Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand

Lonely Planet review

If you’ve seen the 2008 film Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, you’re well aware of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the poster boy of the German resistance against Hitler and the Third Reich. The very rooms where a group of senior army officers, led by Stauffenberg, plotted the bold but ill-fated assassination attempt on the Führer on 20 July 1944 are now part of the German Resistance Memorial Centre. The building itself, the historic Bendlerblock, harboured the Wehrmacht high command from 1935 to 1945. Today the complex is the secondary seat of the German Ministry of Defense (the primary is still in Bonn, the former West German capital).

The centre’s exhibit documents the efforts not just of Stauffenberg but of many other Germans who actively opposed the Third Reich for ideological, religious or military reasons. Most were just regular folks, such as the students Hans and Sophie Scholl or the craftsman Georg Elser; others were prominent citizens like the artist Käthe Kollwitz and the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All of them risked not only their own lives and livelihoods but also those of their friends and families. Labelling is in German, so be sure to make use of the excellent and free audioguide (available in English and other languages).

The entrance to the centre takes you through the yard where Stauffenberg and three of his co-conspirators were shot on 20 July 1944. A statue of a nude male and a plaque in the courtyard mark the very spot. More than 600 others were arrested in the post-coup aftermath, many of them completely unaffiliated; about 100 were tortured and executed, many at Plötzensee Prison, now the Gedenkstätte Plötzensee site.