It’s been a monumental 75 years since WWII ended and the rubble of Berlin lay quiet. After the Battle of Berlin, which lasted from 16th April to 2nd May 1945, Soviet forces emerged victorious and on 8th May the German army capitulated. The world breathed a sigh of relief — and Berliners set about rebuilding a functioning city from almost total ruin.
75 years later we live in a completely different world. Berlin is vibrant, cosmopolitan and, above all, peaceful. The horrors of the Nazi era are taught at school and confined to documentaries and books, yet the traces of the war can be found throughout the city.
This series of historical and current photos show how Berlin looked in 1945 — and what it looks like today.
1945 and 2020: Brandenburger Tor has lived many lives in a few short decades (Photos: imago)
The end of the war in Berlin
We’ve picked iconic 12 locations — including Brandenburger Tor, Alexanderplatz, Oranienstraße and the Berliner Dom — to show what Berlin looked like at the end of the war in 1945, and what these places look like 75 years later.
The destroyed Pariser Platz and Brandenburger Tor in May 1945 (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/WHA)
Pariser Platz and Brandenburger Tor decades later. Viewed from above, the contemporary platz has a similar layout — but features the modern architecture of the US Embassy and Academy of Arts. (Photo: Imago/Günter Schneider)
Soviet soldiers at the entrance to Frankfurter Allee station in Friedrichshain during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945 (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/WHA)
Frankfurter Allee S-Bahn and U-Bahn station in Friedrichshain. (Photo: Imago/Steinach)
Berliner Dom — Berlin Cathedral
Mitte was particularly badly affected by the Battle of Berlin. Although the Berliner Dom remained standing, it was catastrophically damaged. (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/WHA)
The Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) in September 2019 (Photo: Imago/Schöning)
The destruction of the Reichstag had particular symbolic value for Soviet forces. In May 1945, the building was in ruins. This photo was taken on 6 July 1945 (Photo: Imago/Photo12)
In March 2020, the Reichstag shines in the sun with its glass dome designed by architect Norman Foster (Photo: Imago/Pop-Eye/Christian Behring)
Siegessäule — The Victory Column
Soviet soldiers celebrate the end of the war in front of the Victory Column (Siegessäule) on 8 May 1945. Photo: Imago/ITAR-TASS
In later decades, ravers celebrated Love Parade, Barack Obama gave a speech, and climate activists protested around the Victory Column. (Photo: Imago/Eibner)
A mobile military hospital in front of the Hotel Adlon on 1 May 1945 (Photo: Imago/Leemage)
Berlin’s most prestigious address shines in its reconstructed splendour: the Hotel Adlon at Pariser Platz. (Photo: Imago/Imagebroker)
Alexanderplatz was almost completely destroyed — most buildings were demolished and replaced by modern architecture. (Photo: Imago/ITAR-TASS)
Alexanderplatz in April 2020. The Berolinahaus (left), designed by Peter Behrens, was one of the few buildings to survive the war. (Photo: Imago/Pop-Eye/Christian Behring)
Wilhelmplatz and the Reich Chancellery were completely destroyed. (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/Erich Andres)
Little remains of Wilhelmplatz in present-day Berlin. Today the Czech Embassy stands on the southern half of the former square. (Photo: Imago/Metodi Popov)
Columbus-Haus on Potsdamer Platz (back left), pictured on May 1945. (Photo: Imago/United Archives International)
After the war, Potsdamer Platz lay empty for a long time — the Berlin Wall rendering it a wasteland. After reunification, the square was completely rebuilt. (Photo: Imago/BE&W)
Karstadt at Hermannplatz
Once the most modern department store in the city, Karstadt was left in ruins in May 1945. (Photo: German Photo Library/CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Karstadt at Hermannplatz today. (Photo: Imago/Andreas Gora)
May 1945: Destroyed tram cars in Oranienstraße, Kreuzberg (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Federal Archive, Picture 183-J31328/CC-BY-SA 3.0/Hofmann)
The Hotel Orania on Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg (Photo: Imago/Rolf Kremming)
Berliner Schloss — Berlin Palace
The Berliner Schloss was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin and torn down completely after the war. Until the 1990s, the Palace of the Republic stood at the site. (Photo: German Photo Library/CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Berlin will soon get its palace again. The southern facade of the Humboldt Forum is finished and the building is set for a phased reopening in September 2020. (Photo: Imago/Joko)
Original article by Jacek Slaski
Keen to know more about Berlin’s Humboldt Forum? Slow Travel Berlin’s Paul Sullivan
went behind the scenes at the renovated palace.