I have become aware of the above photo through the Face Book pages of the Berlin Wartourist.
The picture was taken (April 1945) perhaps 500 meters from were I was taking shelter from the fighting during the battle of Berlin. The headquarters of the 8th Guards Army, with General Vasily Chuikov the commanding officer, was just around the corner from where the picture was taken.
At first I thought it is just another battle picture but on second thoughts I’m sure it is not. Firstly, there was no heavy fighting in my area. I never saw a fighting German soldier in my life. Dead one? Yes, but somewhere else. We kept our heads down in the cellar. My mother went out to get some food and had to take cover because someone shot at her.
What most likely happened was, that some Russians horsed around to take some snaps. There was no reason to take the tank onto the heap of rubble. Any German would have been long gone. But then again there is a lot of symbolism in the picture.
The debris represents the smashed Germany, the tank is the victorious Soviet military machine threatening a symbol of Western civilisation, the Church. We must not forget that Germany was after all a Christian country. By its behaviour you wouldn’t have known it. The Catholic Church always believed that Germany, and his Führer, could be be in the forefront against Bolshevism. The picture is the result of such thinking.
And there is another thing. If you look, you can see a street sign in the front of the church’s roof. It says, Manfred-von-Richthofen-Straße ! This was the name of the famous Red Baron from the Great War. His name almost covered by the rubble of WW II.
There is another picture, possibly at the same corner. One of tanks is said to have hit a landmine. The same church can be seen in the background.
The church belonged to our parish “The Church on the Field of Tempelhof”. We could not use the church for our confirmation, because it was still damaged. In 1954 my sister married in it. This field used to be a marching ground for the military of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
So, this is the final symbolism, the Soviet tank is smashing the German militarism right in its heart. I don’t think the Russian soldiers in their exuberance of victory were considering all that.
This is the same street corner now. Peace has been restored and we don’t want any more conflict,