The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Alt-Hohenschönhausen, also known as the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Küstriner Straße or Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen is the youngest of Berlins Soviet War Memorials. As with all Sowjetische Ehrenmale in Berlin, its origins date back to the Soviet Invasion of Berlin. The Soviet Troops marched into Berlin on the 21st of April, 1945 and one of the first areas to be completely captured was Hohenschönhausen (On the 25th of April, 1945).
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A quick overview of Hohenschönhausen
Hohenschönhausen had the dubious honor of hosting the “Speziallager Nr.3” (one of 10 Special Detention Camps in which an estimated 160,000 people died). The camp was disbanded in 1946, and the prisoners were moved into other detention facilities. In 1951, the newly founded Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (The Stasi) reactivated the compound and expanded it. The Stasi also had its secret Nazi Archive just down the street in the Villa Heike, which was left abandoned after german reunification and has now be renovated. Later on, Hohenschönhausen also became the home of the Bauakademie der DDR (The Central Academy for Architects and Architecture) – which might explain the rather “interesting” development of the Soviet War Memorial Hohenschönhausen.
The first Soviet War Memorial in Hohenschönhausen
Hohenschönhausen was taken over by the Red Army under the leadership of General Schukow on the 25th of April 1945. By 1947 – 1948, the first itteration of the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönausen was errected, in dedication to the Red Army Soliders and Officers who had died during battle, or sucumbed to their injuries in the nearby army hospital. They were initially burried on a plot of private land (where the Soviet War Memorial Hohenschönhausen now stands), but then moved to in 1948 to the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholz (which is the largest russian cemetary outside of Russia).
The original memorial consisted of a three-tierd pyramid like structure (resembling many of the other Soviet War Memorials), with an ornate plaque and an encircled red star near the top. There are some photos from the German Federal Archive which show quite nicely what the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen looked like (but the photos are too costly licence and embed here). Whats not visible on the photos is the (more than) life size statue of a Red Army Soldier, wearing a long flowing cape and rifle in his right hand – indicating that it was most likely completed post-1948. Whats also visible are the rows of neatly groomed graves – that had been moved post 1948 to the cemetery in Schönholz.
Its also worth noting that Iwan Gawrilowitsch Perschudtschew – the same Sculptor responsible for the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal in the Schönholzer Heide – designed the original Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Alt-Hohehnschönhausen.
The redesigned Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the “liberation” of Hohenschönhausen, The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen was remodelled. A newspaper reported on the remodelling in 1974, saying that “60 Komsomol members and 60 FDJ members spent over 1000 working hours on the remodelling of the memorial”. The new Soviet War Memorial in Höhenschönhausen was then officially unveiled on the 25th of April, 1975. The artificial stone relief initially had a bronze color (as opposed to the black we see today), while the inscriptions and stars on both sides used to appear in a light grey colour, and the background in an earthy yellow tone.
The two text blocks on either side of the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen read:
Ewiger Ruhm den Helden der Sowjetarmee
[EN] Eternal Glory to the Heros of the Soviet Army
And in Russian:
ВЕЧНАЯ СЛАВА ГЕРОЯМ СОВЕТСКОИ АРМИИ
Which translates to the same thing as the German Version
[EN] Eternal Glory to the Heros of the Soviet Army
A third inscription used to exist on the right hand side of the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen, with the following text in German:
„Anläßlich des 30. Jahrestages der / Befreiung vom Faschismus wurde / dieses Ehrenmal von der / Weißenseer Jugend und / sowjetischen Komsomolzen als / Kreisjugendobjekt umgestaltet.“
Which translates into English:
“On the 30th anniversary of the / liberation from fascism / this memorial was / was redesigned by the / Weißensee youth and / Soviet Komsomolts as / a district youth object.
The inscription was heavily damaged by 1994, and was most likely removed at some point thereafter. The redesigned Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen wasn’t taken care of very well in the post unification period, with rain and snow damaging the structure over time.
The large red star in front of the memorial apparently used to be alight with an eternal flame, something which – if true – would have been a truly unique feature amongst Berlins Soviet War Memorials. The black stone relief, depicting two soviet soldiers in the middle in a victory pose are flanked by scenes of the war as well as kneeling soldiers on both ends. Sadly, this memorial has suffered greatly due to vandalism as someone (or some people) have been chipping away at it. While slight damage is visible in these photos, someone broke off the left arm and gun of one of the soldiers sometime between 2015 and 2016.
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Alt-Hohenschönhausen Today (2020)
The Soviet War Memorial Hohenschönhausen must have received a new coat of paint at some point over the years, as its once more muted colors have been switched out for an almost garish red and yellow. The relief was last repaired in 2016, and apparently the district of Lichtenberg as set plans in motion to redesign the memorial in 2021 (whatever that might mean).
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen is wedged in a small closed off green space between 2 streets. Located off the more central Konrad Wolf Straße its somewhat dwarfed by old Plattenbauten and new construction projects. Interestingly enough, the Küstriner Straße is closed off to cars, giving the square a peaceful atmosphere.
Oddly enough, unlike the other memorials this one feels quite dated – but not in a good way. It feels very 1970s, quite possibly due to the once red, now orange text, or the stylized figures on the mural that look somewhat clunky. One can only hope that the redesign or restoration thats planned for 2021 can give this Memorial a much needed facelift.
Like the Soviet Memorial in Buch, the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Hohenschönhausen is best visited in a combination with another location such as the the Gedenkstäte Hohenschönhausen (a mere 2km away) and/or the lovely St. Andreas/St. Markus Cemetery across the street.
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Alt-Hohenschönhausen is one of 12 Soviet War Memorials of Berlin. You can find an overview post here – The Soviet War Memorials of Berlin – with a condensed history of all Soviet War Memorials in Berlin, or you can click through the list below and read about each Soviet War Memorial individually.