29. 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:

https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/wilhelm-willi-hubner-1945/

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:

https://ww2gravestone.com/people/czech-alfred/

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.

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…and:

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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(?).

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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.

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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:

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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:

DSCN2528

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:

Mittelbau20173

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:

Mittelbau20174

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

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=My%20Garage%20Rules&epa=SEARCH_BOX

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

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Answer in the next gripping instalment!