Earlier this month, I posted a short review of Hans Fallada’s riveting saga Alone In Berlin (Every Man Dies Alone) which generated some interesting comments and emails. One of these led me back to my travel notes from my last trip to Berlin and my impressions of some of the war nostalgia tourist attractions that I visited. In particular, I was reminded of that unique site, the Topography of Terror, which is the only memorial or museum in Berlin which focuses on the perpetrators rather than the victims of Nazi atrocities.
The Topography of Terror Museum is built on the site that was the Gestapo headquarters from 1933 to 1945, as well as the SS High Command and Reichs Security Main Office from 1939 to 1945. The Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse complex was also the headquarters for concentration camp administration and the place that enemies of the Nazi regime were often brought for torture. Quite a few of Fallada’s characters ended up in the interrogation rooms or prison cells here.
When I visited the museum in late 2008, it was a disappointing site, with the overgrown ruins of a few Gestapo brick prison cells and a meager outdoor exhibition that consisted of a wall of posters. Most of the original buildings had been either destroyed during the war or pulled down during the 1950s.
So, I was pleased to read that on May 7th, just days before the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, a new museum was finally opened at the site to document Nazi state persecution and terror. The Topography of Terror website (which is still a bit sketchy) underscores the museum’s goal of educating future generations about mechanics of state-sponsored repression and the role of individuals in workings of state terror.