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Soviet War Memorial (Schönholzer Heide)

Updated: Mar 27



The front entrance to the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholz with a cloudy sky and rain

Soviet Memorial in Schönholz, Felipe Tofani, Flickr

 

The Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide is a significant landmark in Berlin that serves as a reminder of the Soviet Union's sacrifice during World War II.

 

Background


The memorial was erected to commemorate the approximately 80,000 Soviet soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of Berlin in April and May 1945. This battle was one of the final and most brutal confrontations of World War II, leading to the surrender of German forces in Berlin and the total capitulation of Nazi Germany.


The Soviet Union, having suffered immense casualties throughout the war with around 18 - 25 million civilian and soldier deaths, sought to honor its fallen soldiers and underline the sacrifices made for the defeat of Nazism.

 

Schönholz


Schönholzer Heide has been a popular excursion destination for Berlin families since the 19th century; in 1936, the amusement park Lunapark moved from Halensee to Schönholzer Heide. After 1939, when music, dance, and amusement ended, it became the site of Berlin's second-largest forced labor camp; somewhat cynically called "Luna Camp" by the locals of Pankow.


Unlike at the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park, Schönholzer Heide has also soviet soldiers who died in German captivity at this camp, which was also a reason for the chosen location. This along with a plaque mentioning the POWs is very striking, as under Stalin, POWs were viewed as potential collaborators, and the Soviet leadership harbored a deep mistrust of them. Many freed prisoners had to endure reprisals or even further internment within the Soviet Union.


The construction of the Soviet War Memorial in Schönholzer Heide began in 1945, just after the end of World War II. The memorial was designed by architect Yakov Belopolsky, and the central statue was created by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich. The statue, which is 12 meters high, depicts a Soviet soldier holding a child in his arms, symbolizing the Soviet Union's liberation of Berlin and the protection of its citizens - similar to that in Treptower Park.

 

The Memorial's Layout


When you first approach the main entrance on Germanenstraße, you're welcomed by a charming little forecourt. Leading you to the heart of the memorial, a picturesque linden-lined avenue unfolds, framed by two ornately wreathed columns, each concluding with a bronze bowl cradling an eternal flame. This path culminates at the grand main entrance, impressively guarded by two red granite gate buildings, their corner towers reaching skyward.


A stained glass window with emblems of the Soviet Union

Interior Stained Glass, Sebastian Fiebrig, Flickr

 

Adorning these gates, large bronze reliefs vividly capture the essence of the Soviet people, caught between the throes of combat and the depths of grief.

Encircling the gate buildings, the outer walls boast eight emblems representing the branches of the Soviet military. Inside, each tower shelters an empty bronze urn, standing about one and a half meters tall, next to walls inscribed with Stalin's quotes in both German and Russian. A stunning multicolored skylight, comprising a hundred pieces and featuring the Soviet Union's coat of arms, brings to mind the grandeur of ancient Egyptian burial chambers. The solemnity of the site deepens in the central area, where 16 sarcophagi, neatly arranged in a sacred honor grove, flank the space.


Dominating the memorial is a towering 33.50-meter obelisk, beneath which lies a hall of honor. Here, 42 gravestones solemnly commemorate the fallen officers, with two colonels finding their eternal rest in the crypt below. Standing before the obelisk, the "Mother Earth" sculpture, evoking the poignant imagery of a Christian Pietà, portrays a Russian mother mourning her valiant son, draped in the victory flag. She tenderly holds a wreath, seemingly crowning her son's head.


Engraved on the base that supports this moving ensemble is a profound message, declaring that the sacrifices of Soviet soldiers and the tears of their grieving loved ones were not in vain, but a call to arms for enduring peace among nations. Surrounding the honor grove, a wall adorned with 100 additional gravestones, each separated by symbolic torches, lists the names, ranks, and birthdates of 2,647 Soviet soldiers. Sadly, less than a quarter of these heroes could be identified by name, with the remainder honored in anonymity.


The memorial's layout is a study in precise axial symmetry, sprawling across nearly three hectares. Its grand scale and the depth of its design create an overwhelming sense of awe. Amid such grandiosity, the individual visitor might feel diminutive, a poignant reminder of the monumental sacrifices commemorated here.

 

Conclusion


Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, Schönholzer Heide offers an atmosphere of profound dignity and solemnity, unmatched by the more centrally located memorials in Tiergarten and Treptower Park. Here, the sense of being in a sacred space dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in war is palpable, inviting a deeper reflection and respect that is befitting of such a hallowed ground. While the memorial's significance has evolved over the years, it remains an essential symbol of reconciliation between Germany and Russia.


 

Your Trip Berlin


Want to add this Soviet Memorial to your group trip or team event? Contact Your Trip Berlin or book an obligation-free 30-minute meeting to get your trip started!



 

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Alexander La Rocca


Alexander La Rocca has been creating experiences for

visitors to Berlin since 2012 when he began in the tourism industry. Having organized and led thousands of tours, trips, and events, he started his own company yourtripberlin.com.


Whether for large groups or company or team events, he offers his expertise to make a trip to Berlin a memorable experience. Visit him at https://www.yourtripberlin.com/ if you are looking for help organizing your visit to the city!

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