Berlin’s turbulent modern history means it has more 20th-century
monuments and memorials than most cities. While many are open to the public – including
World War II bunkers, former concentration camps and various buildings
connected to the former East Berlin surveillance apparatus – others are
But from 7 to 8 September, a Europe-wide initiative
called the Tag
des offenen Denkmals (Day of Open
Monuments) is opening many of these sites to the public, including several from the
Nazi and GDR (former East Berlin) era, as well as some controversial buildings
that have polarised the city’s inhabitants. Visitors will have access to GDR
relics such as Alexnderplatz’s squat, boxy Kongresshalle
(used as a conference centre) and the tall, rectangular Haus des Lehrers (House of
Teachers), an office building that still features a detailed communist mosaic
by Walter Womacka.
The aim of the project, which is taking place in
cities across the continent, is to sensitise people to the meaning of cultural
heritage and interest them in the preservation of ancient monuments. The theme
this year is: "Far away from Good and Beautiful: Uncomfortable Monuments?”
fans, the Olympiagelände
(the former Olympic stadium area where Hitler held his infamous 1936 Olympics)
and the associated Langemarckhalle
(which contains 12 pillars bearing the 76 flags of the regiments that took part
in World War I) will likely be a draw, as will newly opened spaces such as an
air raid shelter on Stralauer Straße and a little-known forced-labour camp site
next to the city’s biggest and newest park, Tempelhofer Feld.
interested in the Berlin Wall era will be fascinated by both the former Stasi Prison in Hohenschönhausen, which
details how inmates were psychologically intimidated and physically abused, and
by the abandoned former NATO listening station at Teufelsberg, a
long-time Mecca for urban explorers that is usually only accessible via paid
Admission to all memorials and monuments, some of which are staffed with
expert guides, is free. You can find a full list of buildings on the official
website, as well as details on how to register for the more popular tours and sites.
Paul Sullivan is the Berlin Localite for BBC
Travel. He also runs/writes slowtravelberlin.com.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the date of the Berlin Olympics. This has now been fixed.