31. Further up Leipzigerstrasse …

Having left the Air Ministry building we walk a little further up Leipzigerstrasse in the direction of Potsdamerplatz. Howevere we’ve barely gone a few steps when over the road (right) we recognise our old friend the annex of the Transport Ministry from Post 16(a): Voss-Strasse The Left-Hand Side:

LS looking west 1

and a little further on, on the left-hand side we encounter the Herrenhaus (Prussian House of Lords) again:


So what’s interesting about Das Herrenhaus? Not much, apart from the fact that it’s still there and was built on the site of a palace owned by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s father – yes, that Mendelssohn, the musician bloke whose grave, incidentally, we will eventually visit while working our way down Wilhelmstrasse. The other interesting thing is that this building was used as the original courtroom of the Volksgericht (The People’s Court), however the proceedings were soon moved to Bellevue-Strasse 15 in Potsdamerplatz (now the Sony building) and I believe this is where the July 20 plotters were ‘tried’ and where Roland Freisler was killed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Court_(Germany)

Here’s a pre-war photo of the area we have so far explored:

PP Fin

The blue arrow shows the Transport Ministry annex and the red arrow indicates the Herrenhaus. The photo is quite early, i.e. pre-1933 at least,  because the houses on the north side of Voss-Strasse haven’t been demolished and the whopping great lump which constitutes the Wertheim store is still intact. And here it is:

Roaring Berlin 1

The woman on the right looks like she has just realised that she left the stove on in this great photo from the Facebook page “Roaring Berlin: Die Vergessene Metropole”, found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/roaringberlin/ and those trams would most likely end up on their sides as barricades later in 1945.

However, remember the stone-throwing protesters in the 1953 uprising? This photo comparison shows where the event occurred:

LP 1

The building on the left in the left-hand photo is the Wertheim store, presumably patched up, in 1953 (note the shape of the only visible archway and compare it to the arches in the building on the right and then trust me it’s the same building). It does show us that the Wertheim remains were still standing in 1953. And so does this:


The stone throwing must’ve really upset the Soviets because they soon reduced Leipzigerplatz to:

LP 1

and finally to:

RC 73


In the first photo (i.e. after “And so does this …”) you can make out the Propaganda Ministry building and Hess’ office (top left) and the demolition of the NRK (middle left). The middle photo shows the distinctive shape of Leipzigerplatz and the mid-incarnation of the Berlin Wall. We know it’s not an early version of the wall because it’s a wall (not a fence – shades of Trump!) and it’s not a late version because it’s not covered in graffiti. In the third photo, the trees at far mid-left indicate the edge of the Tiergarten and you can make out the Propaganda Ministry at mid-right. The green square in front of the Propaganda Ministry constitutes half of Wilhelmplatz before the awful school buildings were inflicted on it. Thus the area bottom-left is Potsdamerplatz and both Leipzigerstrasse and (parallel to it) Voss-Strasse can be seen running left to right across the bottom half of the photo.

It is, IMO, worth remembering as you walk up or down both Voss-Strasse and Leipzigerstrasse that before 1989 you would have been cut down by rifle fire had you walked in those very same spots. More on this shortly …







1.Reconstructing Berlin

Statement of Purpose:
I am writing this blog for my own amusement and possibly for the amusement of others. My intention is to show what historic sites can be seen in Berlin today – on foot – starting roughly at the Brandenburg Gate. My field of interest runs from unification (1871) to the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). My main interest is in the New Reich Chancellery, Speer’s short-lived creation, and in Voss-Strasse itself, hence the title of this blog. There is no political intent, implied or otherwise.
Pretty much everything I write about here can be found on the Internet in greater detail. I aim to supply interesting stuff for those who couldn’t be bothered ploughing through hundreds of websites. If you’re in Berlin and want to know where certain events happened or what happened near where you are staying, hopefully this blog might help.


Rip It Down And Start Again?

I recently watched “Bridge of Spies” and it reminded me that I had promised/threatened to post a travelogue on Berlin while I was there. It’s going to be more of a rant, actually, so if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. Bit like commercial television really.

The question is: how do you rebuild an historic city that has been pretty much completely destroyed in a war? Berlin is a metaphor for all the cities destroyed in all the wars and I only chose it because I’ve been there in the 1970s, 1980s and the 2010s and I like the history . In this blog I propose to write about what I consider to be interesting things and to start with all of the ‘interesting things’ will be within walking distance of the Apartments at Brandenburger Tor car park.

As far as I can see there are three options in rebuilding this city: you clear the rubble and build new, modern structures; you tidy up the surviving buildings and re-use them or you leave them the way they are.

I propose to look at a few examples of what’s remaining of historical interest (to me anyway).

Let’s start with the DDR. If you want to go and see what Berlin was like under the East Germans (from now on I’ll simplify that to DDR to avoid having to distinguish between East Germans and Soviets) you should go now. The inner city is being gentrified at an alarming rate but there are still things to be seen. The DDR did not go out of its way to reconstruct Berlin after the war – they largely concerned themselves with tearing up (or down) old Nazi sites, the Reich Chancellery and a selection of cemeteries for example. This means that large sections of the city remained untouched for decades. For example, in the 1970s I did a bus tour into East Berlin (across the Berlin Wall). The young East German woman who provided the commentary on the bus waxed lyrical about how the government was going to build wondrous new sports complexes and government buildings and so on but outside all we could see were vast tracts of fenced off land that had literally not been touched since 1945. There were of course the odd Communist Party buildings which were a bit tarted up but in general the whole place gave an impression of being depressed and depressing. At the end of the tour, the young host had to disembark on the Eastern side and Russian and East German guards – armed with automatic weapons – came on the bus and began checking IDs. They then ran dogs under the bus to check that no desperate, disenchanted East German had decided to do a Cape Fear and defect by hanging on under the bus. When we got through Checkpoint Charlie, the bus driver told us – wryly – that the young host had had to learn her entire 90 minute spiel off by heart to get the tour guide job and that the Bad Guys were in the habit of slipping a fake ‘tourist’ on the bus to check that she wasn’t editorialising. Apparently, she was allowed to see members of her family briefly when she got on the bus in the West.


Here’s an example of the changing of the political guard in Berlin.


The above photo was taken in Behrenstrasse – which runs off Wilhelmstrasse – in 2010. I took the one below almost exactly five years later. Now this large (un)polished image of Lenin was still on this building  – and only a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg Gate – twenty-one years after the Wall came down. Check the dates on the photographs.


As late as 2011, you could still find Cyrillic lettering in the foyers of some apartment blocks in central Berlin.

Because the Communists did not do a great deal of rebuilding you can still find old buildings from before the Second World War but you will need to hurry – because the Wall has come down a lot of these places are disappearing. A case in point is the corner of Wilhelmstrasse and Voss-Strasse.  This corner originally (i.e. pre-war) was the site of the Reichs-verkehrsministerium (Reich Traffic Ministry). It can be seen in its heyday in the centre of this photo (red arrow), the Finance ministry is to the left of the photo (blue arrow), the Air Ministry (still standing in pretty much its original form) (orange arrow) can be seen further down the street and the Borsig Palais (green arrow) to the right:


Here’s a comparison with the above photo taken in 2015:

Verkehr 3

Here’s what it looked like in 2010. The buildings on the left hand side of Voss-Strasse (the street the red Mini drives down) had been there since the war (1945). You could still see battle damage on pretty much all of them.

Verkehrersministerium.jpg 2




Here’s what it looks like now:


These changes took place in only five years. See what I mean about getting there quickly if you want to see original stuff?

Interestingly, if you look at the very first photo I have posted – the one with the two women with cake tins on their heads in front of the U Bahn entrance – you will see a large building directly behind the entrance. That building -the Ritterschaftsdirektion -(and the U Bahn station itself, but not that entrance) still survives and can be seen on the Wilhelmplatz today. More detail on that building when I get around to the Wilhelmplatz.

So here’s the plan. I intend to post a series of …ummm … posts on touring Berlin with an interest in the history of the place. To start with I am going to suggest places of interest within walking distance of the car park behind the Apartments am Brandenburger Tor. The Apartments am Brandenburger Tor run along Wilhemstrasse from the Adlon Hotel and up Voss-Strasse in a vague U shape. They also wander around various other blocks. Suffice it to say that that whole block bounded by  Peter-Behrens-Strasse , Wilhelmstrasse, Voss-Strasse and Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse constituted the lion’s share of the Regierungsviertel, or Government Quarter from Bismarck’s time to 1945. The current Holocaust Memorial, the car park, the apartments and sundry other structures pretty much made up the Ministry Gardens.

For some reason some of my posts are appearing in random order therefore I intend to number them so anyone bored enough to be reading this can read them in order. A complete list of the posts so far can be found here: https://wordpress.com/posts/vossstrasse.com although I have no idea why posts 4 and 5 are in the wrong order.