Germany’s capital is cultural centre with a stormy history dating back to the 13th century. Unearth how the city was divided during the Cold War and why landmarks such as the Berlin Wall, Holocaust Memorial and Brandenburg Gate became iconic symbols of reunification. Here are our top picks of must-see places for those of you studying history and politics…
Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie
A museum like no other, the Museum Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, was founded by Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt, a human rights activist in 1962. It started as a small exhibition about the construction of the Berlin Wall, only filling a couple of rooms and has since grown into an incredible 2,000m² display. Discover not only the history of the wall, but the stories of those affected by it and how during the war people tried to escape over and under it. You can also uncover the history of the struggle for worldwide recognition of human rights and learn about areas of the globe where the fight for freedom continues.
Famous for its distinct glass domed roof, the Reichstag building is seat to the Bundestag, the German parliament. Uncover the building’s interesting past, including the story behind the fire of 1933, which completely destroyed the original plenary hall and dome. Learn about the many momentous occasions that have been held here, including the commemoration of the end of the Second World War with a photograph of a Red Army soldier hoisting a flag on the Reichstag’s collapsing walls. The official reunification of Germany in October 1990 and the exclusive wrapping of the Reichstag in 1995 by artist Christo, when the building was completely covered in fabric. Or take the lift up to the roof for a spectacular view from the terrace.
Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
Although a rather harrowing experience the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp memorial site is a fascinating visit. Set on the ground of Sachsenhausen, also known and the ‘silencing camp’ - a concentration camp of the Reich between 1936 and 1945. The museum brings to light the harsh realities of the prisoners who were held captive here, how they were forced to work a slaves, endure inhumane living conditions, how they were beaten and tortured and how many of them suffered mass executions in the gas chambers. Guided tours and film presentations are also available to help expand your knowledge of this historic site.
Once a symbol of the divided city during the Cold War and now an icon of peace, Brandenburg Gate is probably Berlin's most famous landmark. Discover why it was erected and how people used to scale the observation platform to try and see the city behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ and the barren "death-strip" - the geographical and political rift between East and West Berlin. Also learn how Ronald Regan’s speech on 12/04/1987, lead to the Brandenburg Gate becoming a monument of unity.