Berlin – the last battle in Europe during World War 2

Brandenburg Gate at the end of WW2

The inner city as seen from the Brandenburg Gate at the end of WW2

Seventy-four years ago, on the 16th  of April 1945,  the final stage of the war against the Nazi Regime in Europe had begun. It is known as the Battle of Berlin.  I think it was more a dangerous mopping up of the remnants of a bad regime that had only spread “blood and tears” across a continent. Why it came to that, will be still discussed in a thousand years. Perhaps this is the only legacy of a regime that called itself “The Thousand Year Empire”. It lasted only twelve years.

Germans are such proficient people that it takes a mighty effort by others to undo or to rectify a situation created by them.

During the next few days, I will write about my own experience during those fateful days when death was stalking us all in Berlin. I was lucky enough not to have experienced a traumatic event. Those accounts will also contain a short diary written by my mother.

In English, there is the word “Downfall” for this period. But the Germans have another word for it, “Untergang“.  It is more the sinking of the regime, a “Götterdämmerung” of Wagnerian proportions. It is the total destruction, the submerging and burying of all remnants of the regime. After five-and-a-half years of war, Berlin was not recognisable anymore.

Anhalter Bahnhof (train station) around which one of the heaviest fighting took part

Anhalter Bahnhof (train station) around which some of the heaviest fightings took part

Out of ruins always something new grows. Over time and more historical events, Berlin was reborn because it was and is a resilient city. I had my own personal rebirth on my tenth birthday. More about it in a later post.

At the time, I lived with my mother and a great-aunt. My father was in the army trying to stop the Allies in Italy.  And we had no news from him for months. My two sisters were somewhere totally unknown to us. The Red Army was coming and for the second time, I heard the distant rumble of the artillery.

The stage was set for the final assault on Berlin.

15 thoughts on “Berlin – the last battle in Europe during World War 2

  1. Looking forward to read more about your personal experiences during that time. It is interesting that after 70 years you can still remember so much about it! 🙂

  2. There is an irony in all this: Remember, that the German generals couldn’t wait to use their sophisticated weaponry in WWI. Total destruction was the result. There is a lesson in what happened to the Germans that can be applied to all… Thanks for sharing.

    • Who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. The German population has learnt the lesson. The intellectuals have learnt it too. It is the weapons industry that is still pushing for conflict and sales.

  3. Very interesting post and comments. Having studied the wars at school and visiting Berlin some 30 odd years later, there was a real palpable sense of history and a little deeply veiled sadness, yet it is a fabulous city to visit. Some much history to see at every turn.

    • You are right, Berlin is the embodiment of 20th-century history. Perhaps it was because Berlin is an upstart, the youngest of the European capitals. But what people do not understand is, that the historic importance goes back to the 18th century. Here the enlightenment took form from the ideas of Voltaire and Kant.

      Fredric the Great created a city where ideas took shape and a spiritual revolution, in the form of the educational reforms initiated by Wilhelm von Humboldt, changed the universities of the world.

      • There is nothing quite as harrowing as to watch a city whose heart was bombed out.
        Of course there were far too many cities bombed. ‘Crimes against humanity’ are terms that would perhaps be used today. The problem is that generals and their newest pyrotechnical bathtub-toys take over from good sense.
        Again, a good insight into the folly of war. Thank you Berlioz.

      • In those day, I imagine there must have been much dialogue with the Universities in what is now Poland and the rest of Europe. I am not very familiar with the enlightenment in Berlin, but the city’s geographical position must have assisted its importance.

      • Of course the geographical position is very important. Immanuel Kant, who lived in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) was a regular and important contributor to the “Berlinische Monatsschrift” (Berlin Monthly). He communicated with the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn who was a supporter of the enlightenment which in turn brought about the emancipation of the Jews in Prussia. Kant himself called the Enlightenment the “Century of Frederic”.

        Further to the “Berlin Monthly”

  4. Pingback: Reflections on Travel | auntyuta

  5. Great intro. Breath well and truly bated.

    One of my favourite WWII histories is Antony Beevor’s “Stalingrad”. Unputdownable !

    Your photography of the railway station reminded me of the fierce fighting around the station in Stalingrad – which, if memory is correct, changed hands five or six times.

    Beevor has another volume I’ll dig out now and see what he says about Berlin. Thank you for that and looking forward to a more intimate history,

    Kind regards MJ

    • Thank you, MJ for following my blog. It has become a bit quieter lately all because of my ill health which takes up so much of my time. But you can always engage with me in the comment section or by email. If you are interested in my war experiences you will find lots of posts, fictional and nonfictional.

      Antony Beevor’s “Berlin – the Downfall 1945” is a great account of the battle.

      • Thanks to you too Berlioz. Beevor has an excellent research team and he’s a very good writer. Stalingrad presented the battle from both the Russian and German sides. It was a terribly cruel situation for both sides with no retreat for either- KGB threatening the families of Russian soldiers and the German Generals not in a position to change Hitler’s mind. And the Russian winter …. with a seemingly unlimited supply of Russian men from the East …. it was never going to be one that Germany could win. Poor bastards both sides.

  6. Stalingrad was an epic battle. For the Russians, survival was at stake and the love of their motherland, a quasi-religion for them played a big part. Cowardness is a big no-no in Russia. Vasily Chuikov, a great General, he was there at Stalingrad and in the end was able to secure the surrender of German forces in Berlin. He had his headquarter on 100m from where I grew up. More than two million casualties at Stalingrad makes it the greatest battle of all times. Germany could not lose an army and it went downhill from there on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s