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  • 1945 in photos: Berlin rebuilds from the rubble of WWII

Second World War

1945 in photos: Berlin rebuilds from the rubble of WWII

At the end of WWII, Berlin lay in ruins. We compare the city's landmarks as they were then, and how they stand now.

It’s been 77 years since the bombs stopped and Berlin lay silent. On May 8, 1945, German forces surrendered to the Red Army, bringing the Second World War to a close.

Seven decades later, a peaceful city has emerged from the rubble. Traces of war and Nazi horrors remain visible to this day, but Berlin’s landmarks now appear in a new light.

We look at Berlin’s iconic monuments – Brandenburger Tor, Alexanderplatz, Berliner Dom – in 1945 and as they are now.

1945 and 2020: Brandenburger Tor. (Photos: Imago)

Brandenburger Tor

The destroyed Pariser Platz and Brandenburger Tor in May 1945 (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/WHA)
Pariser Platz and Brandenburger Tor decades later. Viewed from above, the contemporary Platz has a similar layout — but features the modern architecture of the US Embassy and Academy of Arts. (Photo: Imago/Günter Schneider)

Reichstag

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Der Reichstag nach der Schlacht um Berlin. Mai 1945.
The destruction of the Reichstag had particular symbolic value for Soviet forces. In May 1945, the building was in ruins. This photo was taken on 6 July 1945 (Photo: Imago/Photo12)
Im März 2020 erstrahlt der Reichstag in der Sonne. Berlin.
In March 2020, the Reichstag shines in the sun with its glass dome designed by architect Norman Foster (Photo: Imago/Pop-Eye/Christian Behring)

Frankfurter Allee

Sowjetische Soldaten am Eingang zu Bahnhof Frankfurter Allee in Friedrichshain
Soviet soldiers at the entrance to Frankfurter Allee station in Friedrichshain during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945 (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/WHA)
S- und U-Bahnhof Frankfurter Allee in Friedrichshain
Frankfurter Allee S-Bahn and U-Bahn station in Friedrichshain. (Photo: Imago/Steinach)

Potsdamer Platz

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Das Columbus-Haus auf dem Potsdamer Platz. Berlin im Mai 1945.
Columbus-Haus on Potsdamer Platz (back left), pictured on May 1945. (Photo: Imago/United Archives International)
Der Potsdamer Platz, Berlin 2020.
After the war, Potsdamer Platz lay empty for a long time — the Berlin Wall rendering it a wasteland. After reunification, the square was completely rebuilt. (Photo: Imago/BE&W)

Siegessäule — The Victory Column

Sowjetische Soldaten feiern am 8. Mai 1945 vor der Siegessäule das Kriegsende.
Soviet soldiers celebrate the end of the war in front of the Victory Column (Siegessäule) on 8 May 1945. Photo: Imago/ITAR-TASS
Die Siegessäule in Berlin.
In later decades, ravers celebrated Love Parade, Barack Obama gave a speech, and climate activists protested around the Victory Column. (Photo: Imago/Eibner)

Berliner Dom — Berlin Cathedral

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Der Berliner Dom nach der Schlacht um Berlin. Mai 1945.
Mitte was particularly badly affected by the Battle of Berlin. Although the Berliner Dom remained standing, it was catastrophically damaged. (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/WHA)
Der Berliner Dom im September 2019
The Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) in September 2019 (Photo: Imago/Schöning)

Hotel Adlon

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Ein mobiles Lazarett vor dem Hotel Adlon am 01. Mai 1945.
A mobile military hospital in front of the Hotel Adlon on 1 May 1945 (Photo: Imago/Leemage)
Hotel Adlon am Pariser Platz
Berlin’s most prestigious address shines in its reconstructed splendour: the Hotel Adlon at Pariser Platz. (Photo: Imago/Imagebroker)

Alexanderplatz

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Der zerstörte Alexanderplatz nach der Schlacht um Berlin. Mai 1945
Alexanderplatz was almost completely destroyed — most buildings were demolished and replaced by modern architecture. (Photo: Imago/ITAR-TASS)
Der Alexanderplatz im April 2020. Berlin.
Alexanderplatz in April 2020. The Berolinahaus (left), designed by Peter Behrens, was one of the few buildings to survive the war. (Photo: Imago/Pop-Eye/Christian Behring)

Oranienstraße

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Mai 1945: Zerstörte Straßenbahnwagen in der Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg.
May 1945: Destroyed tram cars in Oranienstraße, Kreuzberg (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Federal Archive, Picture 183-J31328/CC-BY-SA 3.0/Hofmann)
Das Hotel Orania in der Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg.
The Hotel Orania on Oranienstraße in Kreuzberg (Photo: Imago/Rolf Kremming)

Karstadt at Hermannplatz

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Karstadt am Hermannplatz, Mai 1945. Kriegsende. Das Kaufhaus ist eine Ruine.
Once the most modern department store in the city, Karstadt was left in ruins in May 1945. (Photo: German Photo Library/CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Karstadt am Hermannplatz in Berlin.
Karstadt at Hermannplatz today. (Photo: Imago/Andreas Gora)

Wilhelmplatz

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Der Wilhelmplatz und die Reichskanzlei wurden komplett zerstört. Berlin im Mai 1945.
Wilhelmplatz and the Reich Chancellery were completely destroyed. (Photo: Imago/United Archives International/Erich Andres)
Heute steht die Botschaft der Tschechischen Republik auf der Südhälfte des ehemaligen Wilhelmplatzes.
Little remains of Wilhelmplatz in present-day Berlin. Today the Czech Embassy stands on the southern half of the former square. (Photo: Imago/Metodi Popov)

Berliner Schloss — Berlin Palace

Fotos vom Kriegsende in Berlin: Das Berliner Schloss wurde während der Schlacht um Berlin stark beschädigt und nach dem Krieg abgerissen. Bis in die 1990er-Jahre stand an der Stelle der Palast der Republik.
The Berliner Schloss was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin and torn down completely after the war. Until the 1990s, the Palace of the Republic stood at the site. (Photo: German Photo Library/CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Berlin bekommt wieder sein Stadtschloss. Die Südfassade des Humboldtforums ist fertig.
The new facade of the Humboldt Forum, which opened in July 2021. (Photo: Imago/Joko)