This post is a compilation and overview of museums, memorials, and other related places in Berlin concerning the Third Reich and the Second World War.
Learn about the victims of the Nazis, as well as those who resisted them, and the eventual downfall of the regime.
In this section, we cover 16 museums that document and exhibit the atrocities of the ultimate plans of the Nazi Regime, resistance to the regime, as well as to the regime's last days.
Several locations are actually memorials, but we've included them here because of the significant size and importance of their on-site museums and exhibit centres.
Officially, this is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), however, it is more commonly referred to as the Holocaust Memorial.
Underneath the main memorial is the information centre, a museum, and exhibit space.
In this small museum, you’ll learn about Holocaust experiences through several themed rooms.
One room displays the personal papers of those soon seized by the Nazis and taken away to internment and death.
It includes diaries and letters discussing their terrifying experiences under the ruling regime.
A second room covers the stories of 15 Jewish families, before, during, and after they were seized.
A third room highlights the people trapped in this genocide, an incomprehensible six million of them.
Their biographies are read as their names, dates of birth, and year of death are projected onto the four walls of the room.
The final room covers, through photographs and film, the hundreds of places the Nazis built to persecute and exterminate Jews and any others they decided should be destroyed.
The museum also includes an overview of the Nazi policy, a video archive of interviews with survivors, and a reading room.
The memorial center is located in the former BendlerBlock, the historic set of buildings used by the German military and the site of one of Hitler’s well-known speeches.
It is also the location where Wehrmacht officers who were part of the resistance attempted to assassinate Adolf Hilter. This came to be known as the 20 July Plot.
The story can be seen in the Tom Cruise movie, Valkyrie.
Permanent exhibits cover those who resisted National Socialism, resistant networks, resistant activities, and the efforts made by the state to stop them.
It has over 1,000 photographs and documents and attempts to answer the question of why and how people and groups stood up against the Nazis.
In English, unterwelten means underworlds. And the Berlin Unterwelten is an organization that takes visitors on tours of bunkers, air raid shelters, and tunnels.
One of its permanent exhibits, located at Gesundbrunnen subway station, covers The Myth of Germania.
Germania was the vision that Hitler had for Germany after he succeeded in victory in WWII. Of course, he didn’t succeed.
The multimedia exhibit covers these plans, one that would have had to be achieved through “expulsion, deportation, and slave labour”.
It includes various artifacts in addition to a large-scale model of plans for Berlin, one originally created for the 2004 film “Der Untergang”.
This free museum and memorial stand on the site of the former SS Reich Security Main Office and the Gestapo and SS Headquarters, near a length of the old Berlin Wall.
There is a massive open-air museum as well as an indoor one.
The permanent exhibit covers three areas:
- 1) the rise, chilling result of, and eventual fall of Nazism
- 2) the propaganda employed by the Nazis
- 3) an overview of the site in its prewar form and its conversion after. It also includes special exhibits.
For those interested in the history of Berlin in the 20th century, this is a must-see.
There are display boards full of information and photographs, all telling the stories of people who lived through one of the darkest times in history.
Many terrible things happened at this location.
It might be difficult for a lot of visitors to experience some of those atrocities and see where they took place.
This concentration and forced labor camp interned more than 200,000 individuals during the war, including Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and anyone else Nazis deemed “inferior”.
Thousands upon thousands were murdered there.
Today visitors can tour the site, a place of memorial and remembrance, seeing the gun tower, barracks, cells, crematorium, and much more.
Berlin Bunker Story (Berlin Story Museum)
The Berlin Story Museum is located in a former air-raid shelter/ bunker at Anhalter Station.
It takes visitors through 800 years of Berlin's history using 30 individual displays.
One display, the Berlin Bunker Story, is an exhibit covering Hilter.
It’s in fact a reconstruction of the bunker where he committed suicide.
The exhibit covers his history, how he rose to power, the anti-semitism that led to the holocaust, and those who willingly participated.
The Nazi exhibit at the German Historical Museum attempts to answer how the Holocaust happened.
How did Hitler rise to power? Why were so many willing to side with the Nazis? What did Hilter say and to entice so many to join him?
This museum is not located in Berlin but in the nearby city of Potsdam.
At this location in 1942, members of the SS and other representatives of the State met to coordinate the implementation of the “Final Solution”.
This was the plan to annihilate European Jews, all 11 million of them.
Exhibits include information on participants, such as Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked with the logistics of sending Jews to concentration camps and ghettos.
There are also copies of documents, special exhibits, garden exhibits, and guided tours.
This church, originally built in the late 1800s, and damaged in WWII air raids, stands in remembrance of the war.
When plans were made to tear it down, the outcry led to a repair that preserved the damaged bell tower as a reminder of the horrors of war.
Inside the church is the Hall of Remembrance.
Here you’ll find a memorial to WWII that includes historical illustrations of the church and discusses the theme of reconciliation.
On display are an iron cross from Russia and a memorial commemorating Protestant martyrs of the Nazi regime amongst other items.
In 1945, on this site, the German Wehrmacht signed surrender papers in front of representatives from Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the US.
Today it holds a permanent exhibition on “Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II”, which opened on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
Inside are objects related to the withdrawal of Soviet/Russian troops from the GDR, documents and letters, photographs, military equipment, and more.
There are guided tours, special workshops, and special events as well.
The museum is on the site of a preserved forced labor camp.
It represents the thousands of camps where up to 26 million humans were forced to work under the Nazi regime.
Exhibitions show what daily life was like in these camps.
Exhibits also include a history of Italian military internees, a Barracks building, and much more.
Otto Weidt owned a broom and brush workshop where he mostly employed blind and deaf Jews.
The museum tells the story of how he worked to protect these people from the Nazi regime, including providing them with false papers, hiding them in his shop, and even rescuing workers who had been taken to ghettos or extermination camps.
The museum is on the location of his former shop and includes photographs, personal documents, stories of his workers, and more.
Note: The museum is currently undergoing renovations and will be closed between January 1st and May 1st, 2023.
The museum is a memorial to those who resisted the Nazis, both non-Jewish and Jewish and worked to save those that the Nazis wished to murder.
It covers rescue networks and rescue attempts, and the “silent heroes” who put themselves at risk to defy the evil that had entered their world.
This memorial is part of the German Resistance Memorial Center Foundation
The Jewish Museum in Berlin is one of the most-frequented museums of Jewish arts, culture, and history in the world, with nearly one million visitors per year.
A visit to the museum is an opportunity to pay homage to over two thousand years of Jewish history in Europe and to recognize both historical and contemporary Jewish contributions to Germany.
In addition to its stunning architecture and vast permanent collection, regularly rotating temporary exhibits are also on display.
While the museum offers visitors a chance to confront the horrors of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, it also provides a meaningful alternative story by presenting the many highs of Jewish history and culture.
Through their exhibit “All about Anne” visitors will learn about Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl whose diary so impacted the world.
It covers her childhood, her time in hiding from the Nazis, and the last six months of her life as she was found, moved to concentration camps and eventually died.
It also explains the power and impact of her diary and makes clear why it's as important today as it ever was.
This museum, founded by pacifist and writer Ernst Friedrich, is aimed mostly at young people.
Its goal is to “encourage tolerance and understanding between all people”.
The museum covers the horrors of war through photos, documents, and items from WWI and WW2.
It also includes an air raid shelter, a world map of current trouble spots, information on the peace movement, and an art gallery.
Officially, this is the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe, but it is more commonly referred to as the Holocaust Memorial.
It was opened in 2005, with the architect having intentionally designed it to convey a sense of discomfort and confusion.
He was inspired by the tale of a woman sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz and the disorientation and fear that gripped her from the moment she arrived.
There are paths between 2,711 high concrete slabs of varying heights, from 20cm (8 inches) to 5 m (15 ft).
Other than the memorial’s name, there are no symbols, no names of victims, and no names of concentration camps.
There are also no mentions of Jews or Judaism. Even the number of concrete slabs has no significance
Beneath it lies a small museum that tells you about the persecution and extermination of European Jews, about sites of mass murder and concentration camps, and most touching, the stories of the many who perished.
Bebelplatz is a historic square in the Mette district of Berlin.
It was here on May 10, 1933, that members of the Nazi Student Union, as well as their professors, held a book burning.
In fact, a nationwide call had been made to students to purge universities of “Jewish Intellectualism”.
A crowd of 40,000 gathered as petrol was poured over around 20,000 books and lit aflame.
The books were chosen according to a blacklist, ones it had been said led to moral decay and an “un-German spirit”.
They included works from authors such as Sigmund Freud, Heinrich Mann, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, August Bebel, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, and many others.
Many of the authors of those books had already been persecuted and fled, although some were present that night.
Today there is a simple but effective memorial in Bebelplatz, one designed by Israeli artist Micha Ullman and completed in 1995.
To the west side of the square is a glass plate flush with the pavement through which visitors can see an underground library with space for 20,000 books. It is filled only with empty bookshelves.
This memorial represents both the book burning and the cultural loss that occurred as a result of the Holocaust as many Jewish intellectuals, writers, and artists were killed by the Nazis.
The memorial includes a plaque that says, “Where they burn books, they will also burn people”, a quote from a play written over 100 years before the 1933 book burning.
This memorial park, the largest in Berlin, was built after WWII.
It was created to symbolize the fall of Nazism and to memorialize the 80,000 Red Army Soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin, over 7,000 of whom were buried on the site.
Over 9 hectares (22 acres) were set aside for these purposes.
At one end is a 12 m (almost 40 feet) bronze statue of a Soviet soldier, cradling a German child with one arm and crushing a broken swastika beneath his feet.
At the other end are two large arches. In between you’ll find a statue called “Mother Homeland” and 16 limestone sarcophagi.
This memorial was the first of three put up by the Red Army in Berlin.
It was built between the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate to symbolize the shattering of the Nazi dream and to memorialize some of those who made that happen.
The names of officers who died in the Battle of Berlin are engraved there on stone sarcophagi, and over 2,000 Red Army soldiers are buried behind the memorial.
There is also a semicircular stoa with inscriptions, fountains, and a bronze sculpture representing the end of WWII.
The red sandstone memorial in a park off of Rose Street stands in honor of the 600 brave women who led a week-long protest against Nazi authorities who had locked up their family members.
It was a resistance that no one could have imagined would be successful.
The SS and Gestapo had rounded up 8,000 Jews, tearing them away from their families with plans to expel them from Berlin and Vienna.
Around 1,800 of these men were married to non-Jewish women; all were housed together on Rose Street.
It was here that the wives of these men gathered to protest.
In fear of wider protests, and with plans to gather them again later, Joseph Goebbels, chief propagandist for the Nazi party, ordered their release.
The peaceful civil disobedience of the women defeated the Nazis and returned their family members to them.
The homosexuals memorial in Tiergarten Park is dedicated to those individuals, at least 100,000 of them, arrested by the Nazis and accused of the “crime” of homosexuality.
Many ended up in concentration camps, where few survived, murdered for being a “threat” to the German race.
Sadly this memorial was a long time in coming as the persecution of homosexuals wasn’t much discussed until the 1980s.
The memorial was unveiled in 2008.
The gray concrete slab, similar to those blocks in the nearby Holocaust memorial, has a small window in which can be seen a video of two men or two women kissing.
A plaque on the side provides information in English and German.
Another group the Nazis targeted was the Sinti and Romas, a nomadic people.
They had long been treated poorly, called antisocial and “beggars and thieves”.
Once racial laws were introduced they were deemed racially inferior and a threat to Aryan blood.
Both suffered under forced sterilization and medical experiments.
They had to register with the police and were sent to forced labor camps and concentration camps.
Up to 500,000 are thought to have been murdered, up to a fourth of the population.
Their experience was called “the forgotten holocaust” by some, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that it started to be recognized.
Their memorial is a dark pool of water, representing the tears of survivors.
In the center is a triangular stone, the shape of the badges worn by concentration camp prisoners.
It was opened in 2012 and sits in Tiergarten.
This memorial commemorates those politicians, and members of the Reichstag, who stood in resistance to Hitler and the Nazis.
96 of them were murdered, represented by the 96 cast iron plates of the memorial.
The plates have the names, birth dates, and death dates of those brave men and women.
The memorial, which was erected in 1992, can be found in front of the Reichstag.
Hilter ordered the killings of those deemed “less than”, under the guise of a “mercy killing”, a campaign called Aktion T4.
These included newborns and young children, anyone who had a physical deformity or showed signs of mental retardation.
It soon extended to older children and adults, covering anyone with physical or neurological conditions including mental illness, senility, STDs, and epilepsy.
It also included those they believed did not have “pure” German blood such as Jews, Roma, Siti, and black people.
Clinics were eventually established for the murders. It was there that some of the first gassing experiments took place.
Families were told their loved ones died of medical causes.
Eventually, folks learned about it due to the increase in crematorium smoke around these centers of death.
The program later moved on, using starvation and drugging methods of euthanasia.
It is thought that over 300,000 people lost their lives in the various programs.
The Victims of Euthanasia Memorial, on the grounds of Tiergarten, was erected in 2011 to commemorate these victims.
It is made up of a 24-meter (79-foot) wall made of blue glass and includes an exhibit that provides information on these horrendous murders.
George Elser was a carpenter who opposed Nazism from the start.
He was a member of left-leaning groups and hated Nazi party members.
He felt strongly that war was on the horizon and that Hitler needed to be assassinated.
In November 1939, a day shy of the 5th year anniversary of the previous bombing attempt to end Hilter’s life, Elser was ready to make his move.
He had hidden 110 lbs of explosives in the room in which Hitler was going to make a speech. In fact, he spent over a month preparing the space for maximum destruction.
Unfortunately, Hilter left the room early. The bomb went off, killing 8 others.
Elser was arrested, interrogated, and tortured for five years, eventually dying in Dachau concentration camp.
The Georg Elser memorial is a 5 m (17 foot) silhouette of his profile.
LEDs light it up at night and two quotes from his interrogation are on the sidewalk including, “I wanted to prevent war”.
This cemetery on the west side of Berlin was founded in 1945 as the final resting place for commonwealth prisoners of war and aircrew who died in air raids in and around Berlin.
The British chose this site after the end of the war, bringing bodies from other locations to be buried here.
There are 3,595 gravestones here, with graves for those from the British Raj, Canada, Britain, and elsewhere.
There’s a stone of remembrance, a cross of sacrifice, and a terrace of stone, all laid out in a well-kept park of green grass surrounded by trees.
The Reichstag is the seat of government in Germany, home of the German parliament.
The stunning building is a mix of Baroque, Renaissance styles, amongst others, and is one of the most visited sites in Berlin.
It was here that Hilter, after rising to the head of the Nazi party, made moves to claim power over all of Germany.
A fire set in the building was called the work of Communists, leading to the removal of many elected Communist politicians and a clampdown was made on freedom of speech, press, and privacy.
Hilter and his ministers were eventually assigned all legislative power and outlawed all parties other than the Nazi party.
Once the Soviets invaded near the end of the war, they took control of the Reichstag, planting a flag and leaving loads of graffiti on its walls.
The graffiti was discovered during renovations and kept in honor of history.
There is an archive of German Members of Parliament in the basement that include 5,000 metal boxes with the names of democratically elected members of the German Parliament.
A single black box represents the years when there were no democratically elected members. And a black band represents those who were killed by the Nazis.
In the dome, there is an exhibit covering German parliamentary history and that of the Reichstag itself.
And just outside is the Memorial to Murdered Members of the Reichstag.
Today visitors can visit parts of the building, including the dome.
There are also 90-minute tours on offer when Parliament is not sitting.
Great views of Berlin can be found in the restaurant next to the roof garden.
The first Brandenburg Gate was constructed in 1734 as a grand entrance and gateway into Berlin.
The gate was designed in the Baroque style and was decorated with sculptures and ornamentation.
It was a significant landmark in the city and was used as a ceremonial entrance for visiting dignitaries and officials.
It was later replaced by a neoclassical triumphal arch, one finished in 1791 that still stands today.
It was modeled in sandstone after an ancient gate to the Acropolis in Athens.
Atop the gate sits a chariot with Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, overlooking the city.
In 1933 Hitler’s crew of SS officers and brown-shirted stormtroopers marched through the gate with torches the night he was appointed chancellor.
It also became part of his 50th birthday when he, his followers, and a parade marched through it.
During WW2 the gate was heavily damaged by Allied bombing, and after the war, it fell within the “death strip” of land between the East and West Berlin walls - reminding all of the division between the two.
It was fortified with a three-meter thick barrier and a GDR information center was installed so visitors to East Berlin could learn about the “anti-fascist protective wall”.
Later it became the backdrop for speeches by American Presidents Kennedy in 1963 and Reagan in 1987.
President Kennedy made one of his more memorable and significant speeches, reaffirming the United States' commitment to the defense of Western Europe and the protection of freedom.
He called on the Soviet Union to join the United States in working towards peace and understanding, stating: "Let us persevere in the search for peace, armed with the knowledge that peace is the only alternative to war."
President Reagan, in his speech, called on the Soviet Union to tear down the wall that had divided Berlin for over 25 years.
In a speech that was hailed as a turning point in the Cold War Reagan said, "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
On December 22, 1989, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl walked through the gate to meet East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow signaling the reunification of the two parts of Berlin.
And it was here that massive crowds gathered to celebrate the fall of the Wall.
In recent years, the Brandenburg Gate has become a popular tourist destination, as well as a site for political demonstrations and events.
Despite its tumultuous history, the Brandenburg Gate stands as a symbol of hope and unity, and it continues to be a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
It is a testament to the resilience of the German people and serves as a reminder of the power of peace and unity.
This massive building was opened in 1936 as “Reichsluftfahrtministerium”, the Ministry of Aviation.
The building of this 2000-office modern-design block was part propaganda, meant to provide jobs to Berliners and to signal economic recovery from WW1.
After the war, as it was located in the Soviet occupation zone, the GDR (German Democratic Republic) was founded within her walls and it became the “House of the Ministries”.
After reunification it again changed focus, becoming the “Treuhandanstalt”, (“trust agency”) which was responsible for privatizing East German enterprises that had been nationalized.
After that group moved to another building, the building was renamed the Detlev Rohwedder Building in honor of the CEO of “Treuhandanstalt” that had been assassinated.
It is today the Federal Department of Finance. Memorials outside the building honor various figures, including a German resistance hero and a Soviet spy who helped accelerate victory over Hitler.
Although Hitler’s Bunker, the Führerbunker, no longer exists, you can visit its former location in the back of the Reich Chancellery Gardens.
Fittingly, remains lie under a parking lot and there is no memorial on the site.
The bunker, a highly sophisticated product of German war technology, was built as a pair of underground concrete air raid shelters.
It had 30 rooms covering 250 square meters (2,700 square feet) and had several exits.
Because it was deep below the surface, groundwater was a problem, and pumping was necessary.
It also had a ventilation system that protected against lethal gas, and its own diesel generator.
It was from the shelter that Hilter ran the Third Reich’s government starting January 16, 1945.
Joseph Goebbels, his wife, and six children moved into the shelter, as did Hilter’s companion Eva Braun in the following months.
Hitler and Braun committed suicide on April 29th, and Goebbel and his wife poisoned their children and committed suicide just a few days later.
On May 7th, 1945, Berlin unconditionally surrendered and the Soviet Army took occupation of all government buildings, including the bunker.
The GDR government eventually destroyed the entire bunker when building a parking lot and residential buildings above it.
The old Reich Chancellery was the location of Hitler’s home and office.
The building, Rococo in design, had been a palace once owned by Prince Antoni Radziwill.
Prior to Hilter’s residence, it had served as the office of Otto von Bismark and later of President Paul von Hindenberg.
Hitler ordered the construction of a New Chancellery for his office, something that would be impressive and imposing.
The architect Albert Speer was tasked with designing and ensuring the construction of the New Chancellery, something that cost 90,000,000 Reichsmark (over a billion dollars in today's money).
A garden was shared between the Old and New Chancellery, and a stairway from the new building was built down to Hitler’s bunker.
Both the Old and New Chancellery buildings were severely damaged in the war, especially during the 1945 Battle of Berlin.
After the war, they were eventually demolished by the Soviets.
It is believed that some of the marble was used for other projects and monuments around the city.
The original plans for the Olympic Stadium were spurred by Germany’s winning host of the 1916 Summer Olympics.
The games were canceled due to WWI, but Germany again won a chance to host, this time the 1936 Summer Olympics.
As the Nazi party had come to power in 1933, this gave them an opportunity to spread its propaganda.
Hilter commissioned an enormous sports complex. Construction took two years, and the complex covered 132 Hectares (326 acres) of land.
It included various sporting venues including the 50k seat Maifeld, the 25k seat Waldbühne amphitheater, and the 110k seat Olympiastadion, complete with a special stand for Adolf Hitler and his entourage.
The only significant part of the complex to be destroyed during the war was the Bell Tower, a 77-meter tall spectacle used as an observation deck by officials.
During the final battle of WWII, the Soviet army fought to gain control of the stadium, but there wasn’t much damage caused at the time.
After the fall of Hitler's Third Reich, the stadium was briefly used as barracks for the British army, who used the Bell Tower for anti-tank target practice.
Since then, Olympic Stadium has become the official home of Berlin's Hertha BSC soccer team and the host of the annual German Cup.
Tempelhof is a retired airport (closed in 2008) that lies close to Berlin's city center.
Its name is derived from the Knights Templar who owned the land claimed by the airport today.
Its earliest associations with aviation were in 1909 when Orville Wright (and others) conducted demonstration flights.
Twenty years later, the first Tempelhof Airport was created.
However, the building that exists today owes its creation to the Nazi government.
The Nazis planned for the airport to serve as the grand gateway to Germany, the planned new German capital city.
Strangely enough, the Nazis would not use the airport for flights during WW2. Rather, the airport's buildings served as weapons and munitions factories.
The airport was a critical factor in the Berlin Airlift.,
Today, the airport is a recreation center and many of its buildings are used for offices, event space, guided tours, and as housing for refugees.