Recommended as private guide in
Rick Steves' 'snapshot Berlin':
" enthusiastic historian who grew up behind the Wall..."

before and after


Battlefield Berlin


BfreichstagDoing a battlefield tour of Berlin has its problems. First: German units at the end of the war were not organized as one might expect them to have been. They had strange names, the units having mostly been formed just weeks earlier. The soldiers came from other units of all kinds that had ceased to exist. Some soldiers came from countries like Norway or France and were fighting together with the Nazis. And even though a plan to defend Berlin did exist, this was a mere theory. In fact, there was complete chaos.So how should a battlefield tour be done? By focusing on the spots where one can find detailed information. Who fought? How did they fight? What did the surroundings look like? What happened? And most of all: WHY did they keep on fighting???


Kleiner Friedrich1   neighborhood, April 45

What happens when 2.5 million soldiers attack a city of 2.8 million people? What does a citizen do in this situation?
How did the soldiers behave? What does war mean to civilians, to kids, to women, and to the elderly? I designed this part of the tour based on the memories of school kids, as they reported them to their teachers as part of a homework assignment one year after the end of the war. On the tour I will show you places where I can name the actual people who lived there, and I will recount their stories of April 1945 for you.


Kleiner Friedrich1 Flak - tower

The Nazis built three so-called anti-aircraft artillery towers, in short, flak towers. They served as gigantic spots...
of firepower. Particularly in 1945, the Red Army never managed to take out any of the three towers. Also, several thousand people could be sheltered here. Two of the towers were blown up after the war, but one proved to be too heavy and too dangerous to blow up, so that is the one we can have a look at.


Kleiner Friedrich1 German - Russian war-museum

This is a fascinating museum that offers an amazing number of unique artifacts from World War II. Besides this, well...
the main reason to go there is that you can see the place where the Final Surrender was signed on May 8, 1945. Well, that’s just not true, even if it is in the history books. It was actually a different date—even though the location is correct. Let me tell you the story....


Kleiner Friedrich1  veterans memorial

After World War II, most of the times when the United Nations or any other party initiated a military c...
ampaign against a tyrant or got involved in a civil war somewhere in the world, the Germans stayed out of this action. Also, there is no veterans day, no parades, or anything like that in Germany. And, of course, for good reason. After two World Wars and the Holocaust, it seems highly problematic for the Germans to show any kind of approval for military issues. Just recently, though, the German army opened a memorial for its fallen soldiers in contemporary times. Keeping in mind the burdens of the past, it is extremely interesting to see how this place is designed!!


Kleiner Friedrich1 Soviet war memorial Treptower Park

You would not expect to see something like this outside of Russia. Since the Soviets buried their dead soldiers...
where they had fallen, there are quite a few military cemeteries in Berlin and on the land east of the city. Sometimes the cemetery also is a memorial, and the one at Treptower Park is the most amazing one of all. Of remarkable size, its many details give a vivid impression of the victorious spirit after World War II. Most important seems to be the giant memorial: a 100-foot-high statue of a soldier with a sword holding a baby in his arms. What’s the story behind it?


Kleiner Friedrich1 Bendlerblock - memorial for Stauffenberg

Graf Schenck von Stauffenberg plays an important role still today in the public debates of Germany. His attempt...
to kill Hitler was not the only one by far. Still, it was  one effort in which leading elites were involved. The place where the putsch was planned still exists. It also is the place where Stauffenberg, together with other officers, was executed. Let’s go to this spot and debate the question of the relationship between a civil society and its army.


Kleiner Friedrich1  Chuikovs Headquarter

This is where General Hans Krebs negotiated with General Chuikov, and where General Helmuth Weidling...
signed the order for a ceasefire in Berlin. The building is untouched, as one can see when comparing it to old photographs. This is a bit of history that seems to be extremely close for the people who stand here and take in the building. And in case you need further assistance with the “time traveling,” I will provide the background story that will make the history come alive again.

  Friedrichgold4 © Bernhard