The name Topography of Terror is highly appropriate when it comes to this modern, bunker-style museum situated next to the Martin Gropius Building, close to Potsdamer Platz. Its physical location – once the nerve-centre of Nazi atrocity – and the contents of its exhibitions and displays are sure to send chills down the spine.
Opened in 2010 and attracting over one million visitors in 2015, Topography of Terror sits on what was once the most feared address in Germany where the institutions of Hitler’s terror apparatus – the Gestapo, SS (with its own ‘house prison’) and the Reich Security Main Office – operated between 1933 and 1945. Through a series of indoor and outdoor exhibits, the museum offers a no-holds-barred focus on the Nazi perpetrators of this reign of oppression rather than the victims.
While the majority of Third Reich buildings have been demolished over the years, markers are used to document traces of former structures such as cellar rooms of a former SS mess hut, a prison yard wall and a Berlin Wall monument that incorporates approximately 200 metres of preserved wall. The natural surrounds are deliberately unkempt as a reminder of the site’s derelict state until recent years.
Along with special and travelling exhibitions, permanent attractions at Terror of Topography include Berlin 1933–1945: Between Propaganda and Terror addressing National Socialist policy in Berlin and its consequences for the city; the central exhibition of Topography of Terror detailing the activities of the former residents; and a site tour designed to complement Topography of Terror by presenting the history of the terrain of the actual location.
Given Topography of Terror occupies the site it references makes this museum unique among the memorials of Berlin, and adds to the experience of ‘being there’ at a time in history Germany is determined not to forget and, therefore, not to repeat.