Spandau must have one of the highest densities of memorials in all of Berlin. Wherever you go, you’ll spot a plaque, statue or memorial dedicated to something or someone. So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that you’ll find one of Berlins 12 Soviet War memorials here, the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Staaken.
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Staaken: A British-Soviet Land Swap
The village of Staaken and its surroundings (known as West-Staaken) fell under British occupation after the war, but it didn’t stay under their control for long, as they handed it over to the Soviets in 1951. But why? All of the four occupational forces were to have their own airport in their sector. The Americans had Tempelhof, the Soviets had Schönefeld, the French Tegel and the British had Gatow.
There was a light snag though as the main road leading to the airport (Seeburger Zipfel) and a plot of land penciled in for an expansion were in the Soviet zone. The Soviets had been eyeing up the Airport in Staaken so a land swap was arranged in 1951. The Soviets received Groß Glienicke and Staaken, while the British got the Seeburger Zipfel in Spandau. That this didn’t go over too well with the Staaken residents was an understatement.
Origins of the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Staaken
Its unclear when exactley the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Staaken was errected, but we can narrow the timeframe down a bit. A plaque on the base of the Soviet War Memorial states “Dedicated by the Socialist Unity” – Socialist Unity in this case referring to the SED, the Socialist Unity Party. The SED came into being on the 22nd of April, 1946, and Staaken was handed over to the Soviets in 1951 – so its safe to assume that the Soviet War Memorial Staaken was erected sometime after 1951, most likely on an anniversary of the “liberation” of Staaken.
Unlike the other Soviet War Memorials in Berlin, the one in Staaken is the only one not to be directly built or ordered to be built (at least not to our knowledge) by the Soviets, but instead by the East Germans.
Translations of the German and Russian Text
The base of the memorial has 3 texts in German and in Russian.
The German text reads:
Gewidmet von der sozialistischen Einheit
Which translates into: Dedicated by the Socialist Unity
The Russian text reads:
ВПАМЯТЬ ОСВОБОЖДЕНИЯ Г. ШТААКЕН КРАСНОИ АРМИЕЮ
Which translates into: In memory of the liberation of Staaken by the Red Army
ДА ЗДРАВСТВУЕТ ПОБЕДОНОСНАЯ КРАСНАЯ АРМИЯ
Which translates into: Long live the victorious Red Army
The rather short memorial is topped by a red star, a wreath and a red banner – while the front has a German inscription reading:
Zum Andenken an die Befreiung am 25. April 1945 durch die Rote Armee
Which translates into: In memory of the liberation on April 25, 1945 by the Red Army
A memorial in a memorial
It’s interesting to note that the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Staaken itself isn’t in the usual obelisk shape, instead quite the opposite. At first glance, you wouldn’t really notice anything unusual about the shape of the memorial, but the longer you look the more it seems like something is different. Well the reason for the slightly strange shape of this memorial is because its upside-down!
In 1901, the village of Staaken erected a 2-meter-high commemorative sandstone obelisk in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of Prussia (a so-called Königstein). The obelisk was topped with a golden crown and had a decorative inscription. The communists then chopped the obelisk in half, removed the crown and turned it upside-down. Hence the odd shape.
An unknown number of red army soldiers were buried here, but their bodies were moved to the Soviet War Memorial Schönholzer Heide. The memorial was vandalised in 1991 and the red star was knocked off – but it was restored again in 2002. Local politicians from the CDU wanted to remove the memorial and restore the Königstein, but the Denkmalschutz vetoed the idea.
The Soviet War Memorial in Staaken 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.