Posts Tagged ‘Brandenburg Gate’

Recreation of Hitler Bunker

Monday, November 21st, 2016


In October 2016, more than 71 years after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, Historiale, an organization which runs the Berlin Story Bunker Museum, recreated part of the Hitler Bunker (Fuehrerbunker) for the public’s benefit. The privately funded museum vows that it will not allow the exhibit to become a neo-Nazi shrine. It says it is merely responding to tourist demand. Tourists are curious where the Hitler Bunker was located and what it looked like inside Historiale claims. But the nearby state-funded Topography of Terror Museum, built on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters, blasts the museum’s bunker recreation as a Disneyland-style approach to Berlin’s past.

History of the Hitler Bunker

The Hitler bunker was the last air raid shelter used by Adolf Hitler during World War II. It was located beneath the garden of the Chancellery (Reichskanzlei) near Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The bunker consisted of about 30 small rooms that were protected by 13 feet of concrete.

Hitler moved into the Fuehrerbunker in January 1945. By 19 April 1945, the Soviets began to encircle the city. On 20 April, Hitler made his last trip to the surface. As fierce street fighting raged outside, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony inside the bunker. On 30 April, the day following the wedding, he is said to have shot himself while Braun took cyanide.

The Hitler bunker was discovered by Red Army and Allied troops in the spring of 1945. The Soviets leveled both Chancellery buildings between 1945 and 1949, but the underground bunker complex largely survived until 1988–89 when the East German government ripped out the interior and filled the site with rubble.

What does the actual Hitler Bunker site look like today?

To keep the Hitler Bunker site from attracting attention, the government of the reunited Germany built apartment buildings and a parking lot where the emergency exit for the Fuehrerbunker was once located. In 2006, an information board was installed to mark the location of the former Hitler Bunker. The board is located at the corner of In den Ministergaerten and Gertrud-Kolmar-Strasse near Potsdamer Platz.

Site of former Hitler Bunker in 2014, photo © J. Elke Ertle,

Site of former Hitler Bunker in 2014, photo © J. Elke Ertle,

Information Board at the formerl Hitler Bunker site in 2014, photo © J. Elke Ertle,

Information Board at the former Hitler Bunker site in 2014, photo © J. Elke Ertle,

Where is the recreated Hitler Bunker located?

The recreated Hitler Bunker is located in a former underground air raid bunker at the Anhalter Bahnhof, about one mile from the actual bunker site. The permanent exhibit contains a life-sized recreation of Hitler’s underground living and workrooms (although the furniture is not original). There is a picture of Friedrich der Grosse (Frederick the Great) on the wall, a grandfather clock in one corner and an oxygen canister in the other. The bunker is filled with black and white photographs of Hitler and his entourage.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of

25 years ago today Berlin Wall became history

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Twenty-five years ago today, the Berlin Wall became history. On this day 25 years ago – on February 19, 1990 – East German border guards began the large-scale demolition of the Berlin Wall. By the end of the year, most of the Berlin Wall – or the “anti-fascist protection rampart” as it was called in East Germany – was history.

The demolition process that had been started by private Mauerspechte (wallpeckers), was completed by commercial construction crews. The initial teardown began in the area of the Brandenburg Gate. With jackhammers, crews began to remove 570 feet of Berlin Wall that stood between the Reichstag (Seat of the German Parliament) and Checkpoint Charlie (best known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin). Trucks carted away the 2.6-ton wall segments. The East German company Limex would later sell them for up to 500,000 marks each.

The same area that was first freed from the Berlin Wall was also the location of the first provisional border crossing between East and West Berlin, hastily created in December 1989. Less than three years earlier, President Ronald Reagan had appealed to the Soviet leader: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” No one had imagined then that those words might soon become reality.

When the concrete elements were finally released from their foundation in February of 1990, most Berliners celebrated the event like a street festival. But not everyone shared their enthusiasm. Also on the day the Berlin Wall began to come down, a group of East German civil rights activists, clergy and politicians came together to discuss potential paths to a democratic transformation of East Germany. The group did not want to join West Germany and hoped to find a different solution. But East Germany was facing bankruptcy and economic collapse. In the preceding weeks and months, Hans Modrow, the last premier of the East German regime, had tried in vain to obtain a 15 billion mark loan from West Germany. At the end of their meeting on February 19, 1990, the group of round table members rejected the plan of joining West Germany and called for a demilitarized united Germany instead. We know that history did not support their decision.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.


Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

The Brandenburg Gate–Brandenburger Tor–is Berlin’s most famous landmark. During its 200+ year history it has been a city symbol under many different regimes. At different times in its history, it has symbolized peace, division, and freedom and unity. Between 1961 and 1989, when the Berlin Wall divided East and West Berlin, visitors often climbed onto an observation platform adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain.

The Quadriga

Atop the Brandenburg Gate stands the sculpture of a chariot. It is pulled by four horses and driven by a goddess. The goddess was originally said to symbolize a courier of peace. Later it was reinterpreted to represent Victoria, the Roman Goddess of Victory. The Quadriga spent the years from 1806 to 1814 in Paris, France.

Brandenburg Gate - symbol of peace, division and unity

Brandenburg Gate – symbol of peace, division and unity

Brandenburg Gate History

The Brandenburg Gate witnessed many important events in German History:

1730s–Originally, the gate was one of 18 gates within the customs walls that once formed the entrance to Berlin.

1788-1791– King Friedrich Wilhelm II commissioned Carl Gotthard Langhans to rebuild the old city gate in the shape of the triumphal arch we see today. The design was inspired by the Propylaea, the Gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. Hence, Berlin has often been called “Spree Athen” (Athens on the River Spree).

1793–The Quadriga is erected on top of the Brandenburg Gate. (The goddess is said to represent a courier of peace.)

1806– After the French Army defeated the Prussians, Napoleon removed the Quadriga and carted off his spoils to Paris.

1814–The Prussian Army defeated Napoleon, occupied Paris and returned the Quadriga to Berlin. Afterwards, the monument was redesigned as a triumphal arch. The oak wreath on the goddess’ scepter was replaced with an iron cross and the Prussian eagle. (The goddess was reinterpreted to represent the Roman Goddess of Victory.)

1933–The National Socialists marched through the Brandenburg Gate in a martial torch parade and introduced Germany’s darkest chapter in history.

1945–The neoclassical sandstone arch suffered considerable damage during World War II. Berlin was divided into four sectors, and the Brandenburg Gate was now located just inside the Soviet Sector. But vehicles and pedestrians continued to travel freely through the gate.

1961– The Berlin Wall was erected in an arc just west of the gate, cutting off access from West Berlin. On the eastern side, a “border marker” cordoned off the Brandenburg Gate for East Berliners. On 13 August–the day construction of the Berlin Wall began–one crossing remained open on the eastern side of the gate. When West Berliners demonstrated against the Wall the following day, the East closed the only remaining checkpoint at the Brandenburg Gate. Traffic did not reopen until 1989.

1987–US President Ronald Regan spoke the historic words at the gate, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!”

1989–When the Brandenburg Gate opened again to traffic upon reunification, 100,000 people came to celebrate the occasion.

1994–U.S. President Bill “Clinton spoke at the gate about peace in post-Cold War Europe.

2000-2002–The Brandenburg Gate was restored to its former glory.

2013–U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the Brandenburg Gate about nuclear arms reduction and U.S. Internet surveillance activities.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



Hotel Adlon Part 1

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

The palatial Hotel Adlon, located only steps east of the famous Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin, Germany, has a fascinating history. Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) – Second German Television – aired a three-part family saga early last year about the hotel, its owners, and its guests (some fictional characters are also included). The series covers the period between the last German Empire and the Berlin Wall.

Hotel Adlon’s beginnings

In 1905, Lorenz Adlon, a successful wine merchant and coffee shop owner, purchased a prime piece of land in the heart of Berlin. The property was located next to the British Embassy in the Wilhelmstrasse and faced the French and American Embassies on Pariser Platz. Important government offices stood only blocks away. Lorenz Adlon chose this desirable location to build an opulent hotel. It opened on 23 October 1907. Its address was Unter den Linden 1. Hotel Adlon soon became one of Europe’s most renowned establishments.

Hotel Adlon’s famous guests

The Adlon quickly became the social center of Berlin. Inside, its accommodations were the most up-to-date in all of Germany at the time. The hotel offered hot and cold running water and had its own electricity-generating power plant. In the hotel’s early years, many of the rich and famous, including Emperor Willhem II, the Tsar of Russia, the Maharajah of Patiala, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Herbert Hoover, John D. Rockefeller, Enrico Caruso, Marlene Dietrich, Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo frequented it.

Hotel Adlon, 1927(Bundesarchiv photo)

Hotel Adlon, 1926
(Bundesarchiv photo)

Hotel Adlon during World War II

But when Hitler came to power in 1933, the Adlon gradually lost its international clientele. It continued to operate throughout World War II, having added a bomb shelter and a brick wall to protect its guest from flying debris. During the final days of the Battle for Berlin, parts of the hotel were converted to a field hospital. However, on the night of 2 May 1945, after all fighting had ceased already, a fire engulfed the Hotel Adlon. Intoxicated Russian soldiers had started the fire in the hotel’s wine cellar. The inferno destroyed most of the building. Only one wing survived.

Also read about the post World War II history of the Hotel Adlon at


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



President Barack Obama to visit Berlin

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will end a three-day trip to Europe trip with a visit to Berlin next month. Following a summit in Northern Ireland, the president is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss bilateral global questions. Prior to his 2008 election, President Obama held a major campaign rally in Berlin, which drew an enthusiastic crowd of more than 200,000. A Democratic presidential candidate at the time, Mr. Obama had hoped to speak in front of Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate. But Chancellor Merkel would not have it. She maintained that this privilege was reserved for presidents. Mr. Obama ended up speaking at the nearby victory column.

According to the White House, President Obama’s visit will come one week before the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s unforgettable “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. Fifty years, ago, on June 26, 1963, I too, stood in the crowd of 450,000 who had gathered in front of Schoeneberger Rathaus, Berlin’s city hall, to hear John F. Kennedy speak. It was during the height of the Cold War when Mr. Kennedy pledged solidarity with West Berlin. When he said, “As a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’,” we interpreted his words to mean that America would not sell us out to the Russians.

I recently wrote a book, entitled “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom.” In it I describe what it was like to grow up in West Berlin during the time when the city was still divided into the capitalist west and the communist east.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.