Arts & Entertainment

Berlin’s buildings still show scars of WW2

By Paula García Viana

Berlin, May 6 (efe-epa).- World War Two left numerous marks on Berlin buildings, scars caused by bombs and shells which are still visible if you know where to look.

The Soviet Army waged a fierce battle in the capital against what remained of the German army, which ended at the beginning of May in 1945 with the fall of the city.

Berlin has been in a constant state of reconstruction since then but something that has not changed in recent decades is the damage caused by these street-to-street and building-to-building struggles 75 years ago.

One of the places where these scars can be seen is Museum Island, which sits in the Spree River that runs through the city centre.

It was one of the most affected areas during Allied bombing and, even after the museums have been rebuilt, bullet holes can still be seen peppering the buildings, especially the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie.

The buildings are owned by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and have been declared a World Heritage Site.

Ralf Nitschke, head of the construction planning department at the National Museums in Berlin, tells Efe the decision to preserve these “traces of history” was made by the Berlin Monuments Office.

The Neues Museum was severely damaged by bombing and street fighting and its restoration was not completed until 2009.

Damaged walls and columns have been integrated into the design and now form part of its collection.

Other buildings were so badly hit that they had to be completely rebuilt, Nitschke explains.

There is a protocol for this process which should “ideally” use the same materials as the original building, according to Nitschke.

When this is not viable “it must be possible to see what has been added” and the restored sections must make it clear that they were previously covered with bullets, he adds.

There is no clearer example of this restoration than one of the city’s most important monuments, the Brandenburg Gate.

Its columns still bear scars from grenades, Allied bombs and bullets which ricocheted off its surface during the Battle of Berlin.

Another key restoration is the Reichstag, the seat of the German parliament, which featured in an iconic image at the end of the war when Soviet soldiers flew flags from its roof.

The building was badly damaged by a fire in 1933, subsequent bombings and a battle that took place inside its walls.

Its reconstruction has left bullet holes visible on the building’s facade and there are also remnants of the conflict in its interior corridors, where graffiti by Soviet soldiers during the fighting was revealed by a 1994 remodel.

In the vicinity of Friedrichstraße station, now a bustling commercial and tourist area, many restaurants have scars on their facades which often go unnoticed by visitors.

Some establishments have had to cover these pockmarks to avoid infrastructural damage but they are always left visible.

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