Saturday, 30 November 2013

BERLIN CHRONICLES (Part III): The Story of Berlin and Third Reich Tour

The Story of Berlin is a highly recommended spot for first-timers in the German capital. You'll be relieved to know that even the busiest tourist traps in Berlin can't compare to the hustle and bustle of London or Paris where you can't even drop a pin during peak times. 

Capturing 800 years of Berlin history from year 1237 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, 23 rooms spread across 6,000 square metres are carefully reconstructed to allow visitors to authentically feel the atmosphere of the periods depicted. 

The highlight of the tour is the bomb shelter beneath the Kudamm Karree mall building where The Story of Berlin is located.

The threats of the Cold War have urged the government to make provisions for emergencies and possible atomic and nuclear bomb attacks. This one was kept from the knowledge of West Berliners until it was opened to the public.

Built in the 1970s, the bunker was designed to shelter around 3,600 people in the event of a nuclear disaster. The underground space is air-locked, has communal facilities, and powered by electric generators.

This is where the meaning of first-come first-served is a matter of life and death. The first 3,600 people who orderly (I have doubts about this when you know very well that you'll drop dead from breathing in contaminated air) queue outside are allowed in. Food and water supplies, as we were clearly told, would last for only two weeks. 

In my job, it is sometimes a struggle to refuse someone; I can't imagine how I'd fare if I have to turn away someone with the knowledge that they will not survive.

The bunk beds intended for approximately two-week subterranean asylum

Not the most comfotable to the touch, but you can't complain when you've made it in.

The eerie confines of the bunker.

The spartan sinks to be shared by at least 3,000 people

The kitchen at its bare minimum, expected to roll out meals for 3,600 people on a daily basis.

The entrance to the 23-room exhibition

Drenched with historical facts and figures, Mr Tattler could only comically muster, "How did he grow his hair around his ears?"

Here are some images of Berlin displayed on the walls of the museum, before the war annihilated its old world charm.

At this point, my very reliable point-and-shoot camera died, so I had to rely on my Blackberry (yes, I still own one) to take photos of this area at The Story of Berlin dedicated to the period of Nazi book-burning campaign.

The Nazi book-burning was instigated by the German Student Union in an attempt to purify German language and literature. Anything deemed subversive or ideologically disparate from the National Socialist policies were considered un-German. American novels were singled out, but Jewish books were heavily targeted. The students believed that the Jews had a smear campaign against Germany and its traditional values, and thus an effective way to combat it was to quash Jewish intellectualism.

'Imprisoned' books and embossed titles on the ground as if they were buried symbolise subjugation.

The books, slowly disappearing, mirror the fate of millions of Jews sent to the concentration camps, who vanished without a trace.

Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass was an anti-Jewish pogrom that happened on the 9th and 10th of November 1938, instigated by the Nazis and Hitler youth. The name comes from shattered glasses that littered the streets of Germany and Austria in the wake of the pogrom. Berlin and Vienna, having the largest concentration of Jewish communities, had a vast number of synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses and homes that suffered deliberate destruction.

Part of the Berlin Wall permanently on display at The Story of Berlin

When the Wall fell on 9 November 1989, 360 particularly significant segments were numbered, certified, and sold to purchasers all over the world in Monte Carlo in June 1990. These ones on display at The Story of Berlin are numbered '002' to '006' and the only ones from the numbered edition still left in Berlin. The painting is by Swedish artist D. Börtz.

The day before heading back to London, we booked a Third Reich tour via Viator and were very lucky to have Ryan as our host (who incidentally was also a friend's host when she went to Berlin and took the same half-day tour). The Scotsman was very passionate and knowledgeable about Berlin and its history, and although we visited some of the same places of interest we have been to during the previous days, Ryan took us to areas we would not otherwise have known through online top ten lists of spots to check, and he gave us insights we would not otherwise have read. He did say that every now and then, he would encounter tour participants who would challenge his historical facts.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe aka Holocaust Memorial
An underground information centre holds all known names of Holocaust victims obtained from the Israeli museum of Yad Vashem.

Just a block away from Brandenburg Gate, the memorial was designed by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold, and features 2,711 concrete slabs or stelae arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. Construction approximately cost 25 million and it was opened to the public in 2005.

The memorial caused much controversy as some Jewish communities saw it as unnecessary and others criticising that only the Jews are being commemorated. The sprawling memorial is subject to interpretation.

This 17-metre high metal monument located along Wilhemstrasse is the profile of Johann Georg Elser, the rebel with a cause who attempted to assassinate Hitler on 8 November 1939 in Munich. Elser travelled to Munich on 8 November 1938, to attend Hitler's annual speech on the anniversary of Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch. He built a time bomb with which he travelled to Munich in the weeks preceding Hitler's anniversary speech. Elser managed to stay inside the Bürgerbräukeller after closing hours each night for over a month, during which time he hollowed out the pillar behind the speaker's rostrum, and placed the bomb inside it. Unknown to Elser, Hitler initially cancelled his speech at the Bürgerbräukeller because World War II broke out. Hitler attended the anniversary, but planned on returning to Berlin that same night. Fog prevented a flight back to Berlin, forcing Hitler to deliver his speech earlier than planned in order to take the train. Hitler left the beer hall at about 13 minutes before Elser's bomb exploded as planned at 21:20, and Hitler did not even learn of this attempt on his life until later that night on a stop in Nuremberg. The bomb injured 63 and killed eight people except the target.

I wonder how the events would have unfolded if Elser succeeded...

The Mohrenstrase U-Bahn station where the walls are decorated with red marble.

When the New Reich Chancellery (office of the Chancellor of Germany) fell to the hands of the Soviets during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, the building was stripped of its red marble walls. Parts of it were shipped back to Moscow and the rest was used on the walls of the above major underground station in Berlin.

The Hotel Prince Albrecht once stood here. In the autumn of 1934, the first-rate hotel was turned into the SS House when Reich SS leader Heinrich Himmler moved the most important offices of the SS leadership from Munich to Berlin. In other words, the hotel was turned from the NSDAP's meeting place into the Gestapo headquarters.

External basement walls of the corner house at Wilhelmstrase 98 where the Hotel Prince Albrecht once stood. At the beginning of 1936, the house was the headquarters of the Inspectorate of the Concentration Camps. Later, various departments of the Gestapo were located here. These, we were told, were part of the interrogation rooms.

Stolpersteine (stumbling stones or blocks in German)

On a trip to Vienna early this year, I chanced upon these small commemorative plaques embedded in the streets of Vienna. I found out that they're called stolpersteine or stumbling stones. They commemorate Holocaust victims and are usually placed at their last known residence before they were sent to their deaths in concentration camps.These were some we found on the streets of Berlin close to our hotel (a few steps from Kurfürstendamm, one of the most famous avenues and considered the Champs-Élysées of Berlin).

For previous posts on Berlin, click Part I and Part II.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed and learned from this tour at least half as much as I did x


  1. A place I definitely want to visit next time I'm going to Berlin!

    1. Don't go when you've had a long day of museum-hopping. Can be too much for the senses. Just a tip ;)

  2. An informative post and I was particularly interested in reading about the books and the commemorative plaques. Your posts about Berlin have certainly shown that the city has so much to offer.

    1. Thank you miss b. I'm glad my post gave you some encouragement to perhaps consider Berlin as one of your destinations next time.

  3. I don't like to class myself as ignorant, but sometimes life throws something at me that reminds me that there is a degree of ignorance that resides within me. I'd find it hard to visit The Story of Berlin and not walk out completely disturbed by what I have seen. I guess this is the point, to be able to be empathetic as well as sympathetic, so rather than me visiting it in person, I'm more comfortable reading it in your posts so thank you.

    Have a great week hun xx

    1. I don't agree that it's ignorance on your part; I would say it's more about you not having the same interest in this part of world history as I do. It's quite deep-seated and stems from my readings about it as a child. I like reading about nutrition but I don't have the same passion and interest and knowledge of it as you do :) I'm glad you managed to visit the bunker through my post. You might change your mind though when you realise that the bunker's on the same street where all the brands (and more!) you love are! Hahaha. Have a great week too x

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment :)

  5. This is such a marvellous and detailed post Marj. It was always difficult to go to these types of places when I went to Berlin, on the otherhand it was always something that my nan wanted us to know, so Iit was important for me to know what happened beyond what we learnt in school. Grea photos!

    1. For some reason, it's the horrible (as what others call it) places that I love visiting. I think it's because didn't experience the war itself and have not known anyone directly affected, but in so many ways it has affected the world we're living in now. I really enjoyed Berlin and I'm very pleased I learned about it a little bit more. Thanks Madison. Have a lovely week x

  6. Even though I loved this post for its educational value and detailed information it's just gave me the creeps... It's horrible. Those bunk beds... And the books, how they disappear to symbolize the holocaust victims... That gave me chills when I read that. It's extremely sad that that's part of our history but we have to remember it so we don't repeat it again. But it's 'funny' that some Jews don't approve of the memorial - I get why they wouldn't actually, but it's pretty surprising. Great tour, babe, I love the post!!!

    P.S.: To reply to your comment on my blog, I just wanted to say this: Yes, monogamy is so sexist!! They say it's in man's nature to have casual sex more than in female's but that's just because they can't get pregnant from it, those lucky SOBs! While they have sex and move on, a woman is forced to take care of the baby, it's not that we don't enjoy sex. Gosh, some can be so shortsighted. (I want to say stupid, but I wanna be polite.:))

    1. Hahahahah...I love your honesty and no-nonsense views. As I mentioned to Fashion Tales, I love visiting the horrible places. Could be my love for horror films. The bunker did give me thoughts that I might get lost there or someone would just grab me and I'd forever be stuck there.
      In addition to your comment about my comment on your post, all I can say is it's not easy to be a woman. We'll always be casualties of double standards.
      PS. Thanks for being polite, but you can always say it as it is :)

  7. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing about this amazing and beautiful place. It has been a great help. Keep sharing and caring.


Thank you for reading. Your turn; let me know your thoughts :)

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