If you haven’t already read part one for today, head back there and I’ll see you back here in bit.

I’ll wait…


Okay, so yeah, I learned alot on this walking tour and I was feverishly typing in notes on my phone during the tour.

Now, will I have some of the dates/name/information wrong?


Am I gonna go back and research everything I wrote down so you have a complete accurate account of what happened in Germany during some of their darker times?

Yeah, no.

This just isn’t that kind of blog.

Let’s just say that the info I type here will be 99% accurate from what I heard on the tour…

How a war started another war

In 1918 after Germany surrendered in WWI they signed the Treaty of Versailles which cast all the blame for the war on them and forced them to pay for Europe’s reconstruction costs.

It was an insurmountable cost and Germany’s solution of printing more money to cover the cost led to ridiculous hyperinflation.   The German currency, the Mark, went from being valued at 4 marks per dollar to a whopping 4 trillion marks per dollar.

The ink used to print the banknotes actually cost more that what the banknote itself was worth.

The US tried to help by giving Germany loans but then the great crash happened in 1929 and the US called back those loans.

The German people were not happy and when people aren’t happy, bad things fester and grow.

Slowly the Nazi party grew more and more starting at just 6% of the votes in the 1921 election to a whopping 38% of the votes and a majority in government after the 1929 crash.

In 1933 President Hindenburg had to appoint a Chancellor and because the Nazi party was in power at the time, Hitler was given the title.

After Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler seized more and more power, creating the Third Reich and anointing himself the leader of Germany.

By 1939 he had grown an army large enough to start invading other countries to expand the Third Reich.

So began the second world war…

Nazi Propaganda

Whenever there’s a war there’s always propaganda coming from all sides in an effort to sell the war and to sell their side’s victory in it.

Nazi propaganda took it to a whole new level.

Concentration camps were marketed to outcast Jews as a place to retire with the family in peace.

Shunned Jews were told the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” over and over again which translates to “Work will make you free”.

If they worked hard enough, they would be “free” with a visit to one of the concentration camps.

In fact, those words were inscribed on the outer gates to the camps as a kind of welcome.   Little did they know what welcome they’d be getting.

In fact, many Jews actually volunteered to go the concentration camps.

That’s how good the Nazi propaganda machine was.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews

Yeah, they weren’t messing around with fancy “politically correct” titles when they named this memorial near the center of town.

It gets straight to the point.

What’s interesting about this memorial is it is an actual piece of art spanning a couple blocks.

The art pieces are without text and the pieces are in different shapes and heights with no key to what it all means.

It was left ambiguous purposely by the artist to spark conversation and interpretation about what it all means.

There was a bit of controversary as the memorial was being constructed.

Since there’s such a huge graffiti culture here in Berlin, the blocks were coated with a special wax that allows any graffiti on the blocks to be easily cleaned off.

It turned out that the company that produced the wax was the same company that had produced the poison gasses used in the chambers decades earlier.

Naturally, people especially the Jewish population were not happy about this discovery.

For months the project was halted while the issue was discussed and debated.

In the end, the government chose to go ahead using the company stating that a company’s past shouldn’t dictate how it moves forward in the future.

The simple fact is that it would have set a very awkward precedent since quite a few of the major companies nowadays in one way or another helped the Third Reich.

As an example, Mercedes Benz built some of the tanks used in the war and Hugo Boss was an early supporter of the Nazi party and helped produce their uniforms.

You get the idea.

One last interesting fact about this memorial is that the four surrounding streets are all named after women who had died in the concentration camps.

Hitler’s bunker

As the war progressed, Hitler took to his bunker where he stayed until the allied forces closed in and he eventually committed suicide.

Not only did he not want to be caught alive, he didn’t want the Soviets to be able to parade his dead body around and store it in a museum as a victory symbol.

His plan?

After his suicide, he wanted his body cremated so there’d be nothing left.

Problem was, unlike in his concentration camps, there was no crematorium in the bunker.

So, when he died, his compatriots took him to the street above and burned his body in gasoline.

Problem is, gasoline just doesn’t burn hot enough to cremate a body.

So, in the end, when the Soviets came and discovered his body, they took it with them back to the USSR.

The bunker today is hidden under a non-descript parking lot a few blocks from the touristy area where we started the tour.

Aside from one small sign on the edge of the parking lot, there is no mention of Hitler or the bunker.

They don’t want to memorialize in any way, shape, or form.

War criminals

After the war, many in the Nazi party fled to other parts of the world, most notably in South America.

In places like Chile and Brazil you’ll actually find a fairly sized German population and culture in some of the cities.   This is a direct result from the war criminals who fled there decades ago.

Out of the 250,000 war criminals, only 150,000 were ever brought to trial.

Even more depressing, out of those 150,000 only 6000 were ever convicted.

That’s only 2% of the war criminals that ever had to face retribution for what they did.

The wall

After the war Germany was split into four parts.   The USSR took the eastern half of the country while the Allied forces of the UK, France, and the USA split the western part.

As you’d suspect, this eventually led to problems.

Millions, especially the younger population, fled from the oppressed communist run eastern side to greener pastures and opportunities in the west of the country.

In the time from when the war ended to when the wall was built, it’s estimated nearly 25% of the 20 million populace made their way west.

Well, the USSR was not happy about this obviously.

So, one night on August 13, 1961 using 20,000 volunteers, a fence spanning 155km was built separating the west from the east in just 7 hours.

7 hours is all it took to build the first iteration of the wall which overnight separated 23,000 families along the border.

Of course, over time the fence was heavily upgraded to a wall and stood strong and tall for 28 years until it came down on November 9, 1989.

The wall was actually two walls.   One on the east and one on the west that were separated by a patch of land called “no man’s land”.   In total, 20,000 border police patrolled the wall night and day.

No man’s land truly lived up to it’s name.

There were trip wires and land mines, dog patrols, and patrol towers overlooking it all.

A group of spies, the Stasi, was also organized to spy on their fellow citizen to make sure anyone who was thinking of escaping was caught.

Very few managed to escape to the west after the wall was constructed.

In fact, the most common escapee turned out to be the border patrol guards themselves as they made up about 20% of the population who escaped.

Eventually, there were spies watching the guards as well.   So, yeah, there were guards watching the guards.

November 1989

The wall came down on November 9th, 1989.

It wasn’t supposed to.

In response to the persistent demands of GDR citizens (East Germans), the SED leadership had published a draft bill for a travel law on November 6 intended to stop the mass departure of people fleeing the country via Czechoslovakia.

After public protests, the regulation was revised on the morning of November 9 to eventually allow GDR citizens to obtain visas for private travel with no waiting period and without meeting special requirements.


During a hastily organized press conference, Central Committee member Günter Schabowski made a casual announcement of a new travel regulation for GDR citizens.

He essentially prematurely announced the provision that was added.

Due to mistakes in communication, he told the surprised journalists that private trips abroad could now be applied for without proof of eligibility, reasons for travel, or family ties.

When asked when the new provisions went into effect, he glanced over the notes he was given and only found one date.

That date was the one on the top corner of the first page.

November 9th, 1989.

The announcement was made at 7pm and by 8pm it was the top story on the news.

By 9pm crowds started to form at the border.

By 11:30 the crowds had grown so large that, still without official orders, the guards raised the barrier separating the borders.

In the following hour almost 20,000 people crossed the Bösebrücke bridge without being checked and, a few hours later, the rest of the crossing points inside the city had been opened.

And, just like that, after being separated for 28 years, the two parts of Germany were once again united.

Lasting legacy

The wall and the separation of the citizenship has had a long lasting legacy even to this day.

The graffiti culture which I briefly mentioned earlier is so huge here because, essentially, Germans had 155km of wall to practice on for many, many years.

Techo music was created in and is so popular in Germany because of the wall coming down.

Many people fled the east leaving many abandoned factories.   You know what music sounds amazing in an abandoned factory?   Yeah, tecno.

Another legacy is the most popular street food in probably the world was invented here.   I’m talking about those late night donairs or kebabs everyone gets after a night out.

Yeah, they were invented here because, after the war, Germany was decimated and needed to be rebuilt.

Problem was, a huge part of their construction workforce had perished in the war.

The solution was to invite Turks to start a new life here in German and help to rebuild the country.

With them, they brought their cuisine which slowly evolved into what are now donairs and kebabs.

In fact, Germany is pretty much built on immigration as over half the population isn’t from here originally.

Because of this, there are many types of architecture, food, and religions present in the country.

That, along with knowing how hard they had to fight for their freedom, has led to a very tolerant and open minded society today which, obviously, is a compete turnaround from where the country was during their darker times.

And, in the end, that’s the best legacy Germany could have.

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