Berlin is a city almost made for history lovers, especially if it comes to modern history. I was in Berlin several times, the first time just for a couple of hours. Later on for weekends. And there is a lot that you can do in Berlin as a history nerd. This blog post is the best of my favorite sights, even though some of them have a very dark past. Maybe because of that is quite calming to see, how Berlin is now, relax and chill town with some hipster vibes – at least on some places. Overall I would say that if you are into the history of Germany, Berlin is a place to go. If you want more culture, Hamburg might be a better place.
Before the second world war
Even though Berlin and Germany got the most famous during the war, there are some things that stayed from even earlier times. And should be on the list of every history lover in Berlin.
Victory Column (Siegessaule)
In the heart of Berlin, there is a Victory column – generally hard to miss. This 67-meter high sight is in the middle of Tiergarten park, surrounded by beautiful nature in the middle of the German capital. It’s a statue on the top, has 8 meters and it is from bronze, making this place shine any day of the year.
Victory column was supposed to celebrate Prussia victory over Denmark in the middle of 19th century. When the column was finished, Prussia also celebrated a win against Austria and France. So it is victorious indeed. This column used to stand in front of the Reichstag parliament building. But in early 1930′ Hitler decided to transform Berlin to his view and move the column 1,5 km west, where it standstill now. Even during the war, column stayed untouched.
Or Berlin cathedral if you will. This is definitely a place not just for history lovers in Berlin, but also for people who love middle age architecture. Berliner Dom is now home of Berlin orchestra, however, it’s history goes back to 1454, when it was built as a Catholic cathedral. During centuries it was several times rebuild and changed. The last touch so far, it got in 1893 and it holds its style till now. And since 80’s it is a popular place for weddings and baptism. Ant it isn’t the only place in Germany like that.
Here we come to the more frightening part of Germany history.
The parliamentary building is a must in Berlin for history lovers. Even though building got renovated in 1874 as a celebration of unification of Germany, it becomes a bigger part of history in 1933. In that year was seized by Nazis. Reichstag wasn’t used for parliamentary purposes during the Nazi era. However, it was used to get Hitler as a leader to the top.
Historians still don’t know the circumstances, but there is a theory that Nazis started a fire in the Reichstag, blaming communists for it. Because of that, people started to fear not just communists, but also western capitalism. This mood rolled in favor of Hitler who shortly after became a leader of Germany.
After the war, the building was ruined, but in 1960s decision was made that Reichstag shouldn’t be torn down. And reconstruction started. Today we know it as the main parliamentary building.
As a tourist, you get to see here a history and art exposition and it is even possible to go all the way up to the dome, where you get a nice view of the city.
The memorial was built in 2003 and become the most visited place in Berlin for history lovers. And yet it is the newest attraction! The Holocaust memorial is in the center of Berlin. 2711 blocks of cement constantly reminding the horrors of war. The exhibition is reminding visitors of the terrible persecution and executions of Jews. Except for blocks of cement, you get to find here information center, with everything about the system and treating Jews during 1933-1945. It is quite scary.
One thing though: This place became so popular that people often forget that this is a memorial place. Please treat it with respect.
Topography of terror
The exhibition is open since 1987 and it shows terrifying acts of Nazi police (SS). The place itself is located at the former headquarters of Secret state police. It is not a place for weak hearted as you will get to know, what secret state police did and their techniques. in 2018 this place became one of the most frequently visited sites. Making hard not to visit it. Especially for history lovers in Berlin, even though it is hard to read through this exhibition.
Berlin for history lovers: Cold war edition
There were so many movies about cold war that there is a certain appeal to it. Berlin has a lot of attractions for history lovers who came just because of its cold war past.
Brandenburg gate is a symbol both of unification. In the middle of the 19th century, it was built to celebrate the unification of Germany. But it is mostly known from the cold war. In the early era of East and West Germany, this was known as the neutral area and place for crossing. Both countries even made an effort to renovate the gate after the second world war. However, in the early 1960s, the crossing point was closed by raising the Berlin wall.
Yes, it exists up till now! And it is a must in Berlin, whether you are a history lover or not. Even though most of the wall was torn down in the 1990s, there is still a mile long strip of it. It becomes more of a gallery of street art and graffiti, rather than history place. But even then, you get to see here a history art. Possibly the kiss between two presidents is the most famous place. And since it is in the center, it is just nice to walk around it and see what the new generation did with the place.
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