"Wandering the City #5 - Topographie des Terrors" Topography of Terror Tip by johngayton
Topography of Terror, Berlin: 28 reviews and 65 photos
The square boundaried by the streets of Wilhelmstrasse, Anhalter Strasse and Niederkirchnerstrasse was the location of the offices of the Gestapo and the SS, the two authorities responsible for most of the of the horrific war crimes and internal terrorism during the Nazi regime.
The Gestapo were the state's secret police who's remit included suppression of perceived threats both to the Nazi party and to the state. They were given "carte blanche" to eradicate dissent and to ensure that the "Party Line" was stricly adhered to. This task the organisation took on with fervour and because they were outwith the judicial system became a law unto themselves.
They did though have one "check and balance" legal requirement - any person arrested had to sign the "Schutzhaftbefehl", a declaration that the person arrested had requested imprisonment. This was of course a mockery as they would simply torture any non-signers until they did so or died in the denial.
Although renowned for meticulous record-keeping records were manipulated, lost and destroyed and any figures put forward by historians as to the numbers of people executed (directly or indirectly) by the Gestapo are merely speculative.
The SS began as a small bodyguard for the Nazi hierarchy which on the lead up to, and during, the Second World War became the singular most powerful policing and military authority throughout the Third Reich.
As with the Gestapo the SS operated outside normal judicial procedures, its instructions coming directly from Hitler via Heinrich Himmler (or sometimes without Hitler's instructions at all, merely Himmler's expectation of Hitler's wishes). The SS mostly operated outside of Germany and comprised a mix of elite front-line combat units, a political police prescence within the regular Wermacht army and most horrendously as supervision for the death camps of the Holocaust .
Numbers-wise the SS were responsible for the vast majority of the Nazi regime's death toll which once again is impossible to put final figures on due to records being lost, destroyed or just not being written-up in the first place.
All scary stuff.
The offices of both organisations were pretty much destroyed during the Allied bombings and their demolition completed during the occupation of Berlin at the end of the war. The site was never redeveloped and was cleared in the early 1960's.
The modern exposition centre was built in 1997 which has archives and photographs of the years of terror from the Nazi era and the bleak-shingled square which will never be further developed works as a harsh reminder as to what so-called civilized people can do to each other.
So just as a sort of digressionary sum-up - Let's not be so critical about the present day World situations in other places such as Afghanistan, Muslim terrorism and tribal warfare in Africa - it was only 70 years ago we were doing this ourselves.
Address: Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin
Directions: Between Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdamer Platz.
Phone: +49 - 30 2545090
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