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Berlin March 2015

imageA visit to such an emotive place as Berlin had the potential to be either enlightening or a depressing tour through other people’s misery. It turned out to be a mix. I found the sites we visited on the itinery of great interest but would I go to them again…..probably not, I’m afraid.

No wonder this place gave me the chills. My local shops on the left and Berlin on the right!

No wonder this place gave me the chills. My local shops below and Berlin above!

imageimage image The Olympic Stadium was our first destination. It had just been given a 250 million pound refit but it was an austere place.image imageBerlin FC now use it for their home games but you don’t need much imagination to picture it filled with the party faithful. The open air grounds to the rear of the stadium were used for marches and military demonstrations. The school boys who competed here in such events as running in gas masks and grenade throwing would of course be the Hitlerjugend of a few years later. The mass graves of more reluctant school boy fighters from 1945 have recently been uncovered……..

I know which architecture I prefer but both were designed to impress and intimidate I'm guessing.

I know which architecture I prefer but both were designed to impress and intimidate.

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Prozensee prison was the start of the really dark underside of Nazi Germany. The firing wall and meat hooks are a horrid reminder, but the calls of the present day inmates adds to the erieness of the location.

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In the earn is ash from the concentration camps. We went to the Wansee house after this and perhaps surprisingly I felt an even greater sense of evil in this pleasant lake side retreat where the “Final Solution” was disseminated to the State leaders. I suggested that the whole place should be bull-dozed. I think the suburban surroundings just made the evilness of the plan more    chilling.

Below, the actual fireplace in the photo....

Below, the actual fireplace in the photo….

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As we were staying in the East of the city, there were more than a few monuments to the eventual victors from the Soviet Union.

Tempelhof airport where the T-34s drove down the runway firing at the last few planes out of the beleaguered city in 1945.

Tempelhof airport where the T-34s drove down the runway firing at the last few planes out of the beleaguered city in 1945.

I think the visit to Sachenhausen was probably the most dreadful place. Enough has been said and written about the horrors of the Nazis but it is definately worth a visit to actually see just what the state is capable of without law or conscience.

Potsdam 'liberated' by the Soviets but at a cost.

Potsdam ‘liberated’ by the Soviets but at a cost.

I really liked Potsdam. Obviously the connection with Frederick the Great is strong. The town too appears to be recovering from decades of neglect. Although, as is apparent from travelling around much of the East of the city, what the Germans consider as ‘deprived’ compares favourably with the Paris suburbs or parts of London.

Frederick's Brandenburg gate, Potsdam. You can still hear the stomp of his grenadiers...

Frederick’s Brandenburg gate, Potsdam. You can still hear the stomp of his grenadiers…

Berlin has also had a reputation for its nightlife and never being one to be shy……Elvis and dancing girls lightened the mood on Saturday night.

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No visit to Berlin would be complete without seeing the wall. Some of the artwork was astounding but the rest left me unimpressed and agreeing with the music lover below!

imageimageimageSachenhausen concentration camp was the destination on the last day. Hopefully the photos below give an indication. The casts of the inmates faces were especially striking. To actually see the location was disturbing. To actually stand where the inmates were murderered in their thousands is an experience that I don’t think I ever want to repeat.

The entrance to Hell

The entrance to Hell

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Racial theories tested out by classifying inmates’ survival rates. The photos of the deceased were just as moving.

imageThe museum is very informative but doesn’t really need to spell the horror out.

imageAs I mentioned, the Soviets added their own ideological idea of remembering the dead. I feel uneasy with the term ‘liberators’ for the army of Stalin. Unfortunately, History is rarely fair. I wonder if the Gulags will ever be school trip destinations? Our trip ended in Central Berlin with the views from the Television Tower in Alexanderplatz. It really does show just how far the Germans have come since the dark days of 1945.

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Pictures from the last day in Berlin. Not the lightest of itinaries but worthwhile I think.

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The wild ramblings of an infamous wit and wargames guru. One of nature's true gentlemen who devotes his time to the care of his two sons, i.e. watching episodes of Peppa Pig together, and recreating great moments of military history using toy soldiers. Currently a leading light in The Collectivo Despertaferres wargames and duelling association who meet regularly at Firestorm Games ( formerly Ali Baba's Carpet Warehouse). Find me also on Facebook "Despertaferres"!

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