Berlin: The Breakout Attempt
With the surrender of Germany mere hours away, a column of desperate Germans, an odd mix of battle-hardened veterans, press-ganged Volksturm, and frantic civilians sought to escape the Soviet encirclement and break out towards the American lines where they could be expect much more lenient treatment. The plan was for a Tiger tank to blast its way across the Weidendammer Bridge and allow this motley group, including Nazi grandees like Martin Bormann to make good their escape. They made it about 100 metres across the bridge before they were cut down. Here we see the result. Notice the buildings at the end of the street are the same.
The next day a Soviet war photographer toured the devastation and took this set of photos. Civilians and men in uniform continue to flee the city after the fighting has ceased, passing a knocked out Sd. Kfz. 250 halftrack.
Looking up Friedrichstrasse, in both photos you can see the entrance to Oranienburger Tor station. On the right of the old photo is a German mail truck that has miraculously survived the fighting.
Here we see those of the escape party who were not so lucky. Soldiers lie dead on a pile of rubble. Only a handful managed to sneak through Soviet lines to reach the Elbe and the American zone of occupation. Oranienburger Tor station entrance is still evident at the back of both photos.
Annihilated German equipment on Friedrichstrasse looking back towards the Weidendammer Bridge. Today this spot is one of Berlin's most fashionable shopping districts.
A German Panther tank has been knocked out in front of the Luftwaffe Ministry building. The building survives today, one of the few surviving examples of Nazi architecture. Today it is Germany's Finance Ministry.
A knocked out Tiger II in front of Potsdamer Platz station. Potsdamer Platz was Berlin's premiere shopping square, one of the ritziest in Europe, much like Fifth Avenue in New York or Oxford Circus in London. During the Cold War era the bomb-damaged area was largely left to decay and only after reunification did reconstruction begin in earnest. As a result practically none of Potsdamer Platz's original buildings survive, including the train station in the Then photo.