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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)