Travel Log - Day 3

I decided that I wanted to to do the 3rd Reich walking tour from Insider Tour to start off with today so I needed to hop on the U-Bahn and get to the starting point near the Berlin Zoo. This meant that I should have been able to catch the U6 to Hallesches Tor and then change for the U1, which would get me near enough.

When I arrived on the platform for the U1 (which had a covering of ice given some of it was outside), even with my poor German I knew there was a problem on the U1 line. A few stops along everyone got out so I followed suit not exactly knowing what what was going on. Don’t ask me how but we ended up on a platform of a U2 train. That didn’t gel with my map so I held off while the train headed off. As I pondered my map a station attendant came over to me (obviously because I had a map) and let me know that the train on this platform did in fact go where I wanted to go. In fact it would take me closer, so I jumped aboard the next train.

After exiting the station I quickly located the tour meeting point (outside McDonalds opposite the main entrance to the S line Zoo station. There I bought a ticket, once again receiving a discount because of my Welcome Berlin card, met up with my guide, Kenny and waited for the tour to kick off.

Kaiser-Wilhelm- Gedachtnis-Kirche

Our first stop was just around the corner to look at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche which remains in ruins to this day to remind everyone about the terrible cost of the war.

We then jumped on a bus and headed to the German Resistance Memorial.

Reistance Museum

Courtyard of Resistance Museum

Probably the most famous one time resident of this building (which was an Army headquarters during World War II) was Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. He was the man who planted the bomb that probably came closest to killing Hitler. The whole subject has been made into a recent movies Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise.

The above picture if taken in the courtyard where von Stauffenberg and other plotter where executed by firing squad. They stood approximately where the bronze statue now stands.

Insider Resistance Museum

Insider Resistance Museum

Insider Resistance Museum

Insider Resistance Museum

The museum is full of information not just about von Stauffenberg but about the German resistance to Nazis. Our tour guide gave a great run through of the events surrounding the von Stauffenberg plot in the actual rooms in which it took place. The above shot is actually from von Stauffenberg’s office.

Wreath in courtyard

Courtyard of Resistance Museum

Courtyard of Resistance Museum
Courtyard of Resistance Museum

After having a brief look through the museum we headed back to courtyard for a few more photos before heading off.

Remnants of the Battle of Berlin

Above you can see some of the scars of the Battle for Berlin between the remnants of German army and the Soviets. Our guide gave us a graphic account of those last days and the costs to both sides. His summary was that the battle for Berlin killed the equivalent of two of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima.

Memorial to victims of Nazi T-4 program

A bit further along we stopped at the memorial to the Nazi T 4 program. This was the beginning of the Nazi program of euthanasia for those who did not meet their ‘standards’. I must admit that I have never heard of this program and will certainly do some more research into it.

Memorial to homosexuals killed by Nazis

We then headed to Under den Linten across the Tiergarden and came across the memorial to the homosexuals murdered by the Nazis, which isn’t that far from the Holocaust memorial.

We crossed over the road and spent some time at the Holocaust memorial (which I visited yesterday) and spent some time giving us the sad facts and figures of what the Nazis inflicted.

We took a coffee break and then headed for the location of Hitler’s bunker which I also visited yesterday.

Our next stop was at this subway station. The reason is that that the marble you can see on the walls actually came from Hilter’s offices after it was destroyed.

Headquarters of Luftwaffe in World War 2

We continued along the street some more and stopped outside what used to be the headquarters of the Luftwaffe. Which amazingly (by pure chance) survived the war.

Remnants of Berlin Wall

A bit further down the street was a remaining piece of the Berlin All that I photographed last night.

Remnants of Berlin Wall
Remnants of Berlin Wall
A little further down is the Topography of Terrors.

Topography of Terrors

This is where the Nazi security services like the SS and Gestapo resided. The buildings where totally destroyed after the war the location cleared and leveled. They are now building a memorial and in the meantime they have an outdoor exhibit.

The tour finished up here with a brief overview of the legacy of the Nazi’s in today’s Germany.

I gotta say this tour was really worth the money. The Insider Tour guide (Kenny) was fantastic and I can’t recommend these guys highly enough. They run a whole heap of tours that are all worth doing. If you are in Berlin for any length of time do yourself a favour and take a tour. I was so impressed with these tours that I actually ended up taking another of their tours tomorrow.

Subway station

I returned to the marble subway station to head to the Stasi Museum (the old East German secret police headquarters).

Stasi uniform

The Stasi where the Ministry of State Security for East Germany and their former headquarters has now been turned into a museum in East Berlin. It is easy enough to get to the location by subway but the actual building is tucked away in the middle of a complex of government style buildings. There are not many signs helping the tourist locate the museum.

Inside Stasi museum

Inside Stasi museum

Stairs in Stasi museum

I did however, eventually manage to locate the museum and took a wander inside. The museum covers about three floors of the building and houses a number of displays.

Restored Stasi offices

Restored Stasi offices

Restored Stasi offices

Restored Stasi offices

The upper floor (shown above) contains the restored Stasi offices. These rooms appear almost exactly as they were during the height of the cold war. Only the elite would have once been allowed in here but now it is open to all. It is really an amazing study in contemporary history because it is like stepping back to the 1950's. The furniture, layout, decor, etc you really get a good feel of how the place must have been.

It is also interesting to think how well this place has been restored after being trashed pretty thoroughly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Lower floor of Stasi museum

Lower floor of Stasi museum

Cell in Stasi museum

The lower floor has an interesting display of items of espionage.

Information smuggled in bicycle tyres

Map of Soviet Gulags

Camera handbag

Some of these 'ancient' displays of items of espionage appear quaint but one must remember that there wasn't the miniaturization of technology we now have today.

Surveillance item in Stasi museum

Camera in a jerry can

Radio microphone in handbag

'Smell jars' retained by Stasi

One of the more bizarre things that the Stasi used to collect were human odours. Agents used to strategically place odour absorbent material in places where individual's 'smells' could be captures (for example on seats). Once collected, these would be returned to the Stasi headquarters and catalogued. At one tie, I believe, that almost 90% of the population of East Berlin had their 'smell' retained on file by the Stasi. The idea, apparently, was that if the Stasi needed to locate someone they could do so with sniffer dogs and these 'smell jars'. Have a read of this article if you still have trouble believing this.

Exterior of old Stasi building

Unfortunately, the majority of the museum is in German so it is a little hard to get a full understanding of everything. However, I do recommend it as a worthwhile visit, simply to experience the time capsule that was East Berlin. IN some places things have not changed very much at all.

I headed back to the subway past some pretty drab block of units. It was interesting at how different this neighbourhood (old East Germany) was when compared to other places I’ve seen here. I was something that struck me straight away.

I returned to the Topograhie of Terror but was ushered out at 6pm when the exhibit closes. I’ll have to come back tomorrow to finish looking at all the information.

From here I headed back to grab something to eat and then went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum to finish the day.

One more day left, what will I do?

Proceed to Travel log - Day 4 ->