Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

TODAY IN BERLIN: MAY 9th 1935 and 1945 or Historical Irony of War

Berlin, Oranienstraße, Schäden nach Luftangriff

Hitlers Gesammte Werke in Oranienstraße, shortly before Moritzplatz, with ruins of the old Kaufhaus Wertheim in the background (image through Bundesarchiv).

A short browse through Berlin´s historical calendars for May 9th reveals the following interesting facts, which, although undoubtedly fascinating on their own, develop an additional layer of sad irony if seen together.

On May 9th, 1935 Berlin´s City Transport Company, BVG, announced it had owned a fleet of over 3,200 tram carriages, 1,200 U-Bahn carriages and over 600 “Omnibusse” (mostly double-deckers) providing service to local passengers on 120 city lines.
Ten years later, on May 9th, 1945, their fleet was not so much decimated as practically gone: Berlin lost 1,118 S-Bahn carriages, 420 tram carriages were completely wrecked while the majority of the remaining ones required extensive repair. As far as buses went, out of the 900 vehicles at the city´s disposal in the early 1940s, only 18 could still be described as “street-worthy”.
Clearly, “Hitlers Gesammte Werke” (Collected Works of Adolf Hitler) – or “Berlinerisch” for the destroyed city architecture – included a section “Berlin´s rolling stock” as well.
Also on May 9th (some sources name the previous day), however, this time in 1942, in Berlin´s Lustgarten, the NSDAP inaugurated a big anti-Soviet exhibition under a sneering title “Das Sowjet-Paradies”. The exhibition, a masterpiece of Nazi propaganda depicting the “poverty, misery, depravity and need” in the USSR and serving to justify Germany´s war against Stalin´s Soviet Union as well as the NSDAP´s remorseless prosecution of Jews and Communists, is said to have attracted 1.3 million visitors.
Nine days later, a group of young, mostly Jewish members of an active resistance group, “Gruppe Herbert Baum” (Herbert Baum was its unofficial leader), set parts of the exhibition on fire. Although the arson attack caused hardly any damage, Goebbels, the head of the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, had no intention of showing clemency. Between 1942 and 1943, 28 members of Baum´s group, including Baum himself and his wife, Marianne, were either executed immediately or slowly tortured to death. To make his point even clearer, Goebbels ordered 500 Jewish factory workers still held as slaves in Berlin to be shot immediately (250 of them) or transported to Nazi death camps. “Das Sowjet-Paradies” exhibition continued until June 21, 1942.
Three years later, on May 9th, 1945 in a surviving mansion house in Berlin´s locality of Karlshorst, Germany signed its final capitulation to the same Soviets (the act of capitulation to Western Allies, signed in Reims, was also effective from 0:01 AM on May 9th). This act put an end to what Baum and his friends referred to as “Das Nazi-Paradies” in the leaflets they had distributed shortly before their 1942 arson attack.


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