Topography of Terror

Berlin, Germany

The Topography of Terror (Topographie des Terrors) is an outdoor and indoor history museum. It is located on Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era.

The buildings that housed the Gestapo and SS headquarters were largely destroyed by Allied bombing during early 1945 and the ruins demolished after the war. The boundary between the American and Soviet zones of occupation in Berlin ran along the Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, so the street soon became a fortified boundary, and the Berlin Wall ran along the south side of the street, renamed Niederkirchnerstrasse, from 1961 to 1989. The wall here was never demolished. Indeed the section adjacent to the Topography of Terror site is the longest extant segment of the outer wall (the longer East Side Gallery section in Friedrichshain being actually part of the inner wall not visible from West Berlin).

The first exhibitions of the site took place in 1987, as part of Berlin's 750th anniversary. The cellar of the Gestapo headquarters, where many political prisoners were tortured and executed, were found and excavated. The site was then turned into a memorial and museum, in the open air but protected from the elements by a canopy, detailing the history of repression under the Nazis. The excavation took place in cooperation with East German researchers, and a joint exhibition was shown both at the site and in East Germany in 1989.

In 1992, two years after German reunification, a foundation was established to take care of the site, and the following year, it initiated an architectural competition to design a permanent museum. A design by architect Peter Zumthor was chosen. However, construction was stopped due to funding problems after the concrete core of the structure had been built. This stood on the site for nearly a decade until it was finally demolished in 2004 and a new building begun.

The construction of the new Documentation Center according to a prize-winning design by the architect Ursula Wilms and the landscape architect Heinz W. Hallmann (Aachen) was finished in 2010. The new Documentation Center was officially opened on May 6, 2010 by Federal President Horst Köhler on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. The new exhibition and documentation building and the redesigned historic grounds were opened to the public on May 7, 2010.

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Founded: 2010
Category: Museums in Germany

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Michael Dowden (2 years ago)
I appreciate the mission of this place, positioned on a site of historic significance in front of a substantial segment of the old wall. They're doing important work on the preservation of history and education. On the other hand, the exhibits were all photos and small text, with the option for an audio tour. I feel that a book or documentary might be more effective at communicating the material.
Rachel R (2 years ago)
Extensive information and displays of different aspects of the war, from both a political and social standpoint. We started at the “end” of the displays by accident, there was definitely a correct way to read them. The building next to the area with the plaques looked like it had more info and exhibits, but we found the outdoor area to be enough. Tip: the grey boxes in the display areas outside often have cards/trays you can pull out, which often have even more info. Displays are in both German and English.
Eugenio Gadea (2 years ago)
Very well documented. The presentation is also great. Really makes you appreciate the value of having a working democracy. Never take it for granted!
S. C. (3 years ago)
While it's definitely a must go to place, they didn't address some important events that led to WW2. Kristallnacht was barely mentioned which is one of the most important events. Huge and important parts are left out. Documentaries deliver more and better information.
Ben Skinner (3 years ago)
An incredible place. I found d the experience of visiting to be one that was utterly poignant and deeply powerful. It really is a must if you are visiting.
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