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Our early morning flight to Berlin landed a Schönefeld airport and the first thing we did was drive to another airport! At Templehof Airport Brian MacGabhann gave a talk on the history of the Airport, the first talk of our tour. The Templehof building is a massive structure built by the Nazi’s .It was designated as an airport by the Ministry of Transport on 8 October 1923. The old terminal was originally constructed in 1927. In anticipation of increasing air traffic, the Nazi government began a massive reconstruction in the mid-1930s. While it was occasionally cited as the world's oldest still operating commercial airport, the title was disputed by several other airports, and has in any case been moot since its closure.

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Tempelhof was one of Europe's three iconic pre-World War II airports, the others being London's now defunct Croydon Airport and the old Paris – Le Bourget Airport. One of the airport's most distinctive features is its large, canopy-style roof, which was able to accommodate most contemporary airliners during its heyday in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, thereby protecting passengers from the elements. Tempelhof Airport's main building was once among the top 20 largest buildings on earth; Tempelhof Airport closed all operations on 30 October 2008, despite the efforts of some protesters to prevent the closure. A non-binding referendum was held on 27 April 2008 against the impending closure.



On 20 June 1948, Soviet authorities, claiming technical difficulties, halted all traffic by land and by water into or out of the western-controlled sectors of Berlin. The only remaining access routes into the city were three 20 mi (32 km)-wide air corridors across the Soviet Zone of Occupation. Faced with the choice of abandoning the city or attempting to supply its inhabitants with the necessities of life by air, the Western Powers chose the latter course, and for the next eleven months sustained the city's 2½ million residents in one of the greatest feats in aviation history.

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Berlin Airlift, Operation Vittles, as the airlift was unofficially named, began on 26 June when USAF Douglas C-47 Skytrains carried 80 tons of food into Tempelhof, far less than the estimated 4,500 tons of food, coal and other essential supplies needed daily to maintain a minimum level of existence. But this force was soon augmented by United States Navy and Royal Air Force cargo aircraft, as well as British European Airways (BEA) and many of Britain's fledgling wholly privately owned, independent airlines. The latter included the late Sir Freddie Laker's Air Charter, Eagle Aviation and Skyways. On 15 October 1948, to promote increased safety and cooperation between the separate US and British airlift efforts, the Allies created a unified command – the Combined Airlift Task Force under Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner, USAF, was established at Tempelhof. To facilitate the command and control, as well as the unloading of aircraft, the USAF 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron was temporarily assigned to Tempelhof.

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The grass runways usual in Germany until then could not cope with the massive demand, and a subsequently built runway containing perforated steel matting[nb 2] began to crumble under the weight of the USAF's C-54 Skymasters. Hence, American engineers built a new 6,000 ft (1,800 m) runway at Tempelhof between July and September 1948 and another between September and October 1948 to accommodate the expanding requirements of the airlift. The old airport terminal of 1927 was demolished in 1948 in order to create additional space for unloading more planes. The last airlift transport touched down at Tempelhof on 30 September 1949.

Tempelhof also became famous as the location of Operation Little Vittles: the dropping of candy to children living near the airport. The original Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen noticed children lingering near the fence line of the airport and wanted to share something with them. He eventually started dropping candy by parachute just before landing. His efforts were expanded by other pilots and eventually became a part of legend in the city of Berlin.


From Templehof we drove in the direction of Potsdam home of the Prussian Kings and the site of two pivotal conferences in history.

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The Wannsee Conference – the Final Solution
On January 20, 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi Party and German government officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss and coordinate the implementation of what they called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question."

Representing the SS at the meeting were: SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt-RSHA) and one of Reichsführer-SS (SS chief) Heinrich Himmler's top deputies; SS Major General Heinrich Müller, chief of RSHA Department IV (Gestapo); SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, chief of the RSHA Department IV B 4 (Jewish Affairs); SS Colonel Eberhard Schöngarth, commander of the RSHA field office for the Government General in Krakow, Poland; SS Major Rudolf Lange, commander of RSHA Einsatzkommando 2, deployed in Latvia in the autumn of 1941; and SS Major General Otto Hofmann, the chief of SS Race and Settlement Main Office.

Villa and garden were constructed in 1914-15 for the businessman Ernst Marlier according to the designs of the architect Paul O. A. Baumgarten. In 1921 Marlier sold the estate to Friedrich Minoux who had made his fortune as director-general of the Hugo Stinnes trust. In 1923, the year of severe crisis (inflation, French occupation of the Ruhr area, Hitler-Putsch in Munich), Minoux offered the army high command his cooperation as secretary to establish a cabinet with dictatorial authority. Conspiratorial meetings with like-minded individuals were held in his Wannsee villa. These political ambitions failed because in November 1923 the high command of the German army abandoned their putsch plans against the Weimar Republic. Talks between Minoux and Free corps and Nazi leaders came to no conclusion

The “Memorial and Educational Site House of the Wannsee Conference” was opened in 1992 on the 50th anniversary of the conference on the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question

The Potsdam Conference, July - August 1945

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On 16 July 1945, the "Big Three" leaders met at Potsdam, Germany, near Berlin. In this, the last of the World War II heads of state conferences, President Truman, Soviet Premier Stalin and British Prime Ministers Churchill and Atlee discussed post-war arrangements in Europe, frequently without agreement. Future moves in the war against Japan were also covered. The meeting concluded early in the morning of 2 August.


One result of the conference was a 26 July joint proclamation by the U.S., Great Britain and China, the three main powers then fighting Japan. This "Potsdam Declaration" described Japan's present perilous condition, gave the terms for her surrender and stated the Allies' intentions concerning her postwar status. It ended with an ultimatum: Japan must immediately agree to unconditionally surrender, or face "prompt and utter destruction".
The palace is now a  hotel and we decided to have lunch there at the restaurant .

After lunch it was on to the Luftwaffe Museum
About 9km south of Altstadt Spandau, the Luftwaffenmuseum (German Air Force Museum) occupies the grounds of the former military air field Berlin-Gatow. Built in 1934–35 as a Nazi air combat and technical training academy, it came under British control after the war and provided an important lifeline during the 1948 Berlin Airlift. Since the Union Jack was taken down in 1994, the Bundeswehr (German armed forces) has moved exhibits about the history of the Luftwaffe and the airport itself into the old hangars. An old control tower now houses uniforms and military ephemera, while the runways are littered with over 100 historical craft, including WWI biplanes, a Russian MiG-21, a Messer-schmidt ME-163 Komet and a GDR-era Antonov An-14

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Our leisurely lunch and delays due to road works meant it was getting late at the Luftwaffe museum and we did a quick scoot of the airport and headed for the H2 hotel on Alexanderplatz in Berlin. The Hotel is very close to the main landmark in Berlin, the TV tower , in the East part of the city.
And after check it off to the Bier House next door. Some were brave enough to try some traditional Bavarian Weisswurst (white sausage) a much sought after accompaniment to beer at the Ocktoberfest. It did not agree with all stomachs or maybe it was the beer.

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Day2
First stop Berlin’s German Museum of Technology easily recognisable as it has a Boeing C17 suspended above the main door. It is an iconic airplane for Berliners as it was typical of the aircraft used to break the blockade of Berlin post WWII. Tom O’Donnell gave us a talk on roof underneath the C17 about the Luftwaffe museum. It is one of the most popular museums in the city and provides great family entertainment. It is a hands-on, activity-oriented fun tour of the cultural history of technology located at the Anhalter freight station, one of Berlin’s former rail depots. The developments in transport, communication and energy technologies are presented in a total of 14 sections in an exhibition space of 25,000 sq m. Using the most modern exhibition techniques of display and of trying out the exhibits a “get in touch with technology” approach is encouraged: Locomotives and planes, looms, jewellery production and machine tools, computers, radios and cameras, diesel engines, steam engines, scientific instruments, paper machines, printing presses and much more.

 

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After a lovely lunch and some lovely German beer we headed to the underground for Potsdomer Platz.


The Berlin Wall once stood here and we had a presentation from Danny Griffin about the first ever traffic lights beside a replica which stands there.


“Although a contraption at Stephansplatz in Hamburg is now thought to have predated them by two years, it has often been stated that the first traffic lights in Continental Europe were erected at Potsdamer Platz on 20 October 1924, in an attempt to control the sheer volume of traffic passing through. This traffic had grown to extraordinary levels. Even in 1900, more than 100,000 people, 20,000 cars, horse-drawn vehicles and handcarts, plus many thousands of bicycles, passed through the platz daily. By the 1920s the number of cars had soared to 60,000.”

 

 

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Potsdamer   is an important public square and traffic intersection in the centre of Berlin, Germany, lying about one kilometre south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (German Parliament Building), and close to the southeast corner of the Tiergarten park. It is named after the city of Potsdam, some 25 km to the south west, and marks the point where the old road from Potsdam passed through the city wall of Berlin at the Potsdam Gate. After developing within the space of little over a century from an intersection of rural thoroughfares into the most bustling traffic intersection in Europe,[1] it was totally laid waste during World War II and then left desolate during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. Since German reunification, Potsdamer Platz has been the site of major redevelopment projects. A row of bricks buried flush with the ground marks the site of the Berlin Wall.


We walked a few blocks past the art gallery and stopped at a house front riddled with pock marks from being struck by bullets. A reminder of the battle of Berlin. The street meets with another street now called Stauffenberg Strasse but was originally Bendlerstraße where the Wehrmacht headquarters (Bendlerblock) were located during the war.
In the courtyard of the Bendlerblock Tom Cruise was executed but not for real. The movie was named Valkyrie and it told the story of Claus von Stauffenberg who was one the man who placed the bomb at the 'Wolf's Lair'.

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On 20 July 1944, a German colonel left a bomb in the Führer's office. It exploded, just missing its target, and the following day the officer was shot. With the daring plot  Berthold von Stauffenberg, son of the would-be assassin, tells Nigel Jones how his father's 'moral sacrifice' shattered his and his family's lives
Just before 1pm on a boiling hot day in 1944, a 10-year-old boy sat down to lunch at a grand country house in the hills near Stuttgart. An earnest young man, and the heir to one of Germany's most noble families, Berthold von Stauffenberg was in awe of the Nazi regime and talked excitedly about joining the Hitler Youth. But, 800 miles away, his father, Claus, had other plans. A colonel and a trusted member of the Führer's inner circle, he was, at that precise moment, trying to kill Hitler with a briefcase full of explosives. 'It was the closest anyone came to killing him,' says Berthold, now 74 and a fierce guardian of his father's legacy. 'He did what he did, and sacrificed his life, through sheer moral duty.'


Claus von Stauffenberg was a 'good German' amid a nation of demonised villains. An extraordinarily brave soldier and a charismatic leader, his attempt to kill Hitler on 20 July at the Nazi leader's eastern HQ - known as the 'Wolf's Lair'


At 19.00 on that day, Hitler spoke to the German people over state radio. It was only then that Stauffenberg realised that the plan had failed. He was arrested in his office in Berlin by fellow conspirator, General Fromm, who was trying to protect himself and show loyalty to Hitler. Fromm went through the motions of a court martial and Stauffenberg was found guilty of treason. He was shot at about 01.00 on July 21st. General Fromm ordered that Stauffenberg (and three others who were also shot) should be buried in a church in his uniform. The next day, SS men dug up Stauffenberg’s body, took off his medals and other insignia on his uniform and burned the body.
Four of his five children were placed in foster homes and were made to use new surnames.


In 1980, a Berlin road known as the Bendlerstrasse was renamed the Stauffenbergstrasse and a memorial was erected in the Bendlerblock – the offices where Stauffenberg worked and where he was arrested. The German government also placed a memorial in the courtyard where he was executed.

We walked in glorious sunshine from Stauffenberg Strasse back to Potsdamer Platz to a building which is built to resemble Mount Fuji in Japan. You might be wondering what Mount Fuji is doing here in Berlin but the name of the building gives it away - the Sony Centre.

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The site was originally a bustling city centre in the early 20th century. Most of the buildings were destroyed or damaged during World War II. From 1961 on, most of the area became part of the No Man's Land of the Berlin Wall, resulting in the destruction of the remaining buildings. After the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989, the square became the focus of attention again, as a large (some 60 hectares), attractive location which had suddenly become available in the centre of a major European capital city. As part of a redevelopment effort for the area, the centre was constructed. The centre was designed by Helmut Jahn and construction was completed in 2000 at a total cost of €750M. In February 2008 Sony sold Berlin's Sony Center for less than €600M to a group of German and US investment funds, including investment bank Morgan Stanley.

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The oldest building in the Plaza , was moved by crane from one section to  this final resting place . The group stopped for a nice coffee , Karina’s sister joined the party , but she had little English and our German was ...sad
Eugene was the guide to the Brandenburg gate and the Michael Jackson window – Berlin’s response to the Lynch window in Galway for it was at the Hotel Adlon where Michael Jackson hung his son over the balcony.


The Brandenburg  Gate's design is based upon the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece and is consistent with Berlin's history of architectural classicism (first, Baroque, and then neo-Palladian). The Gate was the first "Athens on the River Spree" by architect Carl Gotthard von Langhans. The capital Quadriga was sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow.


The Brandenburg Gate's design has remained essentially unchanged since its completion even as it has played different political roles in German history. After the 1806 Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession[2] and took its Quadriga to Paris.

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After Napoleon's defeat in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of Paris by General Ernst von Pfuel, the Quadriga was restored to Berlin and Victoria's wreath of oak leaves was supplemented with a new symbol of Prussian power, the Iron Cross. The Quadriga faces east, as it did when it was originally installed in 1793. Only the royal family was allowed to pass through the central archway,[3] as well as members of the Pfuel family, from 1814 to 1919. In addition, the central archway was also used by the coaches of Ambassadors on the single occasion of their presenting their letters of credence to the monarch.It is located west of the city centre at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, immediately west of the Pariser Platz. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building. The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. Having suffered considerable damage in World War II, the Brandenburg Gate was fully restored from 2000 to 2002 by the Stiftung Denkmalschutz Berlin (Berlin Monument Conservation Foundation). During the post-war Partition of Germany the gate was isolated and inaccessible immediately next to the Berlin Wall, and the area around the gate featured most prominently in the media coverage of the opening of the wall in 1989.The Gate survived World War II and was one of the damaged structures still standing in the Pariser Platz ruins in 1945 (another being the Academy of Fine Arts). The gate was badly damaged with holes in the columns from bullets and nearby explosions. Following Germany's surrender and the end of the war, the governments of East Berlin and West Berlin restored it in a joint effort. The holes were patched, and were visible for many years following the war.

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Beside the Brandenburg gate is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial (German: Holocaust-Mahnmal), is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000 square metres (4.7 acres) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 m (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.8 m (8 in to 15 ft 9 in). According to Eisenman's project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason