Berlin’s Treptower Park can be found off in forgotten corner of the city next to an industrial estate, bordered on the one side by the Spree River, and on the other by the contentious neighbourhood of Neukölln.
Today the park contains a rather brutalist monument dedicated to some 7000 Soviets who fell in the taking of Berlin in 1945. People have Mixed Feelings about the Soviet arrival in Berlin, and what that entailed. I’ve heard people talk of the Americans as liberating Germany from the horrors of National Socialism; no one ever talks about the Soviets liberating anybody.
Thick woods surround the memorial, choking out the sunlight and casting the winding paths into shadow. One finds themselves thinking of German fairytales rather than the Second World War.
An unobtrusive, iron-stained arc frames a gap in the trees, the entrance to the park. The inscription reads:
For the Heroes Who Fell
For the Freedom and Independence
Of the Soviet Homeland
The memorial itself occupies a clearing ringed with tall, delicate trees waving gently in the wind. The whole places feels like a graveyard. At one end sits a statue of Mother Russia, her head bowed in grief for the 7000 lost who are here interred.
At the other end of the park a plinth rises up, topped by the statue of a soldier. In one arm he craddles a young child close to his chest; in the other hand he holds a sword. The soldier looks out across the park, past rows of stone tablets bearing images of Soviet bravery, to look at the grieving Mother Russia.
The park recently underwent renovations as the monument showed its years. The 1950s Soviet architecture, like its foundational philosophy, failed to stand the test of time.