Postmans delivery vehicle

As I said in my previous blog, we ended our first day of discovering Berlin at The Topography of Terror Museum. This was one of the most heart-breaking and shocking places I have visited outside of South Africa.

Postmans delivery vehicleA postman’s delivery vehicle in Berlin

I have always been very interested in reading books, seeing movies and visiting places to do with the Second World War or WW2 as it is commonly known. I am not certain why this is but probably because I am, what is termed a Baby Boomer, and both of my parents had been involved in some way. My Dad had a difficult time serving in both Egypt and Italy on the front line. As a result he was a Member of the Order of the Tin Hats (MOTH). I have many good memories of going to the Fynnland MOTH Hall and playing in the wide open spaces around it but best memories are of the Remembrance Day marches down West Street to the Cenotaph in central Durban.

My Mum’s involvement was limited as she was considered too young to do any active work but was affected by the war as her elder brother, a pilot, was killed in N. Africa in 1941 and is buried there. Also, working on the railways in Durban, she saw many soldiers coming and going from active service. In addition, her parents who had a farm in Amatikulu, 130kms (80 miles) north of Durban, and they would host British soldiers who needed assistance or recuperation. One was a sailor from Edinburgh who stayed at the farm after being injured and treated in a Durban hospital. He was so impressed with my grandparents that he maintained written contact with them, then with my mother and today it has fallen to me to write at Easter and Christmas. The things some of us inherit!

That was a longer introduction to this blog than planned but it gives an idea as to why I was so pleased to visit Berlin and to learn more about what happened in Germany and Poland in particular. This museum truly opened my eyes and shocked me as I had never realised how determined Hitler was to, not only remove all Jews but also all Slavs. I knew that Warsaw had been invaded but not that Hitler had issued orders for it to be razed to the ground. The photos and written explanations do not offer pleasant viewing but the story needs to be told.

Length of Topography                                                            Looking down the length of the Topography with the  longest remaining piece of the wall.                                                      The large building behind is the Ministry of Finance

We went into the Documentation Centre first and spent over an hour and a half reading and looking and tryng hard to absorb the horror of what happened in Germany, with particular reference to the Wall, and parts of Poland. What was very helpful were the seats in parts of the hall as it would have been heavy going standing all the time.The internal part of the Museum, or Document Centre, was built on the site of where the SS and Gestapo Headquarters were originally housed. That building was bombed by the Allies in 1945 and the remains were demolished after the war. 

Berlin2 DocumentationCenterEntrance to the Documentation Centre

Berlin2 inside the documenttion centreInside the Documentation Centre

Surrounding the museum is the longest part of the Berlin Wall which was not demolished. When the ground was excavated to build the Documentation Centre the cellar where political prisoners were tortured was discovered. Having been used for different purposes, including as a parking lot and a rubble dump, the idea for the land to be developed into a memorial museum was first suggested in 1978 but it was only in 1992 that a foundation was established to plan and develop the museum. Again, time passed by more quickly than funds became available with the museum finally being opened in 2010.

Trevor touches the wallTrevor touches the longest part of the wall still standing

Wilhelm Strasse showing the line of the wallWilhelmstrasse along which the wall was built

Outside, around the perimeter of the property are 15 stations with photos, information signs and pieces of the original building all giving one the knowledge of what happened here and in Poland between 1933-45. As we made our way along this section it was interesting to see 5 or 6 school groups visitng as well. The Polish Resistance Movement was the largest anti-Nazi movement in Europe. Its most notable actions included disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, providing military intelligence to the British, and saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Allied organization or government. It was a part of the Polish Underground State. (Taken from Wikipaedia)

Demolished piers from Gestapo prisonDemolished piers from the Gestapo Prison

Info on demolished piers

Replica of cell with gas pipesReplica of cell to show size and gas pipes 

 The chilling instruction from Hitler

Hitler & Himmler’s instruction on Warsaw

Himmlers speech to Military CommandersPortion of Himmler’s speech to the Military Commanders

The US and Britain were wary of supporting the Polish Resistance when the uprising took place in 1944 in Warsaw, as they were unsure of their relationship with the Soviet Union. British, South African and Polish soldiers risked their lives taking weapons and food into the city. Of the airdrops they made, over 80% fell into German hands and up to 15% of their aircraft were destroyed.

Info on airdrops to WarsawInformation on the airdrops into Poland

Info on butchers of WarsawInformation on the “Butchers of Warsaw”

I could write much more about this place but I think some of my photos and reading the page link given in the first line of this blog will be more edifying.