Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
A street scene in the 1937 Berlin: Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse (today Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse) corner Dircksenstrasse in Berlin-Mitte with the Volksbühne Theatre in the background.
At the moment when this photo was being taken the theatre stood not at Rosa-Luxemburg- but at Horst-Wessel-Platz named after the Nazi “martyr” and “national hero” shot by a member the German Communist Party, Albrecht Höhler.
Wessel, a young but very devoted and terribly active member of the a big SA (for Stürmabteilung – the paramilitary arm of the Nazi party) operating in two principally working class, “red” Berlin boroughs of Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain, did not die through the shot in the head he received after the dead-or-alive warrant for him had been issued by the Berlin KPD. He died in hospital as a result of blood poisoning (most probably accidentally developed as a result of the wound becoming infected…)
Turned into a Nazi icon, Wessel soon had his name spreading over the Reich like a bushfire. Hitler and his brown comrades decided to immortalise him by naming after him: a Berlin borough (Friedrichshain), a hospital (Krankenhaus Friedrichshain), several buildings, a tank division of the Waffen-SS (the 18th), a jet fighter squadron (the 134th), a fascist school for boys in Dresden, a sailing ship of the Kriegsmarine (known as the USCGC “Eagle” of the US Coast Guard today), a novel (Horst Wessel by the then well-known author and actor, HH Ewers), a film (for copyright reasons entitled Hans Westmar, however), endless streets in numerous villages, towns and cities as well as, last but not least, a song.
Horst-Wessel-Lied, set to the melody of the 1925 Der Kleiner Trompeter, became the official anthem of the NSDAP and the second national anthem of Germany between 1933-1945.
Despite the sign on the façade of the Volksbühne Theatre visible in the background in the photo above, for the Nazis the theatre was never called anything else but “Theater am Horst-Wessel-Platz”.
The second photo, taken during the celebrations of the Police Day on January 16th, 1937, was made in front of the “martyr´s” memorial standing before the Volksbühne Theatre, with the Nazi big wigs paying their respect to their young comrade. The “canonisation” of Wessel was one of the best led and most effective propaganda campaigns of the NSDAP (image through Bundesarchiv).