knight’s Cross with Swords and Diamonds – the highest award you could get in the Third Reich if you don’t count Goring’s stupid decorations – on Hitler’s birthday, 1944, and who was killed in a plane crash the next day in Salzburg).

Trauerfeier für Generaloberst Hans Hube

Source on photo

Both Heydrich and Hube – and Fritz Todt for that matter – were buried in the Invaliden Friedhof which will will get to eventually:

DSCN0962

So this is where you have arrived, having entered from Wilhelmstrasse:

Progress 1

From the Mosaic Hall you enter the Runder Saal (that’s the round room at which the arrow is pointing): it was circular to reorient the visitor’s direction from the bizarre bend in Voss-Strasse caused by the Borsig Palace. Here it is in its heyday:

RS 4

Best Runde Saal 1

and in 1945:

Rs 3

A walk through the doorway shown in the three photos above leads us on into the Marble Gallery … and here it is:

marble-hall-hitler-new-chancellery

This room/hallway was 146 metres long, i.e. almost 30 metres longer than the longest of official soccer fields, and 12 metres wide. The floor is of highly polished Saalburg marble and the doorways are of a deeper marble which (from memory) was called Deutschrot. On the left (Voss-Strasse) side are 19 windows, each 6 metres high and set back a little over two metres from the Marmorgalerie (may as well improve your German while you’re here):

25eb351487813a6d

On the right are five doorways , the middle one is Hitler’s. Believe it or not there is a huge pile of crap on the Internet, particularly in regards to subjects like this. You will see the far door (at the end of the Marmorgalerie) described as Hitler’s office. Feel free to feel a superior indignation as I do at such tomfoolery. Feel free also to point out to your friends -although if you’re reading this it’s unlikely you have any – that the middle doorway is Hitler’s “as any fule kno” (Source: Nigel Molesworth). It must have been quite a sight in its day and quite an experience to walk down. For greater detail I would recommend the following three books:

Kanzlei books

The first two books are memoirs, Hoffmann’s is more academic. The first memoir, Rochus Misch’s, is an excellent read. He only died in 2013, still lived in Berlin and was apparently quite happy to discuss his time in the NRK. He narrates the poignant story of playing with the Goebbels children who called out “Misch, Misch, du bist ein Fisch!” (“Misch, you’re a fish!).  It must have been very traumatic for him to see their eventual fates. He also gives an interesting insight into life in the NRK, especially in The Bunker where he was probably the second-last to leave. Traudl Junge’s book is also good as she talks of Hitler’s treatment of his staff on a personal level, for example he personally offered condolences at the death of her husband and preferred to eat his meals with his (female) staff when he could. The final chapters cover her very real (to me at least) disillusionment with Hitler and I believe her feelings of guilt were real as she often says that she can’t believe how gullible and selfish she was. Like Speer at the murder of Herbert von Bose, she turned a blind eye. Peter Hoffmann’s book is a cracker although it becomes a little technical in places. The anecdotes,however, are great: he quotes Hitler as complaining about the chance of assassination from across Wilhelm-Strasse with the words “An assassin with a gun could shoot me or any other idiot from across the street ..” (quotation not exact, I’m too lazy to look it up but that’s the gist of it.) And one of the Chancellory staff had the unenviable job of ringing up Sepp Dietrich at the Lichterfelde barracks to complain that some of the SS guards were spending their guard duty time riding up and down the elevators or putting their faces up against the glass windows during briefings.

Here’s a view of the Marmorgalerie looking east (i.e. towards Wilhelmstrasse):

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…and a night shot closer to the door, showing the furnishings and wall sconces:

bb2edf1436cb4def0223e2e2946a1c8e Pin

This is where you currently are, viz. outside Hitler’s office (where the red line ends). If you are Emil Hacha, President of Czechoslovakia, history will not be kind to you:

So far

It was in this office on March 15, 1939, that Hacha was forced to cede his country to the Nazis so if you are standing in this carpark:

Hacha 1

…just on the right-hand side of this fence (by my reckoning), spare a thought for the old gentleman who had to hand his country over, was forced to collaborate and was then arrested after ‘liberation’ by the Russians and died or was murdered in prison two weeks after his arrest.  He is often described as being too old and in feeble health for the job of confronting Hitler, in fact here is a quotation from Wikipedia:

“According to some post-war historians, Hácha was not responsible for his actions, given his old age and failing mental faculties.”

Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia: “given his old age and failing mental faculties”? Give me a break – he was 67.

I am 68.

Here’s a little test. See if you can pick which of these was the President of Czechoslovakia and which was a high school teacher:

Hacha and me

I rest my case.

OK, this post is getting too long. Time to move on …

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20. The East Wing

There’s not  huge amount of interesting information on the East Wing that I can think of so let’s walk right past it and I’ll update this section if anything comes to light.

0_10a6d_f9ad79a9_orig Feldgrau

I’ve included this post-battle photo (courtesy Feldgrau) because it again shows that distinctly unDeutsch kink in Voss-Strasse.

Here’s a nice shot of the East Wing. See if you notice anything:

reich7 pencil

I guarantee that you didn’t realise that the picture above is a pencil drawing. It was a page from a book published to celebrate the opening of the NRK. The book includes a collection of really excellent drawings, some of which I’ll include later. In the meantime, here’s another couple of photos. The first photo with the East Wing in the background, IMO, backs up my theory that the street was much wider pre-war :

East Wing 2

… and here it is six years later under new management (note the four plaques fixed to the wall behind the columns):

East Wing 1

The East Wing did abut the Borsig Palais, the building which we have encountered before: if you’ve been paying attention and have a good memory you may recall we touched on the assassination of Herbert von Bose in Post 10: Getting Around.

Like Erich Klausener who was murdered across the street at much the same time in the Transport Ministry, von Bose had underestimated his opponents. He and another bloke had prepared a dossier that they were going to give to Hindenburg and this was supposed to convince Hindenburg to mobilise the Reichwehr against the Nazis, specifically the SA. So far so good. On June 17th 1934, von Papen delivered his Marburg speech which was “intended to serve as a signal to all opposition forces in Germany to prepare to rise up against National Socialism” (Wikipedia). And it did offer a glimmer of hope as lots of people agreed that it was a jolly good speech. But as far as “rising up against National Socialism” goes , it is to me almost a definition of optimism. The Nazis had won power only five months before.

A glimmer of hope? Not to the Nazis. On June 30th 1934, the Night of the Long Knives / Fall Kolibri / Blood Purge / Rohm Putsch – take your pick, it’s all the same event – began. Actually, it was more like The Mid-Morning of the Long Knives because sometime after 10 am a number of SS and Gestapo individuals entered the building and shot von Bose in the back ten times.

H.Bose

For me, a subsequent event has a particular resonance. The SA leadership (post-Rohm and post-more-than-a-few-others) were ensconced in the Borsig Palais where Hitler could keep a close eye on them. Speer was detailed to remodel the building and when he turned up he saw a pool of von Bose’s blood on the floor:

 “In one of the rooms I saw a large pool of dried blood on the floor. There, on June 30, Herbert von Bose, one of Papen’s assistants, had been shot. I looked away and from then on avoided the room. But the incident did not affect me any more deeply than that.” (Page  94 of my Australian 1970 edition of “Inside the Third Reich”)

The last sentence to me shows an answer to a question I get asked very often. How did people let it happen? I think for many of the people in high places who lived at that time, the answer is in this attitude: “I can do all right in this regime if I avert my eyes, keep my mouth shut and don’t ask questions…”

And the people who die get a plaque, read by tourists and unwilling children on compulsory school excursions:

H.Bose 2

It’s worth thinking about as you tuck into your spring rolls at the Peking Ente or as you pick up that fridge magnet that will make your neighbours back home in Bankstown green with envy, that you could very well be standing in, or close to, the very spot where one of these men breathed their last…

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe the Borsig Palais was situated pretty much where the Peking Ente is today, so now we’re back at the Wilhelmstrasse. Let’s turn left in the direction of Unter den Linden and walk towards An der Kolonnade . However, if we stop just past the Peking Ente we should be standing pretty much where the entrance to the Ehrenhof (Court of Honour) stood. Interestingly, for me at least, is the fact that there were traffic lights outside this entrance so that official vehicles could drive in. The vehicles drove in the left-hand entrance, drove clockwise, deposited their occupants and then were driven out the right-hand entrance. Having not seen any photographic evidence of them, I would suggest that the traffic lights may have been temporary (i.e. assembled when needed).

Let’s go in and have a quick look although if you really want a thorough look inside, Christoph Neubauer’s DVD is still the best bet.

 

19. Mittelbau

So we continue our walk eastwards (back towards Wilhelmstrasse) down the left-hand side of Voss-Strasse and get to where the Mittelbau stood. The Mittelbau was set back about 15 metres from the frontage of the other two wings and contained, inter alia, Hitler’s office and various administrative offices. There was no access from Voss-Strasse. The is where it stood although it would have been a little wider than this photo suggests:

Mittelbau Google Earth 1

Source: Google Earth

Behind the balustrade which we saw as the second photo in the West Wing post were five hydraulically-operated doors to subterranean air-raid shelters. This famous photo – obviously staged – of General Weidling leaving the NRK to surrender to the Russians shows one of them:

Weidling 1

Source: Pinterest

And here’s another shot of the open hydraulic shelter doors:

Hydraulic doors

And if hydraulic doors really float your boat, this clip shows them at 2:48 (the clip is in German but is excellent in that it shows the truck lifts and underground garages):

Now before we continue …  this rapidly diminishing car park is one of the few spots left in the Berlin Defence Area of 1945 where you can still actually stand on the very place where things happened/stood. If you are of that particularly bizarre bent that you feel the need to stand in Hitler’s office for example you still can do so if you are prepared to run around the car park like an idiot to ensure you covered every single spot although even then you’d never be certain that you’d done it. But what you can do is have your photo taken in the car park and then when you’re watching “Downfall” or “Valkyrie” with a friend you can point at the screen and shout “I’ve been there!” although this is not recommended if you are in a cinema or are courting a particularly toothsome companion.

This is what you missed. This is the car park/Mittelbau/Hitler’s office as photographed by Your Humble Narrator in 2011:

DSCN2289

DSCN2290

DSCN2291

In the interests of hurrying this along I will combine some photos. If you want a bigger copy, email me or leave a comment in the  … ummm … Comments section.

MBComp 1

MBComp 2

MBComp3MBComp 4

All of the above are shots of the surviving areas of the NRK site in 2011. I would guess that the concrete slab is the roof of the Drivers’ bunker, or perhaps a foundation for the West Wing/Mittelbau. I don’t believe the manhole cover is a genuine period piece. In 2011 you could wander all over the site without being harassed or arrested. Here is the same car-park in 2017 although the photos don’t really indicate the degree to which it has shrunk:

Mittelbau 20171

M20172

Mittelbau20173

Mittelbau20174

Mittelbau20175

By my estimation, that wire fence indicates the approximate position of the terrace outside Hitler’s office and below which the HJ boys were decorated. If you don’t get there soon the whole area will be just one big Roselands or a YummyBurger franchise or something.

These photos taken in Voss-Strasse outside the Mittelbau are interesting:

StuG 1

Stug 2

Source (both photos above): Feldgrau

Pretty much today’s view of the photo directly above courtesy of Google Earth:

NRK 4

I was going even more quickly insane than usual trying to work out what the circled thing in the first photo was. Here’s another one:

StuG 4

Source (top photo): Pinterest

Yes, it’s a trolley. A number of period photos show (mainly) women pushing these things as their only means of moving things around, there being no privately owned cars. Photographic evidence suggests (to me at least) that they were appropriated from the nearest railway station, in this case probably the Anhalter whose ruins remain close by to this day. The lower photo is simply a comparison piece to show how much trouble the Art Department of the “Downfall” movie took to get things right.

Moving on down Voss-Strasse to the East Wing …

18. The West Wing

It should be noted that the three sections of the NRK were roughly the same length – around 100 metres, although by my reckoning the Mittelbau (Centre Section) is slightly longer than the other two.

Map Aerial 3

Source: Google Earth

So the West Wing (in yellow) was roughly 100 metres long and ended at the Mittelbau (in red) which was set back behind a balustrade from Voss-Strasse:

Balustrade AHF

Source: Axis History Forum

The East Wing is in orange and the two streets highlighted in green did not exist at the time of the NRK. The West Wing contained offices, a courtyard and a cafeteria for the office staff. It also contained the Great Reception Hall which we’ll look at when we get to the interior. Here’s what it looked like when it was new:

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1988-045-28,_Berlin,_Neue_Reichskanzlei

Source: AHF

If you’re in Voss-Strasse you may agree with me that the street looks a lot wider back in the day.  Convince me that the street is this wide nowadays:

ort1294

Source: AHF

In the middle of the West Wing  above – where the 9 metre high columns are -was the entrance ( Voss-Strasse, Number 6):

148d21ddd1c27d6d8a94c8972264ac92 Pin

Source: Pinterest

How can you tell which wing you a looking at in a photo? Here’s a tip: the two eagles – one on each wing – are looking at each other, thus if the eagle (as above) is looking left, you’re looking at the West Wing. If he’s looking right, you’re looking at the East Wing. Simples!

So if you count out 50 metres from the corner you will be roughly where the entrance above stood.  This was roughly the spot when I took this photo in 2011:

Power 3

The area is rapidly being built upon but some parts are still used as a car park, including the part where the Hitler Youth were decorated (more on that later). This entrance (Number 6) was roughly just past where the ugly box building ends:

NRK 1

Alas, hard times befell the West Wing – the whole building in fact:

0_5a8a1_85e4f505_orig Feldgrau

Source: AHF

Now when wandering around, gawking at where all this drama happened, it is well to consider the human cost. German casualties – military and civilian –  are estimated (by Wikipedia) at around 44,000 in the Berlin Defence Area. Russian casualty numbers are unknown and the estimates vary widely but they would have obviously been high. This young bloke is an example of the military casualties:

Dead SS 1 Pin

Source: Pinterest

This young SS man met his fate outside the entrance to the West Wing: the Mittelbau is just visible (red arrow) in the right background. And here is the West Wing from a wider view – you will notice that there are eight windows from the entrance to the far edge of the building:

Dead SS 4

Source: Feldgrau

Go back to the image of the dead SS man, count the windows and you will find that the front of the wrecked vehicle behind which he lies is pretty much level with window six, which probably puts him some little distance before window eight, i.e. next to the entrance to the West Wing. The wider photo above must have been taken shortly after the fighting ended because the two wrecked beams circled appear just to the left of the red arrow in the dead SS photo. In the photo above, both corpse (presumably) and vehicle have been removed but the beams remain. When you get to the entrance of this building:

Dead SS Google 1

Source: Google Earth

you will, by my reckoning, be standing fairly close to where this young man lay. BTW, the Russians did have a practice of positioning corpses after the battle to add some propaganda value to the photo however, IMO, the above photo is genuine. You might spare a thought for this young man who, like so many other Germans, Russians, French, Spaniards, Latvians etc died in this battle.

Note: there is some argument about how many combatants and how many nationalities fought in the Battle for Berlin. There is a sometimes acrimonious debate about the numbers here: https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=73041

If you are particularly interested in foreign members of the Waffen SS, the best information, IMO, is here: http://www.bills-bunker.de/64090.html. Australian readers might wonder, as I did, if the families of the four Australians who served kept their photos in SS uniform on the mantelpiece. But for mine, this bloke is worth a Google, especially if your kids went to St Gregory’s Campbelltown:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Berneville-Claye. There’s got to be a movie in that life …

17. The New Reich Chancellery

Note: Once again I have no intention of detailing the history of this building – all such info can be found on any decent search engine. Instead I hope to indicate where things were (and what’s there today) and to provide anything of interest that may provide some curiosity value.

Further reading (or watching): I recommend these three sources. The first is Christoph Neubauer’s excellent DVD and the other two are books by Ronald Pawley and Ray and Josephine Cowdery:

Sources

Now that you’ve walked up the south side of Voss-Strasse from east to west, cross the road at these traffic lights and while crossing you will see Potsdamer Platz on your left.  Don’t go and have your photo taken with some faux guard or bear just yet. (We will come back to Potsdamer Platz.) If you decide to have a coffee at Starbucks and should you decide to sit outside, slightly to your left you will see this building:

Starbucks 1

We are going to use this as a point of reference as it sits roughly where the west (or left) wing of the New Reich Chancellery stood (henceforth NRC):

SB 2

Source: Bundesarchivbild

You should know that the NRC took up the entire north side of Voss-Strasse, from the Palais Borsig up to where you are now, i.e. at the junction of Voss-Strasse and Ebert/Hermann-Goring-Strasse. That should give you some idea of the massive scale of this building. To your left in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate lay the accommodation for the NRC security/SS guards (in red, facing Ebertstrasse):

SS quarters

The SS guard security barracks facing the garden can be seen here on the left (Reichstag in background, photo taken from west wing of NRK):

2014-08-19 08.58.26

Now for some orientation, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Map 1

You are sitting where the small red cross is (far-left). To your left, the buildings with the brown roofs are the SS quarters mentioned above. Number 4 indicates the entrance to the two underground garages and 9 is where the entry to the coal lifts was. Number 2 is one of three Voss-Strasse entrances (number 6 postal address) and 3 is postal address 4. Not shown is entrance 2 which was roughly where the kink starts in Voss-Strasse.

Number 1 is the Mittelbau (middle bit) and the 1 is pretty much where Hitler’s office was. Number 6 is the terrace where the famous footage of Hitler decorating the Hitler Youth was shot:

HJ 1

And Speer’s model may help with orientation. Here it is in its uncluttered iteration:

Model 1 AHF

And here it is with reference points attached. You will be sitting coffee in hand at the top left-hand corner of this photo:

Model 2 AHF

The red line is the frontage to the west (or left) wing, the blue indicates the Mittelbau and the orange the east (or right) wing. On the corner is, of course, the Borsig Palais and the pink line indicates the frontage to the Siedler extension (you will notice Speer has included the Fuhrer balcony so we know this model was built after … anybody? anybody? … yes! 1935! Well done that boy up the back!). The brown line indicates the Old Reich Chancellery. The SS guards’ quarters are behind the green line and in front of the line is a wall separating the guards’ garden(!) from the Chancellery garden. The red arrow indicates the Orangerie (I believe we would call it a greenhouse). A direct line from the Orangerie leads through the ornamental pool, across the Hitler Youth (henceforth HJ for “Hitler Youth”) terrace and through five large French windows into Hitler’s office in the middle of the Mittelbau. The bunker exit outside which the Hitler bodies were burnt was outside the rear of the Old Chancellery.

In real terms the area looked like this at the end of hostilities:

Garden 1

You and your Starbucks coffee are once again at the top centre (red circle), looking down Voss-Strasse with HG/Ebertstarsse on your left. The red arrows indicate (from top) the terrace where Hitler decorated the HJ boys, the ornamental pool and the greenhouse.

This then is the setting for the drama of April, 1945.

OK, finish your coffee, cross the road and cross Voss-Strasse again so that you are standing outside that ugly, box-like building on the left-hand side of Voss-Strasse (see the first photo above if you’re unsure). We will begin our walk past the site of the New Reich Chancellery …