Berlin, Germany, 1959

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I took these pictures (except the one of me) on a trip to Berlin in Fall or Winter 1959. That's two years before the Wall went up. It was wet with dense fog the whole time.

  1. Brandenburg Gate
  2. Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche
  3. Reichstag
  4. Ruine
  5. Soviet War Memorial
  6. Soviet War Memorial Guards
  7. Soviet War Memorial Inscription
  8. British Sector Sign
  9. Achtung! Sie verlassen nach 40m West-Berlin

Like Germany itself, Berlin was divided into four sectors of occupation: American, British, French, Soviet. Berlin was inside the Soviet sector (East Germany, the German Democratic Republic). In 1959, you could walk right through the Brandenburg gate to East Berlin. No checkpoints, no guards. Subways ran back and forth too. If you want to see some good footage of this, I highly recommend these excellent films:

The Kaiser Wilhelm church ruin was preserved as a reminder of the consequences of war. The Reichstag (parliament building) was burned down by Nazis in 1933 (there is still some controversy about this; do a Web search on "reichstag fire" to find lots of material and draw your own conclusions), then blamed on the Communists as a pretext for suspending civil rights and due process. The Soviet War Memorial commemorates the 20 million people of the Soviet Union who died in the German invasion; placing it in West Berlin was a major public relations coup. It was guarded by a small contingent of Red Army soldiers, who marched in solemn slow motion around it. 2500 Soviet troops are buried here. CLICK HERE for a recent large color photo of the memorial. It's still there, but no more Red Army.

Reference:
      Berlin Mitte und die Welt – wie sie einmal war 1914-1989, P.J. Ortmann, published by the author (2009).

Offsite link:   Soviet War Memorial

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Berlin 1959 Photos / Frank da Cruz / fdc@columbia.edu / August 2003, revised March 2010, December 2012, January 2013.