A complete guide to the best WWII sites in Berlin (including Hitler’s Bunker, the first concentration camp and the place where the Holocaust was planned).
Today, Berlin is a dynamic and multicultural city, rich in events, culture and tasty food. However, if it was possible to go back in time, around 1940, you’ll find quite a different sight. Capital of the Third Reich at that time, Berlin was full of impressive neoclassical buildings, decorated with Nazi flags.
WWII and the following Cold War transformed the city completely. During WWII, Berlin was hit by 67,607 tonnes of TNT over five years of bombing. On May 2, 1945, after the end of the Battle of Berlin, 80% of the city centre was destroyed.
In the following Cold War, West Berlin was rebuilt in modern architecture, while the East in Soviet-style. Although many of the buildings from the Nazi period don’t exist anymore, there are still plenty to see for all interested in the Second World War.
Continue reading to find out the best WW2 sites to visit in Berlin, including the place where Hitler met his death and the infamous book burning on May 10th, 1933.
Top WWII sites in Berlin
Everywhere you go you’ll come across remnants of WW2. Bullet holes spread across buildings, flak towers, memorials, former Nazi buildings (still in use), this is what is Berlin today. There is also a concentration camp located just outside the city, easily reachable by public transport.
WW2 sites in Berlin (a complete guide)
- Reichstag building
- Memorial SA Prison Papestraße
- Topography of Terror
- Ministry of Aviation
- Tempelhof Airport
- Humboldthain Flak Tower
- Anhalter Bahnhof
- Gleis 17 memorial at Grunewald railway station
- Documentation Center on Nazi Forced Labor
- German Resistance Memorial Centre
- Hitler’s Bunker
- German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst
- Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
- Soviet Memorial Treptow
- German History Museum
- Berlin Story Bunker
- Sachsenhausen concentration camp
- House of the Wannsee Conference
Best World War II tours in Berlin
Berlin During the Third Reich & WWII – join this tour to learn of Germany’s darkest history, including the rise and fall of the Nazi party and the Battle of Berlin.
Third Reich and Cold War Walking Tour – this is the most popular history tour and it covers all the must-see sites from the Second World War and the Cold War.
The Reichstag was the seat of the German Parliament from 1871 to 1918. It’s one of the most significant historical sites in Berlin. Although the Reichstag didn’t play any role during the Nazi period, it played a major one in bringing Hitler into power.
On 27 February 1933, a fire devastated the Reichstag building. Blaming the communists, Hitler took the opportunity and grasped the power. Assuming the fire was a communist plot against his regime, Hitler ordered a mass arrest of communists. This left his party without any opposition, resulting in dictatorship from March 23, 1933, onwards.
During the battle of Berlin, the Reichstag building was one of the major targets of the Red Army. After the city was captured, the banner of the Soviet Union was hoisted over the building. This moment is immortalized in the historic photo, Raising a flag over the Reichstag.
To visit the Reichstag building you have to make online registration at the German Bundestag Service Centre in advance. Note, that you’ll also need a passport or official identification card to enter the building.
Memorial SA Prison Papestraße
The prison at Papestraße in Berlin is one of the earliest forms of concentration camps. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nazis established the first torture prisons and concentration camps. They arrested hundreds of people opposing the regime, including social democrats, communists and Jews.
The prison at Papestraße existed from March to December 1933. More than 500 people were interrogated and tortured by the SA here. For at least 30 of them, this was the last place they saw before their death.
It’s possible to visit the prison rooms, still in their original condition. You can see the inscriptions in the torture cells and feel the desperation in the air.
It’s free to visit the memorial and there are guided tours every Sunday. The museum is open from Tuesday to Thursday, Saturday and Sunday between 01:00 PM – 06:00 PM.
This beautiful square in the heart of Berlin was the site of the infamous book burning on 10 May 1933. Organized by the nationalist German Student Association, this event led to massive book burnings in many university cities all over Germany.
More than 20,000 books, considered un-German and decadent, were destroyed. Among them the writings of Jack London, Franz Kafka, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Erich Kästner and many others. The books were chosen from a blacklist made by the librarian Wolfgang Herrmann.
Today on Bebelplatz, you can find an underground memorial dedicated to the tragic event. A library with empty shelves, hidden behind a pane of thick glass, is set into the ground.
Topography of Terror
The Topography of Terror is an indoor and outdoor history museum, dedicated to the rise of the Nazi party.
Located on Niederkirchnerstraße, the museum stands on the exact same place where the Gestapo and SS headquarters once stood. These buildings were razed to the grounds during the WWII air raids over Berlin. The only thing left is the remains of the torture cellars.
The indoor exhibition features the rise and the fall of Hitler, as well as the SS and its history. In the outdoor exhibition, you can see a remaining part of the Berlin Wall.
The museum is free, but audio-guides are at an additional fee. Guided tours are also available (see all options here).
Ministry of Aviation
Aviation was of such great importance to the Nazis, that in April 1933 they decided that it no longer be subordinate to the German Army. This was the birth of the Ministry of Aviation, headed by Hermann Göring.
A new massive building (Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus) was constructed in 1936 to house the new ministry. At that time, it was the largest office building in Europe. Spared by the bombings during the war, you can still see this impressive building! Nowadays, it houses the German Finance Ministry.
Tempelhof Airport is one of the few monumental constructions of the Nazi era that came to life. With the increase of the air traffic after the First World War, Berlin was in a dare need of a centrally-located airport.
Constructed between 1936 and 1939, Tempelhof Airport was the biggest one in all of Europe at that time. The monumental structure was decorated with limestone, ornate doors and sculptures such as a giant aluminium eagle. This airport was made to impress!
Today, Tempelhof Airport is a public park and serves as a venue for events and trade fairs. It’s free to visit, yet I’d recommend you joining the Legend of Tempelhof guided tour. You’ll take a look behind the scenes and discover its peculiar history and architecture.
Humboldthain Flak Tower
The flak towers were huge fortified structures built to defend the city from bombing raids. Adolf Hitler ordered their construction after the start of the Second World War. As a result 8 of these mega-structures equipped with anti-aircraft guns were built in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna.
Humboldthain is one of three flak towers erected in Berlin in early 1940. It’s the only tower left open to visitors. The other two at Friedrichshain and Berliner Zoo were demolished after the end of the war.
It’s possible to tour the Humboldthain tower only as a part of the Berliner Umwelten guided tour.
Invalidenfriedhof is one of the oldest cemeteries in Berlin. It was founded in 1748 as a military cemetery for those who died in the War of the Austrian Succession.
During the Nazi regime, Invalidenfriedhof became the final resting place of the high-ranking Nazis. Werner von Fritsch, General Rudolf Schmundt, Fritz Todt, Ernst Udet and many more were buried here. Of course, the most infamous person buried here is Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution.
After the end of the war, Soviets ordered the removal of their tombstones. Yet, their remains are still there, lying in unmarked graves.
Reinhard Heydrich died on June 4, 1942, from his wounds after an assassination attempt by two Czech resistance fighters. He was buried with full military honours on June 9 in Invalidenfriedhof.
There are two possible locations for Reinhard Heydrich’s grave in Invalidenfriedhof:
- section A, next to General Infantry Count Tauentzien of Wittenberg
- section C, between the large plots of Oven and Scharnhorst (tomb with the lion above)
Opened in 1880, Anhalter Bahnhof was the largest and most magnificent train station in Berlin.
During World War Two it became one of the three train stations to deport Jews to camps. Between 1941-1945 more than 9,600 Jews were transported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in Czechoslovakia. And from there, on a one-way train to different concentration camps.
Today, you can see only the ruins of the train station. It was badly damaged during the air-raids in 1945.
Gleis 17 memorial at Grunewald railway station
Platform 17 at Grunewald railway station was the second of the three deportation points for Berlin Jews during the war. Over 50,000 Jews in total were deported from here between 1941-1945.
Now, at Gleis 17 you’ll find a memorial erected in honour of the victims of the Nazi regime. The memorial consists of large iron sheets laid next to each other. On each sheet, you’ll see the date of the departure, the number of the deportees, as well as the final destination.
Documentation Center on Nazi Forced Labor
This documentation centre occupies a former Nazi camp for forced labour. It is one of the 3000 similar camps that once existed in Berlin and the surrounding area.
The camp was built at the end of 1943 under the direction of Albert Speer. Although it could accommodate up to 2160 people, the camp was never used up to its full capacity.
The exhibition presents the history of forced labour during National Socialism. You’ll find letters and biographies of the prisoners, that will give you personal insights to their lives.
The museum is free of charge and there are free guided tours every Saturday and Sunday at 3 PM.
German Resistance Memorial Centre
The German Resistance Memorial Center is a part of the Bendlerblock. The Bendlerblock is a historic building complex occupied by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht from 1938 to 1945. However, the building is more famous for being the headquarters of a resistance group of Wehrmacht officers who carried out Operation Valkyrie.
Operation Valkyrie was one of the many unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Hitler. The operation took place on 20th July 1944 in the Wolf’s Lair, leading to massive arrests and executions.
The leader of the resistance, Claus von Stauffenberg alongside other members were shot to death in the courtyard of Bendlerblock. The Nazis arrested a total of 7000 people in a connection with the assassination attempt, almost 5000 of them were executed.
The memorial centre features an exhibition dedicated to the German Resistance against the National Socialist dictatorship in the period 1933-1945. The museum is free of charge and there is a public guided tour every Sunday at 3 PM.
This concrete air-raid bunker in the heart of Berlin is the place where Hitler spent his last hours.
Hitler along other members of the Nazi leadership moved to the bunker on 16 January 1945. He commanded the army during the final months of the war from there. This is also the place where Hitler married his long time girlfriend Eva Braun on April 29th.
On the next day, the newly wedded couple committed suicide. Their bodies were carried outside and set on fire. They were burnt to such a degree that made them hard to identify.
Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda also committed suicide in the Führerbunker, after killing their six children.
Nowadays, all that remains from the bunker are underground remnants. They are sealed off and not open to the public. A parking lot is built over the historic place. The only thing you’ll find is a solitary sign that marks the exact location of the bunker.
German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst
The museum occupies the exact same building where the Germans signed their second unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945.
The first surrender was signed on May 7th to the Allies in Reims, France. However, because of the warring ideologies between the Soviet Union and its allies, Germany has to surrender twice. The second surrender took place in front of Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov and a small Allied delegation.
The German-Russian museum documents WWII from the perspective of both parties, German and Soviet. The exhibit includes collections of mail, objects from the battlefront, wartime and Soviet propaganda photographs, as well as a real Soviet T34 tank!
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is also known as the Holocaust-Memorial. Erected in the heart of Berlin, the monument consists of 2711 concrete slabs of different sizes arranged in a grid pattern. It’s inevitable to feel uncomfortable and uneasy while walking among the blocks (even on a bright sunny day).
Dedicated to all Jews, brutally killed by the Nazis, it’s a place to honour and remember the victims of the Holocaust.
The memorial is free and it’s open 24 hours a day. There is also a visitor centre on the grounds, where you can learn more about the Jewish Holocaust victims.
Soviet Memorial Treptow
80,000 Russian soldiers died in the Battle of Berlin between April and May 1945. After the end of the war, three memorials were erected in Berlin to commemorate their deaths – in Treptower Park, Schönholzer Heide and in Tiergarten.
The Treptow Memorial is the biggest one in Germany. It’s not only a place of remembrance but a military cemetery. 7000 soldiers of the Red Army are buried here.
The Stolpersteine (or the stumbling stones) are mini memorials dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. They represent brass plaques, inscribed with their names and fate – murder, internment or deportation. The plaques are installed in the pavement in front of the victims’ last address.
Today, there are more than 70,000 Stolpersteine laid in more than 1200 cities in Europe. So, don’t forget to look at your feet while walking through the city streets.
German History Museum
German History Museum traces 2000 years of history, from the early-Middle Ages to the present day.
There is a big section, dedicated to the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist regime. You can see some unique propaganda items, such as a dollhouse decorated with Nazi flags or a beer mug with a swastika.
Berlin Story Bunker
Berlin Story Bunker is a history museum housed in an actual concrete bunker from the Second World War. In fact, it features two museums – the Berlin Story and Hitler: How could it happen.
The Berlin Story takes you on a journey through 800 years of the city’s history. While the second museum traces the rise and the fall of the Nazi party. It also tries to explain how such a thing could happen.
Berlin TV Tower – book in advance, as tickets are sold for a certain time slot. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait in line first to buy tickets and then – for your time slot (which can be hours ahead). You can reserve your ticket to the tower here.
Museum Island – the most popular museum is the Pergamon Museum. Again, tickets are valid for a certain time slot, so book your tickets in advance here. If you plan to visit more than one museum, buy the Museum pass (the price is the same as the entrance fee to Pergamon Museum).
WWII sites near Berlin
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
Sachsenhausen concentration camp is located only 35km away from Berlin. Built in 1936, it was one of the first concentration camps and it was used as a prototype for all others that followed.
Originally, Sachsenhausen was not intended as an extermination camp. In fact, it was destined for political prisoners of the Nazi government. This changed with the progress of the war. Many criminals, communists, homosexuals and Jews were imprisoned here (in total more 200,000 people between 1936 and 1945).
Sachsenhausen concentration camp is huge and you’ll need at least 3-4 hours. This is in case you skip some of the exhibits and don’t read everything. Otherwise, prepare to spend 5-6 hours on the site.
How to get to Sachsenhausen
- the easiest way is to take this Sachsenhausen Memorial guided tour from Berlin. The advantage is that you’ll learn in-depth the dark history of the concentration camp.
- to visit the camp on your own take S-Bahn line S1 to Oranienburg Station. From there it’s about a 2km walk to the site (more visitor information here).
House of the Wannsee Conference
This beautiful mansion in an Italian country house style was the place, where the Holocaust was planned.
The meeting between high ranking Nazi officials took place on January 20th, 1942. Its goal was to discuss how the European Jews would be exterminated (The Final Solution to the Jewish Question).
Today, the house is a museum and memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. You can see original documents from the Wannsee Conference and learn about daily life in the Jewish ghettos. Entrance is free and there are self-guided and group tours available.
How to get to House of the Wannsee Conference
Take the S-Bahn line S1 or S7 to Wannsee station. Then take bus 114 and get off at Am Großen Wannsee stop. It’s just a short walk to the house from there.
Berlin WWII sites map
To help you navigate, I created this map with all WW2 sites in Berlin.
The sites you can visit are marked in dark pink, the one you can see only outside – in pink. You can use the map during your trip, you only need internet access.
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