To my great horror, re-reading the section on Berlin in my Christian Travelers Guide to Germany (Grand Rapids. Zondervan, 2001), I discovered that there is no mention of the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. This is a major oversight because the memorial ought to be one of the top ten sites that anyone visiting Berlin for more than a couple of days visits. Yet, like my own guide, most travel guides to Berlin make no mention of this major site.
|Approaching the Soviet War Memorial Treptower Park|
Located by the Treptower Park S Bahn station it is set at the side of a major nineteenth century park that was originally intended for members of the working class. The memorial was built between 1946 and 1949 and contains the graves of 5,000 of Soviet soldiers who died in the final assault on Berlin.
|The graves of 5,000 Red Army troops.|
How many Soviet troops actually died is a matter of speculation. At the very least it was over 81,000 and possibly as high as 150,000 with at around 300,000 Soviet casualties many of whom died of their wounds. At the end of the Battle over 450,000 German troops were dead and 479,298 taken prisoner. Many of these were marched off to Siberia never to return.
|Mother Russia mourning the death of her children|
German civilian casualties were well over 100,000. After the surrender of German forces the Soviets went on a rampage of looting and rape that was encouraged by Stalin’s propaganda. In this situation no woman was safe yet these atrocities are conveniently left out of most accounts of the Second World War.
To their credit the Red Army quickly set up food kitchens and began restoring essential services for the civilian population. A month later, most Berliners were living on less than 1,240 calories a day and over a million were homeless.
No wonder the memorial is forgotten by many Germans. It is, however, an impressive site. Surprisingly, it also has a number of Christian iconic themes woven into it.
More to follow …