One of the more stunning parts of east Berlin is the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park. It’s the main memorial to the Soviet taking of Berlin – yes, it was the Soviets who captured Berlin and put an end to Hitler’s efforts. 5,000 of the 80,000 Soviet soldiers who died in the battle are buried here.
Designed as a whole by Yakov Belopolsky, each of the gates leads you into the central avenue:
Your eyes are directed to the towering statue of young soldier, holding a German child while his sword rests on a broken swastika:
What grabs me are the 16 stone sarcophagi, one each for the republics of the USSR. There are 8 on each side, flanking the central area.
Lenin’s here, the collective embodiment of and inspiration for the troops:
But the most heart-warming moment is to discover that good old Iosef Stalin is everywhere:
Or rather, direct quotations from the man are on each of the sarcophagi. On one side they are in German, on the other in Russian:
The man is everywhere – as he should be, since the ‘victory of 1945 in Europe was above all his’ (David Roberts). Churchill and Roosevelt may have been dispensable and the war still won. Not so Stalin, for he was ‘indispensable to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany’. So, at the most important of war memorials in Berlin, Stalin is there to stay, inscribed in stone.
And so are plenty of communist symbols:
So if you have some time in Berlin, forget the crappy tourist spots, the sausages and the beer (well, maybe not the beer), and get yourself to Treptower Park. There’s plenty of others there as well.