The Scars of the War

About 80% of Berlin’s city center was destroyed in the 2nd World War.

The damage caused in the war is still visible everywhere in the city, once you know what to look for, it actually becomes hard to not to see them.

In this series of articles called ‘Scars of the War’ I would like to introduce examples of war destruction and how the city has dealt with the destruction.

At the end of the war the Russian army surrounded Berlin and started their attack into the city center, towards the bunker, where Adolf Hitler prepared his suicide. Even though the remaining German soldiers were heavily outnumbered they were still loyal enough to Hitler to try to slow down the Russian advance as long as possible.

That meant that the Russians were forced to fight their way into the city center block by block, house by house.

The result is often still visible:

Even today, more than 67 years after the end of the war, you can still find many buildings in Berlin covered in bullet holes!

The majority of those buildings can be found in East Berlin. The socialist regime did not have enough money (and often also simply didn’t care) to renovate the older parts of the city.

But the West also has its fair share. The building on the left is part of a complex used by the police of the central district of Berlin, the inner courtyard still showing a lot of damage.

Sometimes you can still imagine fight scenes just from the holes. Here’s an example from around the corner of my apartment in Berlin Moabit:

 

This building is a court. Of course it also has holding cells and very stable gates. Naturally such a fortified building with policemen was a stronghold of resistance, it was easier to defend than other buildings.

The wall on the other side of the road was a good cover for everyone trying to attack and conquer the building.

Bullets were shot in both directions, leaving marks up until this day.

But even on building whose facades have been repaired it was often decided to repair the damage, but still let it be visible, that there once were holes.

On almost every old building in the city center you will find newer, brighter stones in facades. Stones, that clearly replaced damaged stones or parts of them.

This is an example from one of the columns of Berlin’s most famous buildings: The Brandenburg Gate.

At the end of the war Russian soldiers put the flag of the Soviet Union on top of the gate. Remaining German soldiers opened fire on the flag, destroying the Quadriga and leaving many holes in the gate itself.

Here’s another example from my neighborhood:

It seems like a grenade was shot at this house, destroying two windows and their surrounding area. The stones that replaced the destroyed ones are brighter and the owners also never replaced the decorations that are visible at the other windows.

A combination of both, leaving the holes in the bricks and filling them up in the plastered part, can be seen here:

But Berlin does not only live in the past, it also has a very vibrant present. The city is known for its street art and the creative use of the public sphere. If you pay attention walking through Berlin you will not only see the holes, but also their new, colorful fillings from time to time.

Next time you walk through Berlin keep an eye open for the scars of the war!

Dennis

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