West Berlin’s Soviet Heritage – The Tiergarten Soviet War Memorial
The preliminary final of my photo series “East Germany’s Soviet Heritage” is dedicated to a paradox, that is the first of Berlin’s big Soviet commemorative sites as well as the only Soviet War Memorial on the territory of West Berlin. The monument was guarded by Red Army soldiers around the clock and is located within sight of Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. It was a Soviet and Communist thorn in the western side.
After WWII not only Berlin but the majority of East Germany got first liberated and then occupied by Soviet Union’s Red Army. The consolidation known to us as East and West, as “Good and Evil” was defined by the Potsdam Conference being held in 1945 at Cecilienhof Castle. There the Three Heads of Governments decided about later sectors and country frontiers, and of course also about Berlin.
An unusual role played the Tiergarten War Memorial, as its construction started shortly after May 8th, 1945. It is located exactly where the future East-West and North-South axis of Welthauptstadt Germania capital met each other, as initially planned by Albert Speer and Hitler. The Soviet monument is meant to block that Nazi endeavour architectonically. Inaugurated on November 11th, 1945 the Tiergarten memorial honours the ~80.000 Soviet soldiers fallen in the Battle of Berlin. Before its inauguration, but after constructions have started the Potsdam Conference took place and “shifted” the memorial site suddenly to West Berlin as the North-South line along Brandenburg Gate has been defined as sector border.
As long as Germany was divided into East and West, the Tiergarten memorial was protected; protected by very loyal Soviet soldiers, that technically seen stood honour guard on enemy ground. At the latest when the Berlin Wall got erected, sealing the East off the West, the last but important memorial along the combat route of 1st Belorussian Front rose to the position of being a Soviet thorn in Western flesh.
The West Berliners unleashed all their Anti-Communist fury on the more than 2.000 soldiers buried in the Tiergarten commemorative site. The rancour culminated in Ekkehard Weil’s attack on one of the Soviet guard soldiers, when the Neo Nazi shot him down. Since then the Brits closed off the monument from the public and let the Soviets stand honour guard alone.
Surprisingly the situation today didn’t change a lot as the barriers along the main avenue Straße des 17. Juni are still looking as if Brits and Soviets have never ever left… However, today the barriers don’t keep Neo Nazis away but are solely left behind due to Berlin Senate being bone idle as the avenue of Straße des 17. Juni is venue for fan fest after fan fest every five minutes anew. Plebs must be kept entertained and amused, hence the barriers became a mirror of fun industry as well as the quality of our Airport-tested Berlin Senate…
One approaches the Tiergarten Soviet War Memorial through two gates; one being formed by two typical agile Soviet T-34 tanks, that are said to be the first tanks to have arrived Berlin, and a second gate being formed by two heavy howitzers, that were in action in the Battle of Berlin as well as saluted when the war was over. In the end one stands in front of an up to 20 metres high monument being created of bent colonnades carrying a 6 metres tall bronze statue of a Soviet soldier with fixed bayonet. Architect Nicolay V. Sergievsky teamed up with nationally famous sculptors Lev E. Kerbel and Vladimir E. Zigal.