Walking around the site of former Nazi headquarters – The Topography of Terrors

You’ve read about the war in history books, you’ve seen photos detailing the horrors of the Nazi regime in World War Two, but now you’re about to step into a building on the former site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters. The very site that the human manifestation of true evil plotted their atrocities.

In 1945 allied bombs damaged the original buildings and in 1956 they were torn down. The once most-feared street in Berlin was called Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, but it was renamed Niederkirchnerstraße in 1951.

An exhibition first took place in 1987, and the Gestapo cellar where they tortured political prisoners was excavated. However the indoor and outdoor museum experienced funding struggles, so work was halted. But in 2010 the permanent grey box building was completed after being designed by award winning architects Ursula Wilms and Heinz W. Hallmann.

Interestingly the building is also situated behind the second largest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. According to the Topography of Terrors website, the 200 metre long wall had “been preserved with all the traces of the destruction that occurred during the transitional period.”

It was truly harrowing, but I believe it was an important place to visit.

When I first walked through the doors of the museum, my sleep deprived mind couldn’t truly appreciate where I was. It wasn’t until I saw the model of Nazi government offices, that the reality started to sink in. Offices such as the Reich Main Security Office and Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda were housed here. These offices controlled the Gestapo, criminal police and the SS.

The antisemitic and racist Nuremberg laws would have been planned here. They were for what they called ‘the protection of German Blood and German Honour.’ It was astonishing to think I was walking the same steps as the people who planned and implemented this horrific legislation.

It is chilling to stare into evil, with all of the heinous crimes laid bare for everyone to read.

I remember vividly learning about the Holocaust in year 7 at school. We watched The Pianist, and I was horrified and deeply saddened so much so that I when I got home I cried my eyes out. So I wasn’t sure how I’d feel when I entered the Topography of Terrors. It was truly harrowing, but I believe it was an important place to visit.

As you venture through the exhibition titled, “Berlin 1933–1945: Between Propaganda and Terror,” you read all about how Hitler took control of the German government. It documents all the precise details of the Nazi regime, and showcases black and white photography of these monsters. It is a place to put faces to the names you have read about. It is chilling to stare into evil, with all of the heinous crimes laid bare for everyone to read.

A photo which shocked me was of German women with their heads shaved being paraded by the Gestapo for having relations with prisoners of the state. There was also a wall of faces who were deemed as enemies for defying Nazi rule. Seeing individuals really added humanity to the terror, and made you feel emotional because you can only imagine the persecution they faced.

Upon my visit to the Topography of Terror, I had to take a moment to reflect, there was a lot of information on display and I wanted to appreciate the significance of what I saw. It makes you feel sadness and then anger, it makes you so angry you hope and pray that nothing like this will ever happen again.

This really is a dark tourist attraction in Berlin, but one of high importance which I think everyone should see.

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