Our tour through Berlin led us to the Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten, which is located directly on the Straße des 17.Juni, less than 300 meters from the Reichstag.
After the end of the Second World War, the Red Army erected four Soviet memorials in Berlin. The memorial in Treptower Park, the memorial in Schönholzer Heide, the memorial in Bucher Schlosspark and the memorial in Tiergarten. They are intended to commemorate the 80,000 soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin. In addition to their function as memorials, there are also military cemeteries.
Interesting facts about the Soviet memorial in Tiergarten
The choice of location for the monument had apparently been well thought out by the clients. The immediate proximity to the burned-out Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, the most important symbols of the Soviet victory of the war, was supposed to demonstrate the superiority of the victors.
It is claimed that part of the building material (especially the marble) was taken by the Soviets from the demolished Reich Chancellery and used in the memorial. But more details about it are not known.
German workers took over the construction of the memorial. They had only a short time to erect the memorial. It was not completely finished until the opening. At first, the statue was only a gilded dummy and could only be replaced a year later.
On November 11, 1945 the memorial was inaugurated. The highest-ranking Soviet representative, Marshal Žukov, was present. The other Allied forces sent only representatives of the “subdivisions of the Allied garrison of Berlin”.
The financing of the installation was the responsibility of the Berlin Magistrate. With the construction of the Wall, the monument was now located in the British sector and guarded by Red Army soldiers. The East Berlin city administration had to pay for the financial upkeep and maintenance of the grounds. Gardeners from East Berlin, who were allowed to travel to the West for their work with special travel documents, took over the care of the garden.
Location and guarding of the memorial
After the division of Berlin, the Soviet monument was located in the British sector of the city. However, the four-power status allowed it to be guarded by Soviet soldiers.
In 1970, after a right-wing extremist attack on the memorial in which a soldier was injured, British soldiers were additionally always present. The entire site was cordoned off by iron bars along a 400-meter section to the opposite side of the street on the orders of the British military administration and was not reopened until April 1987.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the British tightened their security measures once again because of concerns that the gravesite would be desecrated.
Until 22.12.1990 there were daily honor guards of the Soviet Army or the Russian Army at the Soviet Memorial in Tiergarten. After that, the state of Berlin took over the site and now there are no more soldiers there. Until today, Germany is obliged by agreement to maintain the gravesite and the memorial.
Tour of the facility
We enter the memorial at the rear entrance. Here are lawns under which graves of an estimated 2000 – 2500 Red Army soldiers who died in the fighting for Berlin in April and May 1945 are said to lie. It is noticeable that not one gravestone is to be seen. If I had not read the sign with the corresponding information at the entrance, I would not have known that I was walking through a cemetery here. Only later, at the pillars of the memorial, I discover plates with names, which give an identity to a part of the dead.
Through a gate you come to an area where the former accommodation houses of the soldiers on guard duty are located. Today, you can read everything worth knowing about the monument on boards here.
Another area overgrown with hedges separates the development from the stairs leading up to the monument. Here are two small fountains, which were not in operation during our visit.
If you go up the stairs you can step through the pillars to the other side of the monument and then reach the forecourt via some steps.
If one then looks from the Straße des 17.Juni to the Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten, one can clearly see the arched row of pillars. In the center is a larger central pillar that forms the pedestal for an eight meter high bronze statue.
The statue depicts a soldier with a shouldered rifle. On the pillar is an inscription that translates as “Eternal glory to the heroes who fell for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union fighting the fascist German invaders. 1941-1945.”
To the right and left in front of the entrance to the memorial are two tanks and cannons that were used in the Battle of Berlin. The tanks are said to have been, if Soviet historiography is to be believed, the first tracked vehicles to cross the city limits of Berlin coming from the east.
For me, this place has changed a lot. As a Berliner who grew up in the west of the city, this monument used to be a bit “scary” to me. There were soldiers standing in front of it, who actually had no business being in “our” part of the city. And in addition, one could not take a closer look at this memorial, because it was too much cordoned off.
Today this has changed. The Soviet Memorial in the Tiergarten has become an open place to visit and learn about the history of the city.
Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Tiergarten (Советский мемориал Тиргартен)
Straße des 17.Juni
all year round