With the end of the Second World War, and the subsequent occupation and partition of Germany – the Soviet Union sought to mark its contribution to the downfall of Fascism in Europe and the defeat of Germany by erecting monumental memorials, such as the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide.
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The Schönholzer Heide before the Soviet War Memorial
An estimated 80000 Soviet soldiers died during the battle of Berlin, and Stalin felt that 1 memorial wasnt enough to honor the soviet sacrifice, so he had quite a few erected in the Soviet Sector of Berlin. While most tourists will be familiar with the Soviet War Memorial at the Tiergarten and Treptow – hardly any tourists find themselves visiting the Soviet War Memorial in the Schönholzer Heide (Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide).
Since the 19th Century, the Schönholzer Heide has been a popular day trip destination for Berlin Families. Until the early 20th Century, the Heide was home to a Mulberry Plantation, a Ballroom, a girls school, film studio, outdoor theater and amusement park. During the Second World War sections of it were converted into a forced labour camp (traces in the form of a Bunker can still be found nearby).
After the end of the war the Russians used the park as a storage yard for dismantled factory equipment that was intended to be shipped back to the Soviet Union as reparations. While Stalin had already planned to erect a memorial in Berlin directly after the war it wasn’t until May 1947 when construction began at the Schönholzer Heide, and it took until November 1949 for the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide (not to be confused with the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholz) to be completed.
A walkthrough of the Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide, the final resting place of over 13000 soldiers and officers was designed by the Soviet Architects K.A. Solowjow, M.D. Belawenzew and W.D. Koroljow and the sculptor G. Perschudtsche.
Despite being somewhat more secluded and less well known than the other two large Soviet War Memorials, the Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide, actually is the largest “Russian” cemetery outside of Russia, and is the final resting place of more soldiers than both the Tiergarten and Treptower Park memorials combined.
The Entrance of the Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide is flanked by two granite pillars with symbolic wreaths and bronze bowls with an eternal burning flame. The main entrance consists of two gatehouse towers made out of red granite. Each of them is decorated with a large bronze relief representing the fighting and grieving soviet people, while the wall of the gatehouse is decorated with 8 coat of arms depicting the various soviet military branches.
The left granite pillar of reads in German:
ENTBLÖSST DAS HAUPT! HIER SIND SOWJETISCHE SOLDATEN, HELDEN DES GROSSEN VATERLÄNDISCHEN KRIEGES 1941 – 1945 ZUR EWIGE RUHE GEBETTET. SIE GABEN IHR LEBEN FÜR EURE ZUKUNFT
The right pillar has the same text in Russian:
ОБНАЖИТЕ ГОЛОВЫ! ЗДЕСЬ ПОКОЯТСЯ ВЕЧНЫМ СНОМ СОВЕТСКИЕ ВОИНЫ-ГЕРОИ ВЕЛИКОЙ ОТЕЧЕСТВЕННОЙ ВОЙНЫ 1941 – 1945
ОНИ ОТДАЛИ СВОИ ЖИЗНИ ЗА ВАШЕ СЧАСТЬЕ
The text translates into English:
UNCOVER YOUR HEAD! SOVIET SOLDIERS, HEROES OF THE GREAT FATHERLAND WAR 1941 – 1945, ARE BED TO ETERNAL REST. THEY GAVE THEIR LIFE FOR YOUR FUTURE
Both granite pillars contain a guard house – each with a Russian inscription above the entrance which reads:
БЛАГОДАРНОЕ ЧЕЛОВЕЧЕСТВО НИКОГДА НЕ ЗАБУДЕТ ИХ ПОДВИГА
Which translates into English:
A grateful humanity never forgets their brave deeds
The inside of each gatehouse contains a quote by no one less than Stalin in both Russian and German
The gatehouse on the right has the following quote:
The German quote Reads:
“DIE STÄRKE DER ROTEN ARMEE BESTEHT DARIN DASS SIE KEINEN RASSENHASS GEGEN ANDERE VÖLKER, AUCH NICHT GEGEN DAS DEUTSCHE VOLK, HEGT UND HEGEN KANN, DASS SIE IM GEISTE DER GLEICHBERECHTIGUNG ALLER VÖLKER UND RASSEN, IM GEISTE DER ACHTUNG DER RECHTE ANDERER VÖLKER ERZOGEN IST.”
The Russian quote reads:
“СИЛА КРАСНОЙ АРМИИ СОСТОИТ…В ТОМ, ЧТО У НЕЕ НЕТ И НЕ МОЖЕТ РАСОВОЙ НЕНАВИСТИ К ДРУГИМ НАРОДАМ, В ТОМ ЧИСЛЕ Н К НЕМЕЦКОМУ НАРОДУ ЧТО ОНА ВОСПИТАНА В ДУХЕ РАВНОПРАВИЯ ВСЕХ НАРОДОВ И РАС, В ДУХЕ УВАЖЕНИЯ К ПРАВАМ ДРУГИХ НАРОДОВ”
Which translates into English:
“The strength of the Red Army was that it had no, and could not have any, racial hatred neither towards other peoples nor the German people and that they were raised in the belief of equality of all peoples and races, and in the spirit of respect towards other’s rights.”
The gatehouse on the left has the following quote by Josef Stalin:
DIE ROTE ARMEE HAT IN IHRER ENTWICKLUNG EINEN RUHMVOLLEN WEG ZURÜCKGELEGT. SIE HAT IHRE HISTORISCHE AUFGABE IN EHREN ERFÜLLT, IHR GILT MIT RECHT DIE LIEBE DES SOWJETVOLKES.
КРАСНАЯ АРМИЯ ПРОШЛА СЛАВНЫЙ ПУТЬ СВОЕГО РАЗВИТИЯ. ОНА С ЧЕСТЬЮ ОПРАВДАЛА СВОЕ ИСТОРИЧЕСКО НАЗНАЧЕНИЕ И ПО ПРАВУ ЯВЛЯЕТСЯ ЛЮБИМЫМ ДЕТИЩЕМ СОВЕТСКОГО НАРОДА
Which translates into English:
The Red Army has had a glorious journey in its development. It absolved its historic task with honor, and it rightly deserves the love of the Soviet people.
In addition to the motivational quotes by Stalin, each gatehouse contains a symbolically empty urn. The ceilings of both gatehouses consist of several hundred different pieces of stained glass, creating a large mural of the banner of the Soviet Union.
Mother Russia and the Obelisk
The whole cemetery is laid out so that it leads to the central memorial – a statue of Mother Russia. The central section is covered by patches of grass and red flowers, which are flanked by 16 grave chambers. There is another path which leads around the central section, which is lined with another 100 bronze grave plaques on which the names, ranks and birth years of 2647 fallen Soviet soldiers are inscribed (only 1/5 of the fallen were identified, the rest remained anonymous).
An oversized statue of Mother Russia, grieving over her fallen son (who is draped in the Soviet flag of victory) guards the obelisk. If you look close enough, it bears a slight resemblance to the christian Pieta.
The base of the 33,5 m high, grey syenite obelisk is made out of black porphyry blocks and is decorated with the names of 42 soviet officers. The base of the obelisk contains a domed (quite resembling a church) honor hall with wreaths and flowers from various ex soviet republics – while the crypt underneath is the final resting place of 2 Soviet colonels. The obelisk itself is inscribed on the front and back in Russian and German.
The front of the Obelisk has the following inscription in Russian:
ВЕЧНАЯ СЛАВА ДОБЛЕСТНЫМ СЫНАМ ВЕЛИКОГО СОВЕТСКОГО НАРОДА ПАВШИМ СМЕРТЬЮ ХРАБРЫХ В БОРЬБЕ С ФАШИЗМОМ ЗА ЧЕСТЕ И НЕЗАВИСИМОСТЬ СОЦИАЛИСТИЧЕСКОМ РОДИНЫ ЗА СВОБОДУ И СЧАСТБЕ ЧЕЛОВЕЧЕСТВА
And the back of the Obelisk has the following inscription in German:
EWIGER RUHM DEN TAPFEREN SÖHNEN DES GROSSEN SOWJETVOLKES DIE IM KAMPF GEGEN DEN FASCHISMUS FÜR DIE EHRE UND UNABHÄNGIGKEIT IHRES SOZIALISTISCHEN VATERLANDES FÜR DIE FREIHEIT UND DEN FORTSCHRITT DER MENSCHHEIT IHR LEBEN LIESSEN.
Which translates into English:
ETERNAL GLORY TO THE BRAVE SONS OF THE GREAT SOVIET PEOPLE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST FASCISM FOR THE HONOR AND INDEPENDENCE OF THEIR SOCIALIST FATHERLAND FOR THE FREEDOM AND PROGRESS OF HUMANITY.
The Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide also has a second memorial “hidden” (its not really hidden) in it – namely a memorial to the Soviet soldiers who died while in german captivity. The memorial itself an oddity/rarity as captive soldiers were treated as traitors, collaborators with the Nazis (see Order Nr. 270) and were more often than not sent to Labour Camps and Gulags.
The memorial to the captive soldiers also has two inscriptions, one in Russian and one in German.
The Russian inscription reads:
ОНИ НЕ ПОКОРИЛИСЬ ФАШИЗМУ. ЛЮБОВЬ К РОДИНЕ, ВЕРНОСТЬ СВОЕМУ НАРОДУ БЫЛИ ДЛЯ НИХ СИЛЬНЕЕ СМЕРТИ
The German inscription reads:
SIE UNTERWARFEN SICH NICHT DEM FASCHISMUS. IHRE LIEBE ZUR HEIMAT, DIE TREUE ZU IHREM VOLK WAREN STÄRKER ALS DER TOD.
Which translates in English to:
THEY DID DO NOT SUBMIT TO FASCISM. THEIR LOVE FOR THEIR HOME, THE LOYALTY TO THEIR PEOPLE WAS STRONGER THAN DEATH.
With the fall of the Berlin wall, and the planned withdrawal of the allies from Germany – the Soviet Union insisted that a unified Germany be bound by law (and the 2+4 Treaty) to maintain and repair the monument. Any changes to the site would require the prior authorization of the Russian Federation. In addition to this, many memorials are also listed as “heritage sites, making any alteration to the site near impossible. This explains why, unlike in other former soviet occupied countries – the German state hasn’t moved or removed the memorials. Or maybe the Germans just took it more seriously.
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide today
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide was closed in 2011 for extensive renovations – and after over 2 years and 10,3 million euros it was reopened (with the attendance of the Russian Ambassador) to the public in August 2013.
The Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide is not the largest memorial (that’s the one in Treptow), nor is it the first one built in Berlin or Germany (the one in Dresden was the first in Germany). But it feels less oppressive. Less touristy. It feels less of an oppressing monument, and more like a cemetery.
Visiting the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide memorial is an interesting experience. While not as imposing as the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Treptower Park, it’s a nice yet somber trip into one of Berlins lesser touristically advertised areas and an interesting piece of Berlin history. It’s interesting to note tough seemingly only the Soviets ever felt the need build these things, and demand/secure their upkeep per treaty(upkeeping graves and treating them with the necessary respect shouldn’t require a treaty). The Russians are overtly sensitive though when somebody touches “their” statues.
The Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide 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.
Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Schönholzer Heide Address and Opening Times
Germanenstraße 17, 13156 Berlin Schönholz
Opening Times: April – September 7:00 – 19:00
October – March 8:00 -16:00