Just 1 hour and 30 minutes east of central Berlin by car, near the Polish border and the Oder River is the site of the biggest battle of WWII fought on German soil. Memorializing this battle at at Seelower Höhen (Seelow Heights) and located at the highest point overlooking the farmlands below sits the Museum Seelower Höhen, an incredibly moving destination for anyone even remotely interested in the history of World War II, history or war and Europe in general.

Battle for Seelow Höhen

In the spring of 1945, a ragtag army of German soldiers made up of old men, boys, and remnants of other divisions, stood before the oncoming Russian and Polish armies intent on taking Berlin and exacting revenge for Nazi atrocities. The Museum Seelower Höhen (website is only in German) provides a visual trip back and to the front lines where hundreds of thousands of soldiers, 14,000 artillery pieces, 5,000 armored vehicles and thousands of aircraft along with untold numbers of fleeing refugees all met in what became horrific killing fields in the lowlands and highlands of the Oderbruch region of the Oder River, the border between today’s Poland and Germany.

Outside exhibit at Museum Seelower Höhen.

On April 16, 1945, the last large-scale Soviet offensive began, finally breaking through the German resistance, ending the war. Over 100,000 soldiers from Germany, Russia, Poland and other nations died during the fighting at the “Battle for Seelow Höhen” on the march to take Berlin and end the war. In addition, since area villages were essentially evacuated and flattened, a unique cultural landscape was forever destroyed.

Museum Seelower Höhen

Looking at the entrance to Museum Seelower Höhen

The museum itself is a small and simple building, built in 1972 and designed to look similar to the bunker used by the Russian commander, Marshal Zhukov, on April 15-16, 1945, to direct the battle. The exhibits inside the Museum Seelower Höhen, which were updated in 2012, are superbly done, and presented in both German and English. It is a small exhibit in one room with artifacts, videos and displays, but highly educational.

HITT Tip: Absolutely take the time to watch the 30-minute film documenting the final months leading up to the fall of Berlin. It is visually compelling and extremely informative. The film is offered in German, as well as English and other languages (and we can vouch for a high-quality English too!). Be forewarned that there is no attempt, thankfully, to screen the violence and horrors of war in this film and as such, it might be disturbing to young children.

When you exit the museum building, the path continues up to the Russian memorial located at the top of the hill. There, you are quickly reminded that until the fall of the Berlin Wall this site was only a memorial to the Russian victors, not to the battle itself or losses inflicted on both sides.

Russian memorial at Museum Seelower Höhen.

This statue, erected by the Russians to memorialize the battle and victory over the Nazis, shows a Russian soldier with his hand on a destroyed German tank.

While a part of former East Germany, the memorial was used to commemorate GDR politics and thinking, as well used as a meeting place for swearing in of officers of the National People’s Army and for East German military youth groups. In fact, after the fall of the Wall, much discussion ensued about the building’s exhibits, and many where slowly removed or changed to eliminate any political leanings. Today’s final version was achieved in 2012.

HITT Tip: Inside the museum shop you can purchase literature on the Second World War, history of the Brandenburg area, hiking and cycling maps, travel guides and much more. On the first Sunday of every month, there is a public guided tour of the museum memorial grounds and the exhibition. It begins, and we quote, “around 11 a.m.”  

For good reason, the Museum Seelower Höhen with its extensive archives has become an extremely important meeting place and destination for historians, journalists and others intent on analyzing and remembering the horrors that the Second World War inflicted upon so many.

HITT Tip: You can get to the museum by car, bike, train or bus. Links to help you find the best route and directions are provided on the Seelow Heights Memorial page from Brandenburg Tourism. If using other directional sites or devices, use this address: 15306 Seelow, Mittelstrasse 10. If you click the link on the above tourism site to use public transit, the address is input for you automatically, although the sites are in German. The easiest public transit link is the one that says “regional.” Just plug in your starting location in the box labeled “von,” then click on “Verbindung suchen” to see the route and transfers.

ENJOY A 360-DEGREE PANORAMA OF THE RUSSIAN MEMORIAL

Use your mouse to click and drag (or the arrows on your computer keyboard to move the view left, right, up or down) or if you are on your smartphone, simply tilt your phone or turn yourself to change viewing angles. (if using Chrome on Mac the 360 panorama may not load … please use Firefox or Safari in this case)

Heads up! This information on Museum Seelower Höhen was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.