The 5 most important war memorials in Berlin, Germany

The Nazi and war memorials in Berlin are spread throughout the city. They commemorate the horrors of war and are considered a memorial for a future without fighting and oppression. 

Berlin's wartime past is a part of the city's history to which one should not close one's eyes despite its horror. The Nazi memorials and numerous other wartime legacies recall cruelty, sacrifice, displacement and suffering.


Holocaust Memorial - Memorial to the Murdered Jews

When visiting the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, consternation and uncertainty are constant companions, Germany - © Anton Havelaar / Shutterstock
© Anton Havelaar / Shutterstock

In close proximity to the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, one of Berlin's most famous landmarks, the Holocaust Memorial commemorates the European Jews who were persecuted and murdered during World War II.

PICTURES: Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

Photo gallery: Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

 Origin of the Holocaust Memorial

The design for the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany, is by New York architect Peter Eisenman - © Anibal Trejo / Shutterstock
© Anibal Trejo / Shutterstock

The "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" was created following a decision in June 1999 and was opened on May 10, 2005 after two years of construction. Since then, on an area of 19,000 square meters surrounded by trees, 2711 stelae commemorate the 6 million Jews who were deported and exterminated during the Second World War. Their height ranges from 1 to 5 meters, the heaviest concrete block weighs 16 tons. The different heights create, depending on the angle of view, an undulating whole that appears almost harmonious.

The design for the unique memorial comes from the New York architect Peter Eisenman, who wants to inspire reflection with the undulating composition of concrete. The number 2711 is said to have no symbolic meaning.

The impressive field can be entered free of charge from all sides all year round. The undulating ground, the narrow corridors where no two people can sit side by side, and the desolate, ash-gray stelae soon create an ominous, oppressive feeling.

Museum "Place of Information" on the Holocaust Memorial

On the memorial field of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, the desolate, ash-gray stelae soon create an ominous, oppressive feeling, Germany - © tonisalado / Shutterstock
© tonisalado / Shutterstock

At the southeast corner under the field of stelae, the "Place of Information" provides education about the terrible events of the Holocaust. After an introduction to the historical background, the visitor enters four rooms where the persecution of the Jews is presented from a very personal perspective with photographs, documents and short biographies.

When visiting the Holocaust Memorial, consternation and uncertainty are constant companions. Exhibitions about the victims and the sites of horror review the terrible events. A list of names of all known Holocaust victims is also kept in the place of information.


Topography of Terror

 The "Topography of Terror" in the heart of Berlin was once a central Nazi control center and is now one of the most visited memorials in Germany - © Anticiclo / Shutterstock
© Anticiclo / Shutterstock

Today, the "Topography of Terror" is the name given to the complex in the heart of Berlin on whose grounds the major control centers of the Nazi regime were located during World War II. It is located in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, today adorned by the East Side Gallery, and not far from Potsdamer Platz.

Today, the historic site is a memorial, a place of remembrance and a museum in equal measure and attracts more than one million visitors every year. This makes the Topography of Terror one of the most visited memorials and museums in all of Germany.

Control center of the Nazi regime

Between 1933 and 1945, the GESTAPO (Geheime Staatspolizei), the SS of the Reichsführung and the Reich Security Main Office were based here. These three institutions were responsible for a large part of the most atrocious crimes of National Socialism. This is where the threads came together with the help of which political party opponents as well as Jews, Sinti and Roma were persecuted, imprisoned and executed inside and outside Germany.

At the end of World War II, the buildings of these headquarters were among the first targets of bombing raids on Berlin and were largely destroyed. Even after the war, people wanted to make the evidence of countless atrocities disappear as much as possible, and soon the buildings, now half demolished, fell into oblivion.

It was not until the 1980s that attention was once again drawn to the historical significance of the site, and in 1987, as part of Berlin's 750th anniversary celebrations, the grounds were opened to the public as the "Topography of Terror". The exhibitions attracted so many visitors that they were retained.

Documented testimonies of Nazi crimes

The exhibitions of the Topography of Terror are all about the cruel history of the site and the crimes organized by the Nazis throughout Europe. For decades, documents, photographs and other material were collected that proved the terror of the Nazis in black and white.

In addition to the documentation center, 15 stations throughout the site tell about the horrors of the Nazi era in Germany. In 2005, the cuboid building emerged from an architectural competition with over 300 designs. The preserved cellar walls on Niederkirchnerstraße and the remaining section of the Berlin Wall, now a listed monument and adorned with the artworks of the East Side Gallery, are also part of the Topography of Terror.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin Charlottenburg, with its ruined tower and two modern new buildings, forms what is probably the best-known war memorial in the city, Germany - © robert paul van beets / Shutterstock
© robert paul van beets / Shutterstock

On Kurfürstendamm, the destroyed steeple of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church rises into the sky. It was neither demolished nor rebuilt and serves as a memorial to the horrors of war.


From memorial to symbol of reconstruction

The construction of the neo-Romanesque Memorial Church was commissioned by Emperor Wilhelm II as a memorial to his grandfather Wilhelm I. The Protestant church was built between 1891 and 1895 according to the plans of the German architect Franz Schwechten. The original memorial church was an attractive structure with many spires, the tallest of which, at 113 meters, was once the highest tower in Berlin. As a monument worthy of an emperor, the interior decoration of the Memorial Church was also particularly magnificent, with murals and mosaics.

In 1943, the entire church suffered massive damage from the numerous bombing raids on Berlin. Miraculously, the church tower did not completely collapse. This was probably also the reason why the church was not completely demolished, but remained as a symbol of reconstruction after a public discussion and was placed under monument protection. In 1957, a new memorial church was designed by the architect Egon Eiermann around the 68m high tower ruins.

New construction of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

The new memorial church stands in stark contrast to its neo-Romanesque predecessor. The old tower, which now houses a small museum, is now flanked by a hexagonal bell tower and an octagonal nave. A square chapel and a foyer complete the church ensemble, which was quickly nicknamed "Lipstick and Powder Box" by Berliners. The inauguration of the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church took place on December 17, 1961, after only four years of construction.

Interior in mystic blue

The interior of the Lutheran Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Germany, is bathed in a fascinating blue light from 20,000 stained glass windows - © Ariy / Shutterstock
© Ariy / Shutterstock

Only after entering the church it becomes clear why the new memorial church is also absolutely worth seeing. The nave consists almost entirely of a total of 20,000 unique stained glass windows. The miniature windows, cut like precious stones, were manufactured in France and bathe the interior in a fascinating glimmer of light from a wide variety of blue tones. After sunset, the illumination of the 4cm thick glass wall is taken over by LED lamps.

The entire interior of the new memorial church was also planned by Egon Eiermann, from the altar to the baptismal font and the organ to the candlesticks. Thanks to its effective altar wall made of intensely blue glass, the chancel is spartan, yet impressively furnished. The glass wall not only creates a mystical atmosphere, but also blocks out street noise, so there is always a reverent silence in the Gedächtniskirche.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie in the center of Berlin is still the most famous border crossing of the Berlin Wall, Germany - © SoWhat / Shutterstock
© SoWhat / Shutterstock

Not much is left of the original Checkpoint Charlie. The wall between East and West has fallen and the barriers and watchtowers are no longer original - yet the famous checkpoint in the middle of the city is one of our top 10 sights of Berlin.

PICTURES: Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin

Photo gallery: Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin


Legacy from the Cold War

Checkpoint Charlie at what is now the Kochstrasse subway station is now a memorial and one of the most important landmarks in Berlin, Germany - © VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock
© VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock

Checkpoint Charlie at today's Kochstraße subway station is the most famous border crossing that crossed the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989 and one of the three border crossings that were under the supervision of the Americans. This is where the checkpoint got its name from. It was named after the third letter in the American alphabet: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.

At Checkpoint Charlie, movements between the western district of Mitte and the eastern district of Kreuzberg were monitored at the time. Anyone who wanted to cross the border had to be either a foreigner or a FRG or GDR official.

In October 1961, shortly before the Berlin Wall and the checkpoint were installed, the tanks of the Soviet Union and the Allies faced each other ready for battle with live ammunition in the course of the Cold War. Fortunately, however, there was no escalation, which most likely would have meant the start of the Third World War. Today it is known that both sides had orders to fire in case of emergency.

Checkpoint Charlie also gained sad fame due to numerous escape attempts from the GDR to the FRG, quite a few of which were fatal.

Checkpoint Charlie today

The two signs about entering and leaving the American sector at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany, are no longer original - © Oscity / Shutterstock
© Oscity / Shutterstock

Today, the former Checkpoint Charlie is a memorial and one of our top 10 sights of Berlin. The real checkpoint was moved to the Allied Museum on Clay Allee in 1990, but that doesn't bother visitors much.

Since August 13, 2000, the checkpoint has been adorned by a replica of the control hut, complete with uniforms, barriers and sandbags (which, by the way, are filled with concrete, not sand). The two signs about entering and leaving the American sector are also no longer original.

Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie

The Wall Museum is housed in a building directly opposite Checkpoint Charlie. It was opened on June 14, 1963, at that time right next to the Berlin Wall. Among other things, the museum documents numerous spectacular escape attempts and various escape objects, including cars, hot air balloons and even a mini-submarine.


Successful and unsuccessful escape attempts are also the subject of the open-air gallery, a photographic open-air exhibition from the summer of 2006.

New Guard Memorial

The Neue Wache on Berlin's boulevard Unter den Linden has served as a memorial to the victims of war since the early 19th century, Germany - © Mag Mac / Shutterstock
© Mag Mac / Shutterstock

The Neue Wache on the boulevard Unter den Linden in the Mitte district of Berlin was intended as a war memorial when it was built. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it became Berlin's central memorial "to the victims of war and tyranny".

History of the New Guard in Berlin

On September 18, 1818, the first guard procession happened in front of the Neue Wache on the occasion of a visit of the Russian Tsar Alexander to Berlin, Germany - © 360b / Shutterstock
© 360b / Shutterstock

The Neue Wache building was built during the imperial period between 1816 and 1818, when Prussian King Frederick William II ordered it to be erected as a monument to the fallen of the Napoleonic wars. The architect of the Greek-like structure was Karl Friedrich Schinkel, whose creation is considered one of the major works of German classicism. He also became known for the construction of the famous concert hall at the Gendarmenmarkt.

First guard elevator 1818

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Neue Wache became the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny" - © 360b / Shutterstock
© 360b / Shutterstock

In the year of its completion, the first watch elevator happened on September 18, 1818, on the occasion of a visit of the Russian Tsar Alexander. Until the end of the monarchy exactly one hundred years, from 1818 to 1918, the building was home to the Main and Royal Guard. In 1931, the New Guard was designed by Heinrich Tessenow as a memorial to the victims of the First World War. During the Second World War, the Royal Guard, like almost all buildings in Berlin, suffered heavy damage from bombing.

Since 1960, the Neue Wache has served as a "Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism," with an Eternal Flame blazing behind glass in its center after another redesign in 1969.

Until 1990, the Great Guard of Honor marched in front of the memorial every week on Wednesday and Saturday. During the day, two soldiers held the guard of honor. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Neue Wache became the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny".

Visit to the New Guard

In the center of the Neue Wache in Berlin, the sculpture "Mother with dead son" by Käthe Kollwitz reminds of the unspeakable suffering of numerous wars, Germany - © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock
© Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

The massive portico with its austere Doric columns still exudes a monumental aura worthy of a memorial.


On the gable is a battle, in the midst of which the goddess of victory with raised arm directs the fortunes of the battle. A special paint gives the gable frieze of zinc casting the appearance of being made of sandstone.

The interior of the new guard consists of a single room. In its center, the figure "Mother with dead son" by the German painter and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, enlarged to 1.6m, reminds us of the unspeakable suffering of numerous wars.

Under a memorial slab of black granite are several urns containing the ashes of an unknown soldier, an unknown concentration camp prisoner, and soil from the trenches.

Other memorials and monuments in Berlin

  • The Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered During the Nazi Era South of the Reichstag
  • The memorial for the murdered and persecuted homosexuals in Tiergarten
  • The empty library at Bebelplatz in memory of the book burning in 1933
  • The former concentration camp Sachsenhausen in the outskirts of Berlin

Related links:

Official website of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin with opening hours
Official website of the Topography of Terror in Berlin
Opening hours and admission fees of the museum at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin