Soviet War Memorial – Berlin

Soviet War Memorial.jpg | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

This is a test of the Press This tool available from within the WordPress. I want to use my images from my Flickr account rather than using the WordPress media library. However Flickr’s Share to Blog facility does not let you size the images to fit your blog profile. My thanks to Frank J Casella for reminding me about the Press This bookmarklet: a little app that runs in your browser and lets you grab bits of the web. You can use Press This to clip text, images and videos from any web page. Then edit and add more straight from Press This before you save or publish it in a post on your site. Press This is available from the Dashboard of your blog in the Tools section. Having looked at the way Press This works it might mean that I will have to change my them to suit the size of the image it sends to my blog. However that is something I can play with.

So what about the image? The Soviet War Memorial (Tiergarten) is one of several war memorials in Berlin, capital city of Germany, erected by the Soviet Union to commemorate its war dead, particularly the 80,000 soldiers of the Soviet Armed Forces who died during the Battle of Berlin in April and May 1945. The memorial was designed by architect Mikhail Gorvits with the monument of the Soviet soldier by sculptors Vladimir Tsigal and Lev Kerbel.

The memorial is located in the Großer Tiergarten, a large public park to the west of the city centre, on the north side of the east-west Straße des 17. Juni (17 June Street) in the Tiergarten locality. This memorial was erected in 1945, within a few months of the capture of the city. Early photographs show the memorial standing in a wilderness of ruins, the Tiergarten having been destroyed by incendiary bombs and then stripped of timber for firewood during the last months of the war. Today, it is surrounded by the extensive woodlands of the reconstituted Tiergarten. Although the memorial stood in what was then the British sector of Berlin, its construction was supported by all the Allied powers. Throughout the Cold War, Soviet Guards were present at the memorial, sent out and changed regularly by Soviet occupying forces in the Soviet sector. In the early 80’s I was living in Berlin and have memories of the guards standing at the memorial in freezing cold temperatures. It was rumoured that they were standing on hot vents, which meant they kept warm despite the cold, but of course no one could get close enough to verify this.

Built from stonework taken from the destroyed Reich Chancellery, the memorial takes the form of a curved stoa topped by a large statue of a Soviet soldier. It is set in landscaped gardens and flanked by two Red Army ML-20 152mm gun-howitzer artillery pieces and two T-34 tanks. Behind the memorial is an outdoor museum showing photographs of the memorial’s construction and giving a guide to other memorials in the Berlin area. A large Cyrillic inscription is written underneath the soldier statue, which is translated as “Eternal glory to heroes who fell in battle with the German fascist invaders for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union”. The Soviets built the statue with the soldier’s arm in a position to symbolize the Red Army’s putting down of the German National Socialist state.

On the anniversary of VE Day, (8 May), wreath-laying ceremonies are held at the memorial which is a site of pilgrimage for war veterans from the countries of the former Soviet Union. It is also a popular tourist attraction, since it is much closer to the centre of the city than the larger Soviet war memorial at Treptower Park. The memorial is maintained by the City of Berlin.

Built in a style similar other Soviet monuments of World War II, there is a sign next to the monument explaining in English, German and Russian that this is the burial site of some 2,000 fallen Soviet soldiers. It is located in the heart of Berlin along one of the major roads with a clear sight of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg gate, both symbols of the city and it is built on a place which Adolf Hitler meant to devote to Welthauptstadt Germania. Besides the main inscription, the columns state names of only some of the Heroes of the Soviet Union buried here. It has earned some unflattering nicknames from the local population with references to crimes committed by Soviet occupation troops.

After the building of the Berlin wall in 1961 this monument was seen as a sign of communist provocation on West Berlin soil, having to be protected by British soldiers against being destroyed by the West Berliners. In 1970 a neo-Nazi, Ekkehard Weil, shot one of the Soviet honour guards at the monument, severely wounding the soldier. This led to baffles, like giant billboards, being strategically located in the woods opposite the memorial, thus not allowing a clear line of sight with the guards. In 2010, the monument was vandalized with red graffiti just before Victory in Europe Day celebrations with text “thieves, murderers, rapists”. This sparked a protest from the Russian embassy in Berlin, accusing German authorities of not being able to take sufficient measures to protect the monument.

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