The date is April 30th 1945, the setting is the Führerbunker 28 feet below the shattered ruins of Nazi Berlin. Adolf Hitler hasn’t seen the sun in ten days, and the night before this one his prized German Sheppard Blondi was fed cyanide on his orders. Tonight would be the night that he and his mistress Eva Braun would commit suicide. Later on, in accordance with Hitler’s previously announced wishes, their corpses were taken upstairs before being doused in petroleum and cremated in the crater of a Soviet artillery shell in the Third Reich Chancellery gardens.
Fast forward to modern-day, and Berlin is almost unrecognisable from the Berlin of the Nazi hay-day. The Chancellery has long-since been replaced by a nursery school and a Chinese restaurant. The Führerbunker now lies half-destroyed, sealed beneath the foundations of a parking lot that sits underneath a beige block of apartments. And most importantly, the artillery crater that was the site of Hitler’s cremation is now a small play-park for children.
Featuring a polychromatic children’s slide on top soft sand filling, the park certainly looks like something the modern-art-hating Führer would have loathed. One of the corridors in the apartment block is a white wall that has been spray painted with Neo-Nazi symbols and graffiti in black ink, but these fascist markings have been painted over and crossed out in blue ink, along with the addition of anti-fascist slogans like ‘No Tolerance for neo-Nazis!’
In a somewhat similar story, the soldier who Russia claimed disposed of Hitler’s ashes refused to reveal the place where he did it in order to stop it becoming a site of Neo-Nazi pilgrimage. Vladimir Gumenyuk, a retired KGB Officer 73 years old, is the last remaining man alive of a three-man team that was tasked with finding and destroying the remains of Adolf Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun, as well as the remains of Joseph Goebbels and his family. Vladimir told a Russian newspaper why he would take the secret to his grave: “There are still too many neo-Nazis around. There would be pilgrimages. They would even put up a monument.”
When you look at Berlin and the transformation of what was once the hub of Nazi power, it’s easy to see why the retired KGB Officer would choose not to reveal the location. This way it stays as something innocent, rather than something malicious. And in this respect it’s easy to see how it is similar to the way in which the site of Hitler’s actual cremation remains something that belongs to the German people rather than the Neo-Nazi extremists.