Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
On April 23rd, 1945 with the Red Army and the Polish 1st Army already in the north and the east of Berlin (in Frohnau, Niederschönhausen, Lichtenberg) and about to enter Köpenick and Pankow while further units were pushing into the city from the south, another Berlin bridge, Oberbaumbrücke the boroughs of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, was blown up following Hitler´s famous Nero-Befehl (Nero Decree).
Just like the Roman emperor in 64 AD, the Führer ordered his subordinates to destroy not only the city he was by now hiding in but also the rest of the country. The scorched earth strategy he chose was meant to prevent anything of value from falling into the hands of the enemy. Already on March 19th Hitler signed an official document ordering the total destruction of the Reich´s infrastructure: all traffic, media, industry and public supplies facilities as well as anything of value should be annihilated. And that regardless of the fact that such a step meant the annihilation of the Volk, the people, as well. However, the alleged written statement from Hitler where he accuses the nation of being the blacksmith of its own fate and deserving being wiped out of the face of the earth due to its cowardice and military inefficiency seems to be Albert Speer´s interpretation of the Führer´s (and his friend´s) sentiment.
Speer, the Reichsminister for Armaments and War Production as well as the Nazi Architect-in-Chief, managed to convince Hitler to entrust him with the high command of the destruction campaign only to go on and partly sabotage the orders. Albert Speer seemed to reject the idea of the highest price that the nation was supposed to pay for following (or, seen from Hitler´s and Goebbels´ perspective, not exactly) its leaders.
Still, despite Speer´s disobedience many crucial facilities were destroyed to slow down the Allies´ progress: all the large bridges along the River Rhein were blown up to stop the American, French and British troops marching from the West. The same was attempted along the eastern border on the banks of the Oder, however, with much less success.
As for Berlin itself, the Nazi troops managed to destroy, among others, the following bridges: Jannowitzbrücke, Moltkebrücke, Friedrichsbrücke at the Berlin Cathedral, Ebertsbrücke, Michaelkirchbrücke, Wiener Brücke connecting Kreuzberg and Treptow over the Landwehrkanal south of today´s Görlitzer Park and one of the city´s most beautiful water passages, the above mentioned Oberbaumbrücke.
However, thanks to its extremely solid construction and the over-dimensional abutments which absorbed the shock of the explosion, only the middle part of the bridge was affected. The two 34-metre-high towers had lost their roofs already before that day during the air-raids but even after the detonation, they were otherwise almost intact. The primary damage was to the 15 arcade pylons supporting the U–Bahn viaduct (today´s U1) but even that could be mended quickly and already in May 1945 the first trains could cross the River Spree again.
The U-Bhf “Osthafen/Stralauer Tor”, the original 1901 station which used to be the eastern terminal of Berlin´s Stammstrecke (the Core Line was the first city railway line built by Siemens & Halske and the first line of today´s U-Bahn), was never rebuilt. Until 1945 it formed the eastern end of the Oberbaum Bridge.