World War II Tours – Battlefield Berlin
Battlefield Berlin 2016: Tour Report
Our latest tour of Berlin encompassed many facets of this fascinating city’s turbulent 20th century history, with a focus on the 1933 – 1945 Third Reich period as well as Cold War era. What follows is a review of some highlights from that tour.
April 17: “Landmarks”
‘Landmarks’ was the theme of our first day of touring as we strolled the Unter den Linden, visiting the iconic Brandenburg Gate; paid our respects at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; and enjoyed a guided tour of the Reichstag. We ended our evening with a Welcome Dinner atop the most prominent landmark of Cold War Berlin, the East German TV Tower.
April 18: “Under the Swastika”
Our morning encompassed a walking tour of the heart of the
government district of the Third Reich on and around Wilhelmstrasse. We took in the ruins of the Anhalter Station, preserved as memorial to the Berlin’s suffering under the Allied bombing campaign. After, we visited the site of Hitler’s Führerbunker, the Topography of Terror exhibition, chronicling the crimes of the Nazi state, and Göring’s massive Air Ministry. Taking a short break from the 20th century, we stopped at picturesque Gendarmenmarkt, the beautiful Baroque square, before continuing on to Bebelplatz (site of the mass book burning in 1933), and Neue Wache, Germany’s memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. In the evening, we took a guided tour of a preserved air raid shelter complex, providing a glimpse of what Berliners endured under years of bombing.
April 19: “Crimes against Humanity”
In the morning, we journeyed out of the city to the notorious Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After several hours touring this emotive preserved site, we returned to Berlin for a free afternoon; several of our party visited the famous military cemetery, the Garnison Friedhof, and the Humboldthain flak tower.
April 20: “Battles on the Oder”
On this fourth day of our tour, we headed east to explore the battlefields along the Oder River, the last bulwark before Berlin and the scene of desperate fighting from February to April 1945. The day’s itinerary included the famous Seelow Heights and the newly revamped museum there; the Reitwein Spur with Marshal Zhukov’s observation post; German and Soviet military cemeteries; and a visit to the German-Russian Museum in Karlshorst, where the final surrender of the Wehrmacht took place on May 8.
April 21: “Battlefield Berlin”
Our morning began at the Bendler Block – the historic HQ of the German military and site of the abortive July 20, 1944 plot to overthrow Hitler. Our next stop was at the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, damaged in a British raid in 1943 and preserved as a memorial. In the afternoon, our focus shifted to the 1945 battle in the city, including visits to Landwehr Canal bridges, where some of the final events of the battle occurred; the Moltke Bridge-Reichstag battlefield; and the imposing Soviet memorial at Tiergarten.
April 22: “Police State”
On our final day of touring, we transitioned from World War Two to the Cold War, beginning with a guided visit to the headquarters of the Stasi – East Germany’s state security service, the most effective secret police force in history, controlling nearly 100,000 police and perhaps half a million informants. In the afternoon, we toured the Berlin Wall memorial site, including a walking tour of Bernauer Strasse. We ended our evening, and our week together in Berlin, with a Farewell Dinner.