As the year slowly comes to a close and the days get darker and the intense summer colors give way to their faded siblings, the foliage turns a golden bloom before vanishing completely, leaving trees and branches shaking naked in the cold wind. Winter is here and with it, inevitably, comes a time for reflection.Reflection and pensive winter walks. Hidden in the vast Treptower Park is a monument that is nothing but epic.
The Soviet Memorial is a war memorial and military cemetery built to commemorate Soviet soldiers who fell in the Battle of Berlin at the end of World War II, a symbol for Germany’s liberation from National Socialism. Everything about it is monumental – its size, symbolism and overall architecture.
Two massive arches mark the entrance and lead to a square with a granite statue, ‘Mother Homeland’, weeping at the loss of her sons. Behind a promenade of weeping birches, past two huge stylized flags made of red granite and two statues of kneeling soldiers the main section, the war cemetery, spreads out, vastly; framed by a broad walkway lined by white limestone sarcophagi with engraved war scenes that ends at the center of the monument: a 12-meter tall massive statue of a Soviet soldier holding a child and a sword over a broken swastika – a symbol of the overthrow of National Socialism, and the prospect of a peaceful future.
It is place for contemplation, and as you walk across the grounds or sit at a bench its massiveness imposes on you.
First, it lies in the nature of a war memorial where you might contemplate life and death. War always brings out the worst, for the soldiers fighting but also for innocents and women that fall victim to the mostly brutal occupation or everyday life in wartimes. For many of us today, war is a tale of history or from foreign countries, and standing here in awe to the horrors of warfare, past and present, we realize again how fortunate we are – a praise of life in its purest form.
But there is more, the strong, massive and clean architecture and the layout that brings these incredible wide views and an overall vastness triggers another contemplative level. The space of the ground seems to translate into space for your thoughts to wander, for new ideas and prospects to form. The city noise seems miles away and the quiet and severe atmosphere does not interfere in your reflection. The interplay of trees and architecture, the wind rustling in the trees, the mild colors of autumn – so peaceful, so beautiful.
And just for a moment, on the memorial grounds, our problems might feel a bit less despairing, tragic or unsolvable. There is a solution somewhere, as there is a future.