Larry Backus Special to the Green Valley News (Arizona) Oct 27, 2019:
Berlin has been described as “the most heavily-bombed city in history.” At the end of World War II, after the allied air raids of 1943-45 and the Battle of Berlin, the formerly beautiful city was in utter ruins. But like the Phoenix of ancient Greek mythology, she has arisen from the ashes, regenerated herself and grown into a vibrant, active, exciting, modern 21st-century European city.
We arrived by second class coach from Prague at the Hauptbahnhof. Nearly all of the four days of our visit were spent at historic sites relating to Nazi Germany from 1932, when Adolf Hitler ascended to power as chancellor of Germany, through the war years and final defeat of the Third Reich in 1945 …
Brandenburg Gate, the world-famous symbol of Berlin, was our next stop. We were able to stand on almost the exact spot where, on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan urged the Soviet Union: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
The entire afternoon was spent at the fascinating Berlin Story Museum im Bunker, which documents the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Third Reich in amazing detail. The drab, gray, concrete bunker which houses the museum was built as an air-raid shelter in 1942 after 10 months work, partially by Soviet POWs and a Polish forced-labor crew. Its 4-meter thick reinforced concrete roof was able to survive allied air assaults through the end of the war, including a direct hit by a 500-kilo American bomb.
The bunker contains three floors of photographs, written materials and video and film clips assembled and presented to answer the question: “Hitler –
How Could it Happen?” “Why did so many people follow Hitler? How did he become a Nazi? What turned ordinary Germans into murderers?” One interesting answer contained in a museum brochure suggested: “Germany followed Hitler because he promised to make Germany great again.”
Germans were suffering through the Great Depression; reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty were crushing the economy; unemployment was way up; jobs were scarce; production was down; and Hitler had arrested or killed all of his political opponents.