Forgotten Nazi Sites in Berlin
20 December 2015
Forgotten Nazi Sites in Berlin
You may be surprised to learn that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were never really that popular in Berlin with only 1 in 6 people voting for them. Joseph Goebbels, Hitlers chief propaganda minister even said that Berlin was ‘ the reddest city in Europe besides Moscow’ and Berliners are still somewhat proud of never fully getting behind the National Socialists here.
Not only were the Nazis never that popular here but Hitler himself also thought the city was ‘ugly’ (maybe thats why they didn’t vote for him!) and from the very start of his premiership he decided to completely redesign this city and commandeer buildings and fashion them for his own use.
As 90% of the inner city of Berlin was bombed and the allies had a strict denazification programme many of these old buildings no longer exist but there are still some around if you know where to look.
The Lustgarten sits on museum island and has been the site of political upheaval for years. Standing in the shadow of the huge Berlin cathedral and the impressive Altes Museum this piece of grass was originally designed as a garden for the royal palace which you will see is under construction across the road.
In the inter war years this land was mainly used by the Berlin Communists for its rallies and speeches and would sometimes gather crowds of half a million, in fact when the Nazis were voted in, in January 1933 there was a anti Nazi rally of about 200,000 people here until Hitler banned all opposition to the party after this. The site was then used by the Nazis for its rallies and events, completely paving over the grass to make room for up to one million supporters.
Wasserturm (Nicknamed: Dicke Hermann)
Hermann Goering was Hitlers chief of the air running the impressive Luftwaffe Headquarters on Wilhelmstrasse, a site we visit on our 3rd Reich tour. Of all the Nazi elite it is possibly Goering was hated the most here in Berlin gaining the nickname ‘Fat Hermann’ for his large size and oafish personality. However this nickname was also given to one of Berlins buildings and although impressive to look at this beautiful, yellow water tower has a sinister past.
Located in Prenzlauer berg this tower was originally built to provide water for the growing, mainly Jewish, population in this part of town in the mid 1800’s but under the control of the National Socialists this tower was converted into prison cells and a torture chamber with at least 28 people known to have been killed in its engine room. Nowadays you would have no idea that there was any dark history here as the site is now used as a kindergarten and art gallery and you can often find us guides here playing some after work table tennis.
Gasthaus Zum Nußbaum
This pub is one of the oldest drinking establishments in the city and is packed with history having served its first beer here way back in 1505. The pub has been memorialized by many Berlin artists and is now located in the oldest part of the city, the Nikolaiviertel, after being reconstructed after the damage it suffered during the bombs of world war 2.
The pub is best remembered though for the political battles that took place here in the late 1920’s between the communists and the Nazis and notably when Horst Wessel stormed into the pub with several Brown shirts and faced down a crowd of Communist supporters and proclaimed the area free of the “Red Menace,” all without any bloodshed. This took place only a few months before he was shot and killed by the communists giving the Nazi Party a great propaganda tool by turning him into their most famous martyr.
Hitlers plan was eventually, once he had conquered Europe, to remodel Berlin to make it into the Welthauptstadt (Capital city of the world). This new city would have consisted of the worlds biggest buildings including a huge triumphal arch, 3 times the size of the arc de triumphe in Paris, enormous East-West and North-South boulevards and the great hall of the people which, if completed would have been the worlds biggest building. Almost none of this work was started, never mind completed however there is still some evidence of the plans if you look hard enough.
In 1941 the Nazis used French slave labour workers to dig a huge hole into the ground into which they placed a 12,500 tonne piece of concrete to test the ability of the sandy Berlin soil to support the weight of the triumphal arch. There was apparatus to test and measure its movement relative to the ground level and the concrete mass is still there today and is now a memorial site to Hitlers grand plans for Germany’s capital.
If you have more interest in this subject, we run our Third Reich Nazi Germany Tour multiple times per week. Please check online for exact tour times but here are a few sights that we don’t visit that will keep you interested until then.