Potsdamer Platz Berlin was once considered the busiest city square in all of Europe, and certainly the most ‘metropolitan’ before WWII. By the end of WWII, it all but ceased to exist after the ‘Battle for Berlin‘.
But the human cost of the battle for Berlin had been enormous. Millions of shells were fired into a city that was already devastated after two years of relentless bombing raids by British and American warplanes. Nearly a quarter of a million people died during the last three weeks of World War Two, almost as many as the United States lost during the entire war.
The Wall ran straight through Potsdamer Platz cutting the vibrant city in half. Separating neighbour from neighbour. There are many sections of the wall standing in monument at the Platz, and a lot of informative reading.
During our midnight walk around Berlin we found a powerful monument dedicated to those whose lives were unnecessarily lost as a direct result of the wall. We stood in front of it for a few minutes, experiencing chills and feeling a deep sense of sadness and loss, before we realized what the monument was for.
To the right of us were the epic Brandenburg Gates, straight ahead the current Reichstag, and to the left the trees that once held the lifeless bodies of the dissenters that had been murdered and strung up by Hitlers henchmen.
Various photos of this horror were posted along the route. A brilliant, insightful, empathy building installation. We couldn’t help but actually imagine the horror that once lined these streets, and imagine the tens of thousands of people that would have been traumatized and haunted by these events for the rest of their lives.
I am sure that it helped that it was night and dark, without many other pedestrians. Quiet. It also helped that many of the same trees still exist, barely larger, barely different than they were at the time of the hangings.
We crossed the street to stand under the Brandenburg Gates. I could remember reading about the gates, that at the end of WWII forces tried with all of their might to topple them, unsuccessfully. I was not disappointed on my visit.
Sure enough, the repairs from shelling and bomb damage are clearly visible up the enormous columns. Thankfully they still stand, as a real testament to the fortitude of man and German engineering!
We crossed through the gates. Initially, when we happened upon the Holocaust Monument, my husband was taken aback by the enormity of unusual grey, blocky structures that spanned almost as far as you could see (again, darkness absolutely amplified this effect). ‘What the hell is this?’ he remarked. I decided to let him see if he could feel what it was himself.
We entered the ‘park’, and as we walked through the structures got taller and more intimidating, the path seemed to narrow and each way we turned looked the same – hopeless. We felt claustrophobic, panicky and rather immediately – lost!
As we stood in the centre of the monument, holding hands, my husband realized we had happened upon the Holocaust Monument, it could be nothing else with the emotions it evoked.
I had been before on a previous tour of Berlin, but during busy daytime. Certainly if possible, I would recommend you take a tour of Berlin at night.
Additional photos in the slideshow.