Thursday 11 August 2022

Visit to the Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten in August 2015

The Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten, Berlin (Photo Credit: Adeyinka Makinde, 2015).

I visited the memorial during a holiday in Berlin in August 2015. 

It is situated in Tiergarten and is located between the Reichstag and the Brandenburg gate.

Designed by the architect Mikhail Gorvits, the memorial was constructed within the Allied occupation zone using a range of recycled materials including the concrete of the ruined Reich Chancellery building.

It was specifically erected to pay homage to the 80,000 soldiers of the USSR who died during the final days leading to the taking of Berlin. While it represents one of many monuments commemorating the enormous sacrifices of the Russian people during Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna (The Great Patriotic War), to many Berliners it was a reminder of the bestialities which accompanied the advance of the Red Army and they referred to it as the “Tomb of the Unknown Rapist”.

A column on top of which is the statue of a Soviet soldier stands at the centre of a concave colonnade of six joined axes. Underneath the soldier is a Cyrillic inscription that reads: 

Eternal glory to heroes who fell in battle with the German fascist invaders for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union.

Closer to the adjoining boulevard from which it is accessed, the Straße des 17 Juni (the western continuation of Unter den Linden), are two ML-20 152mm gun-howitzer artillery pieces and two T-34 tanks.

. Arguably the best all-purpose tank of World War 2, the T-34 tank is viewed with a reverence and an affection that is similar to that which the Britons hold for the Spitfire plane. It had a powerful engine, was fast and extremely manoeuvrable. It was well-equipped and highly defendable because the high calibre anti-tank weapons of the day could not penetrate its armour. It was a tremendous piece of technology for its day and played a key role in the Red Army's defeat on the Eastern Front of the forces of Nazi Germany.

. The presence of the ML-20 152mm gun-howitzer artillery piece reflects the esteem to which successive armies of the Tsarist empire, the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia consider the artillery branch. The use of artillery is central to the way Russian armies conduct war.

Behind the colonnade is the final resting place of around 2,500 officers and men of the Red Army who died during the taking of Berlin.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2022)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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