Postwar Germany is full of interesting places, and I thought it’d be a good idea to highlight a few that once existed, or that can still be visited. I’ll also add museums and collections around the world that have something to say about postwar Germany and the Cold War era. Check back now and then; I plan to add to the list over time.
Let’s start with some biggies: the Berlin headquarters of the 4 allied powers.
Short note: Germany has been reunified long enough that there are adults who don’t necessarily know Berlin was divided even before the Wall. After World War Two, the victorious powers Soviet Union, United States and Britain, and later France, each oversaw a slice of the city. They jostled for ultimate control over Berlin, and thus Germany, and to a larger extent, Europe’s future.
From the western perspective, if the Soviets were allowed to take over the city, there would be no stopping a communist sweep over Europe. From the Soviet perspective, if the western powers remained in Berlin, they sealed Germany’s future as a divided, and thus hobbled country, a semi-permanent point of contention in central Europe. The western powers at the time talked a lot about freedom; the eastern about unity. Nobody budged, leaving Berlin a pie in four unequal pieces.
The Allied Kommandatura was supposedly Berlin’s 4-power headquarters. All the powers came together to discuss (argue) issues related to the administration of the city. But many decisions were made and policies formed in the individual allied headquarters in the 4 sectors.
Soviet Military Administration (SMAD). Berlin-Karlshorst — The German capitulation was ratified in this former Wehrmacht casino in 1945. It now houses the Deutsch-Russisches Museum, whose collections focus on the Eastern Front. I haven’t been there yet, but as far as I could tell from the photos, the building looks the same on the outside as it did when it was Soviet HQ.
United States Office of Military Government for Germany (OMGUS). Berlin-Zehlendorf — These buildings on the Clayallee used to be part of the German Luftgaukommandos III. A section of the US consulate is housed there now. The Allied Museum is nearby, so if you walk toward it down Clayallee, you’ll pass on your right the guarded compound that was the nerve center of US military government in the immediate postwar era.
“Lancaster House,” British Military Government HQ. Berlin- Wilmersdorf — The British kept this former German army and Deutsche Arbeitsfront building as their headquarters until 1954. Located on Fehrbelliner Platz, the former Lancaster House is now the Wilmersdorf city hall.
“Quartier Napolean,” French Military Government HQ. Berlin-Wedding — Now on the Kurt-Schumacher Damm and used by the modern German army, this former barracks of the Fallschirm-Panzer Division I Hermann Göring was home and workplace for French forces until 1994.