In a walk of three hours you can explore the twelve years that still hurt like an open wound in the center of the history of 20th-century Germany, the years between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (Nazis) led Germany into war and terror. Explore the rise of the Nazis to power, the horrors and tragedies of the regime, and the facts and circumstances that led to their downfall. This tour lends special attention to monuments designed and developed by Hitler´s architect, Albert Speer, which bear witness to the reign of the Third Reich and this traumatic “past that will not forget”, and link Nazi history to the geography of the capital city of Berlin.
We begin with the Reichstag, the German parliament building. After a fire there on February 27, 1933, the Nazis falsely accused the Dutch Socialist Marinus van der Lubbe. Adolf Hitler used this to obtain the special powers he then used to override the civil and political rights of the Weimar constitution and thus put in motion the events of the next twelve years. Being here will help us frame some fundamental questions about the Nazi power: Where did it come from? How did the Third Reich begin?
Our exploration will take us to the Brandenburg Gate, which we look at from the long, straight Strasse des 17. Juni, one of the main avenues in the plan proposed by Albert Speer for the new monumental center of the “World Capital Germanica”, the name the Nazis planned for Berlin. The plan and imagined city take us next to the Nazi regime´s central tragedy: the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This controversial and enigmatic monument will provide a context for examining the Nazi policy toward the Jews and others whom they identified as “inferior races”, which was more clearly revealed in the Nuremberg laws that provided the terrible “final solution to the Jewish question “in 1942.
For the rest of our walk around the old government barracks in Berlin’s Wilhelmstrasse, we will pass many other sites, monuments and works of architecture that will help us cope with the realities of the Nazi regime, including the former site of Hitler´s Chancellery, the former location of the Führerbunker (where another building currently stands), the former Reich Ministry of Aviation (Luftwaffe) and other important offices from which the war was orchestrated. We will conclude with the recent opening of the exhibition of the Topography of Terror at the site of the former headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, which represents the conscious effort of the city to discover the Nazi legacy of a particular place. The nature and organization of the exhibition will give us plenty to think about. Rather than attempting to provide a final statement on the horrors of the Nazi past of Germany, the museum of the Topography of Terror participates in an active engagement with the past, contextualizing the place to bring history alive, making it comprehensible and inextricably connected with the present.
In many ways, the latter is also the main focus of this walk. The city doesn’t just want to “historicize” the Third Reich by separating it from the present, but rather they are trying to deal with the legacy of Nazi Berlin and especially with the sites that remain linked to it in order to understand how this legacy is part of today’s Berlin.
Rent apartments in Berlin city center and learn about the country´s history with this tour.