Unless you’ve been living under a rock you should be aware that the 20th Century was a turbulent time in the history of the world. During this time humanity was faced with the ongoing effects of colonization, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and its proxy conflicts in Vietnam, Korea, the Middle East and Central and South America. It really is a wonder how humanity was able to emerge from such disasters. But perhaps one of the most significant events of this time was World War II, specifically, how a political organization founded in hatred, bigotry and anger was able to rise to power in a relatively short period of time and deliver devastating destruction and death upon the world. A movement that is still simmering under the surface in many communities today. For those of you who haven’t recently brushed up on your history and am wondering what I’m going on about, I’m talking about the Nazi Party.
No trip to Berlin, Germany, would be complete without some sort of activity that acknowledges the country’ history between 1918 and 1990. During a casual stroll through the city you will come across various museums and monuments, and a paved brick line that criss-crosses the city to outline where the Berlin Wall once stood. And as a solo traveler it is all well and good to stroll around, stopping in areas that catch your interest, but I honestly cannot more highly recommend signing up for a Third Reich Walking Tour if you get the chance.
I completed my walking tour through Original Berlin Walks and it took about 4 hours. Our guide was very knowledgeable and also rather humorous. You might think it’s a bit strange to bring humor into any conversation about the Third Reich, but trust me, you will be talking about some dark events from history so a bit of comic relief every now-and-then goes a long way to helping you keep your energy up.
The tour started at the restored Reichstag Building which was instrumental in Hitler becoming Chancellor after a suspicious fire in 1933. We then walked to the Soviet Memorial Tiergarten. This was actually one of the more interesting memorials we saw on the tour for three key reasons: (1) I had never heard of it before; (2) it was built in Western Berlin quickly following the Red Army’s liberation, and after Berlin was divided, it was left up even though it was in West Berlin which was the capitalist side; and (3) because it is sometimes referred to as the Tomb of the Unknown Rapists. It is controversial because the advancement of the Red Army on to Berlin was accompanied by the mass rapes of an estimated 100,000 women. This has been widely ignored over the decades since we don’t like to think of the victors of WWII as doing something so terrible. Our guide was able to tell us stories of how some women avoided being raped by hiding in tuberculosis clinics or by getting Russian ‘boyfriends’ (i.e. let one guy rape them and stick with him).
The next three stops concerned the victims of the Holocaust. The first monument we saw was the Memorial to Sinti and Roma Victims of the Holocaust. It is dedicated to the memory of the estimated 500,000 ‘gypsies’ killed by the Nazis. The next one is called the Monument to Homosexuals Persecuted Under National Socialist Regime. This monument is just a large grey rectangular box with a small window in one side. You can look through the window which shows a montage of homosexual couples that runs on a constant loop.
Across the road from this is the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial acknowledges the 6 million Jews who were systematically discriminated against and murdered and the Holocaust memorial is located underneath the memorial. The memorial covers 200,000 sq ft and is covered with 2,711 concreate rectangular slabs of varying heights. The ground is also uneven, so as you walk through the memorial, you can’t help but feel off balanced. One thing that I didn’t like about this memorial was how many people were taking ‘Instagram perfect’ photos in the middle of the memorial in flowy dresses. It’s like they’d forgotten that the purpose of this memorial isn’t supposed to be about you, it’s about the victims of a horrific genocide. But I’ll save that rant for another day.
The next stop was a rather fitting one since it was the location of Hitler’s death: the Fuhrerbunker. Hitler had a large bunker build in the heart of Berlin underground as an emergency measure. When the tide of war in Europe turned against Germany, Hitler, his wife, and his closest confidents suicided. To prevent this location becoming a place of worship for Hitler, half of the bunker was destroyed, the other half was filled with large rocks and sealed permanently closed and a car park was built on top.
We then made our way to the Anhalter Bahnhof which was once one of the largest and most grand train stations in Europe. In fact, it was once so grand that visiting the station was considered a bucket list item. During WWII the train station served both civilians and the Jewish victims who were herded into the cattle carts at the back end of the trains and sent off to extermination camps. It was severly damaged during the war but continued operating until 1952.
Our tour came to an end at the Topography of Terror and the Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus. At the time of construction,The Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus was the largest office building in Europe, and under Hitler’s reign, it served the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). Across the road from this is the Topography of Terror which is a museum located on the site of the SS Reich Main Security Office. Outside the building is located a strip of original Berlin Wall.
Yes. Yes I would.
All of the tour guides employed by Original Berlin Walks are historians so they are very knowledgeable. You can book walks of different lengths, though our four hour walk was only about $25 AUD so a longer tour is totally affordable.
I also really liked that our guide would direct us to various other locations at each stop. This was useful information when we were trying to find our way around the city after the tour had finished.
While I really enjoyed the tour, I confess that I didn’t pack appropriately which at times subtracted from the experience (namely, I forgot to bring snacks and got a bit hungry even though we stopped briefly at a cafe). So here is my recommended list of things to take with you.
Where have you gone on a great walking tour?