The Battle of Berlin marked the end of World War II. It took place April to May 1945 and claimed about 80,000 Soviet lives. Stalin was in a hurry to take Berlin because he wanted to get to their Nuclear research facility and find out what the Germans had discovered before the Americans arrived. The Soviet Nuclear program needed a boost. Because Stalin was in such a hurry, mistakes were made and an enormous amount of Soviet lives were lost.
There are three memorials to the Soviet Troops in Berlin. One is the Tiergarten Memorial near the Brandenberg Gate. It is relatively small and compact and was built in 1945 at the edge of the large Tiergarten city park. Two thousands soldiers are buried there. It was purposely located on the spot Hitler planned to devote to a huge triumphal arch. It was to be so large that the arch in Paris could have fit underneath it. The inscription under the soldier statue says “Eternal glory to heroes who fell in battle with the German fascist invaders for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union”.
The memorial stands in what was the British section of the city in west Berlin but it was supported by all the Allied forces. A Soviet soldier stood guard over it throughout the cold war. Some found it offensive and in 1970, a neo-Nazi shot one of the Soviet guards.
The largest memorial is Schonholzer Heide in the Pankow district outside the city. This used to be a park where families went on outings and enjoyed nature. During World War II it became a camp for forced laborers. After the war, it became a military cemetery. The memorial was finished in 1949 and covers 30,000 square meters (98,500 sq ft). Thirteen thousand soldiers are buried there.
The third is in the Treptower Park. It opened in 1949 as well and was the main war memorial for East Germany. Five thousand Soviet soldiers are buried there. The main statue is of a Soviet soldier holding a sword in one hand and a German baby in the other. He stands over a broken swastika.
The story, according to Marshal Chulkov, goes like this. Minutes before the attack, all was quiet except the sound of a child crying. The soldier depicted in the statue, Sergeant Masalov, said he knew where the cries were coming from and he would rescue the child. He had to dodge land mines, and bullets to get there and once there he found the girl was crying for her mother who had abandoned her. On the way back, the Soviet forces covered him and he arrived safely, handed the girl to a nurse and then was ready to start the attack. Apparently this is a true story.
At the other end of the memorial is Mother Russia weeping for the loss of her sons. Technically she is the Motherland since we are talking about the Soviets but in my mind she is Mother Russia.
The park is lovely and the memorial is impressive, built to a grand scale.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.