Soviet War Memorials Southeast of Berlin

The final battle for the conquer of Berlin was a massive operation carried out by the Soviet Red Army, who had come on the line of Oder river, marking today’s border between Germany and Poland, at the conclusion of the westward march on the territories of Eastern Europe previously taken over by the Third Reich.

Witnessing the dramatic lack of men and supplies on the German side, the final Soviet attack from that position was launched on April 16th, 1945, to end just less thank two weeks later with the death of Hitler, the conquer of Berlin, and soon after with the German capitulation in early May. In this short time, the Soviets penetrated and gained control of a significant part of what was to become the territory of East Germany, including the capital city of the Reich.

It is estimated that the troops amassed in the spring of 1945 for this operation exceeded 2.2 millions on the Soviet side, whereas the contingent available for the defense of the region on the German side was below 300 thousand men, including almost improvised corps of elders or extremely young people, lacking any military training and experience. As a matter of fact, the original German war machine had been drained of resources also due to the eastward advance of the Western Allies in Western Europe and Germany, where some millions German soldiers were taken prisoners. Actually, by April 1945 the line of the Western front had reached East to the towns of Leipzig, Dessau, Magdeburg and Wismar, very close to Berlin, and all later ceded to the Soviets according to the Jalta and Potsdam agreements.

The defense of Berlin from the Soviet attackers was strenuous though, and heavy losses were recorded on both sides.

One of the most visible remains of these war operations today is a a number of memorials and war cemeteries, of larger and smaller size, scattered over the territory around Berlin. The most conspicuous such memorials are those erected by the winning Soviet forces. Besides their primary role of remembrance, they were in most cases erected soon after the end of the war, then making for an interesting historical trace from that age, when Stalin was the undisputed ruler in the Soviet Union. Their style often reflects the mix of pomp and simplicity typical to the communist art from the time.

Memorials related to these events can be found in Berlin (see here and here) and around. Some to the north of the town have been described in this post. In the present one, three memorials related to the battle around Berlin and located east and south of the German capital are covered – Seelow, Lebus and Baruth.

Photographs were taken in 2021 and 2023.

Sights

Seelow

The memorial in Seelow was designed and installed in 1945, soon after the end of the war in Europe, and was therefore one of the first of the kind. The location is that of the Battle of the Seelower Heights.

The small town of Seelow is located about 8 miles west of the Oder river, marking a natural border with Poland. The hills around the town dominate the flat country reaching to the river. Therefore, for the defending Wehrmacht, this was a natural obstacle between the Soviet invaders and Berlin. The hills were fortified heavily with guns and mortars, and the villages in the area were evacuated in anticipation of a major confrontation.

Fighting was started on the fateful April 16th, 1945, when a Soviet attack was triggered all along the line of the Oder, with a major focal point in the region of Küstrin and Seelow.

The battle went on for four days despite the clear imbalance of resources in favor of the Soviets, due to the advantageous geographical position of the heights around Seelow and the effectiveness of the German defense.

The memorial was erected around a simple statue of a Soviet soldier, put on top of a pinnacle, and portrayed beside the turret of a tank.

To the base of the pinnacle is a small Soviet cemetery, with some marked graves and some gravestones with multiple names, or dedicated to unknown soldiers perished in the battle.

From the cemetery, a good view of the plains extending to the east, where this fierce battle was fought in April 1945, can be observed from a vantage point. Purpose-designed maps allow to retrace the positions of the attackers and to pinpoint relevant locations.

To the base of the monument is a memorial museum. The exhibition is compact but very interesting. Two thematic areas are presented, one related to the historical reconstruction of the battle, the other to the history of the monument and the archaeology of the battlefield around Seelow.

Among the artifacts on display related to the history of the battle are German and Soviet uniforms, machine guns and rifles.

Interestingly, also mortar shells carrying leaflets are on display: these were employed by the Soviets, who launched propaganda leaflets inviting Germans to surrender, and even passes for the German military who wished to defect to the Soviets side. An armband of the ‘Deutscher Volkssturm Wehrmacht’, the non-professional corps recruited by the Third Reich in a desperate move to gather fresh units for the final defense of the German territory from invasion during the last stages of the war, is also on display.

The history of the monument is interesting as well, and shows how it evolved from being primarily a Soviet monument – like others in the area – to a public gathering place for official ceremonies in the German Democratic Republic – a place for the celebration of friendship between the USSR and the GDR. Historical pictures, and the addition of a poetic commemoration stone written in German only to the base of the monument, witness this evolution.

Outside the museum, a courtyard is framed by two original small obelisks with inscriptions in Russian and Soviet iconography. On the courtyard, some heavy armored vehicles – including a Katyusha rocket launcher – are on display.

Getting there and visiting

The monument has a special relevance in the history of the liberation of Germany, and has been modernized and updated over the years. It is still a rather relevant destination for visitors. A ticket is required for the museum only. A visit to the monument may take 20-30 minutes. A complete visit including the museum may require 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Access is very easy, since the location is immediately to the side of the road leaving Seelow for Küstrin (now Kostrzyn, Poland). The name of the site in German is ‘Gedenkstätte Seelower Höhen’, and the address is Küstriner Straße 28a, 15306 Seelow. A small parking can be found right ahead of the access, further parking options cross the street and near the railway station, 1 minute away by walk. A new modern building to the side of the monument hosts the ticket office and a small shop. Website with full information here.

Lebus

The cemetery in Lebus, located on the German bank of the Oder river, about 10 miles southeast of Seelow (see above) was activated already in April 1945 for burying Soviet soldiers perished in the final war actions against Germany. Starting 1946, the status of Soviet cemeteries and monuments established on the territory of the Third Reich was officially defined. The Lebus site received Soviet staff perished in Germany after the war, or unrecognized fallen Soviet soldiers whose remains were found in the years soon after WWII on the East German territory.

Following an agreement between Russia and reunified Germany, extending the relationship formerly existing between the USSR and the GDR on the management of war memorials, the Lebus site became a Russian cemetery. It was refurbished in 2014-16, and at the time of writing it is still an active cemetery, often receiving the remains of Soviet soldiers moved from elsewhere, or still found in the area.

It is estimated that more than 5.000 from the USSR/Russia are buried in Lebus.

The memorial is not much visited by the general public, and is an authentic place of remembrance, sober and silent.

The architecture is rather simple, with a central perspective leading to an obelisk with a red star on top, a hammer and sickle emblem to the front, and inscriptions in Russian.

To the sides are two lateral wings, where the names of many fallen soldiers are inscribed on memorial stones.

To the sides of the perspective are an anti-tank cannon, and some more fields, marked with marble red stars as places of interment of unknown soldiers.

Also two further memorial walls with many names in Cyrillic alphabet are symmetrically placed to the sides of the perspective.

Getting there and visiting

The location of the Soviet cemetery in Lebus, now called officially ‘Russische Kriegsgräberstätte in Lebus’, is on Lindenstrasse, immediately after leaving Strasse d. Freiheit, Lebus. It is clearly marked by an indication sign, and recognizable by the external fence. Parking can be found 200 ft further north on Lindenstrasse, on the side of a local school.

The site is not mainly a touristic destination, but a real, well maintained (war) cemetery. It is apparently open 24/7 and not actively guarded. Visiting may take 20 minutes, or more for specifically interested subjects.

Baruth

The Soviet war cemetery of Baruth was erected between 1946 and 1947 for the fallen soldiers of the Battle of Halbe. The battle was a last confrontation between the Soviet Red Army and the Wehrmacht, taking between April 24th to the first days of May 1945 – the very last battle out of Berlin.

The battle was fought around the village of Halbe, south of Berlin, between what remained of the German defense retreating from the bank of the Oder, and two large columns of the invading Soviet Army. The German forces got mostly surrounded in a salient. Losses were very heavy on both sides, of the order of the tens of thousands.

The war cemetery for Soviet soldiers, the final resting place for some thousands of fallen troops, is clearly visible when passing by, thanks to the two T-34 tanks put as gate guardians.

The architecture of the place is rather simple, and composed of a rectangular yard crossed by an alley, leading to a very tall obelisk. The obelisk features a big metal star on top, and a hammer and sickle metal emblem in the middle.

To the base of the obelisk are two bas-reliefs with war scenes.

A number of marked gravestones can be found on the greens around the obelisk. More recent – yet pretty old – additions, somewhat altering the original neat appearance of the ensemble, include a wall with applied gravestones and names inscribed on it.

Getting there and visiting

The Baruth war cemetery, named ‘Sowjetischer Ehrenfriedhof Baruth/Mark’ in German, can be found along the road 96 (Bundestrasse 96), about 1 mile north of the homonym town of Baruth. The monument can be clearly spotted on the eastern side of the road. A small parking can be found ahead of the entrance.

Due to the secluded and isolated location, the place is not a highly popular tourist destination, yet it is frequented by relatives and descendants of those interred on site. It is well cared for and perfectly maintained. It is apparently open 24/7.

A prototypical Soviet war cemetery from Stalin’s years, likely the largest in the region south Berlin, it is definitely worth a stop when visiting the area. A visit may take 20 minutes.

Notably, the place is located about 7 miles south of Wünsdorf (see this post), the former Soviet headquarters in the German Democratic Republic, which is crossed by the same road 96.

The Cold War in Hungary – Military Collections, Leftovers & More

Many traces of the communist dictatorship can be found in today’s modern and thriving Hungary. The most visited ones, like Memento Park or Terror Haza in capital city Budapest, tell about the inhumane and pervasive aspect of propaganda and political repression. However, the history of this country in the second half of the 20th century is closely bound to the Soviet-backed communist seizure of power, and this has left traces also elsewhere, especially in terms of military leftovers. As a matter of fact, the Soviet Red Army was directly present in Hungary, to keep the status quo and to to be closer to the border with the West in case of an attack – and this of course left traces.

You can find a significant deal of material concerning more urbex-connected destinations in Hungary in another post.

In this one, you will find a mainly pictorial portrait of some of the best known attractions related to the Cold War period in Hungary, as well as some well accessible but less known ones, especially considering the general public visiting from abroad. As usual on this website, a good share of these sites is aviation-themed!

Photographs were taken in August 2020.

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Sights

Iron Curtain Museum, Felsocsatar

The Iron Curtain Museum has been created soon after the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989 on the sight of a former small sector of the state border between communist Hungary and free Austria.

The site is mainly the result of the effort of a man, Sandor Gojak, a former border guard in the 1960s, who dedicated this permanent exhibition to those who attempted escaping the repressive communist regime in Hungary towards Austria and the West – both those who succeeded and those who did not, hence facing arrest or losing their lives due to the minefields prepared along the border line.

The site features three examples of the border line placed in the area over the years. They are look less impenetrable than those created between Eastern and Western Germany (see this post), yet they were similarly deadly in scope and facts.

The first is basically a simple line of barbed wire with wooden poles, and it was put in place soon after WWII. Mines were placed in close vicinity to the line. After wooden poles started to rot around the mid-1950s, mines were removed, a dangerous job which cost the health of some border guards, who were severely injured due to accidental explosions.

For a short while at that time, the border was free of mines, and about 300’000 people managed to leave the ‘paradise of workers’!

Soon after the anti-communist uprising in 1956, suffocated with violence by the Soviets, the border was further fortified with concrete poles, and the mine strip was increased in width.

Only at the end of the 1960s the mines were removed, after multiple accidents involving Austrian citizens, when the mines slipped into a creek near the border due to a flood, injuring many who touched them incautiously. This time the border security system was strongly potentiated, with the adoption of an electrified system for the immediate detection of proximity, linked to signal collection centers dislocated along the line. This system had been implemented by the USSR on the Pakistani border. Something similar can be found also on the border between Czechoslovakia and West Germany (see here).

The exhibition is completed by an example of a wooden turret, as well as a more modern fence – a specimen of the one put in place in 2015 between today’s Hungary and neighbor Serbia and Croatia, when a wave of migrants from the Middle East swept the Balkans.

The museum is full of vivid testimonies, thanks to the many historical pictures and artifacts on display, and to the fact that the founder is actually the man who runs the museum! – he is totally available to answer your questions.

Getting there and visiting

The museum can be reached here: 47.20376801287036, 16.429799972912328, on the border between Hungary and Austria, not far from Szombathely. The coordinates point to a convenient parking. The site is operated as an open-air museum, with opening times and an entrance fee. Moderate climbing is required, as the museum area is on the slope of a nice hill. Only cash accepted. Visiting may take about 45 minutes. Website here.

Military Park, Zanka

This small military park is a nice and cared for exhibition of Soviet-made weapons, located ahead of a resort which used to be an exclusive destination for vacation on the coast of Lake Balaton.

You can find here a couple of Mil helicopters – including the legendary Mil-24 in all its ‘beauty’! – in the colors of the Hungarian Air Force.

There is a MiG-21, also formerly of the Hungarian Air Force, a T-64 tank, a howitzer, a military snow blower, an amphibious truck and more light trailers.

Perhaps the most striking sight in this collection is the surface-to-air missile (SAM) SA-2, aka S-75 Dvina in the Soviet codification. A rather basic but powerful – and successful – missile from the 1950s, sold by the Soviets to many satellite Countries and clients over the world.

A revolving antenna can be seen on top of a truck. This is an example of the target acquisition antenna for the SA-2 system, code-named Spoon Rest by NATO, and known as P18 in Soviet codification. This radar system had a range of approximately 170 miles, and was an improvement of the previous P12 design. The launch site of SA-2 SAMs was always complemented by a set of antennas, including a Spoon Rest system. Actually, P18 could be coupled with the launch system of more advanced SAMs too.

All items in the collection here are pretty well preserved, making the visit an enjoyable stop along the exploration of the Balaton coastline.

Getting there and moving around

The park can be found here: 46.881838498667996, 17.7098619193198. The site can be visited in 10-30 minutes depending on your level of interest. This is an open-air museum, with ticket and opening times. Website (referral) with some information here.

Komarom Monostor Fort & Soviet Weapons Collection

An incredible, perfectly preserved military fort from the years of the Austrian Empire, Monostor Fort in Komarom can be found on the Danube, marking the border with Slovakia. At the time of construction, the two nations were united in the Austrian Empire, and the fort was erected between 1850-71 as a part of a defense line extending also north in today’s Slovakia.

Despite being extremely interesting for its articulated and complex construction – a brilliant example of military engineering from the time – the fort saw no action in its intended purpose. It was used for training for most of its life, then briefly as a prisoner’s camp in the years of Hitler’s administration, and finally as an immense weapons storage during the Cold War years, when it saw tenancy by the Soviets.

Today, the fort is open as a museum, duly centered on the interesting original construction from the 19th century.

One cellar has been left as it was in Soviet times, when weapons of all sorts were stored here, moved by means of a dedicated short-gauge railway.

In a corner of the immense apron, you can find a small collection of Soviet weapons, mainly anti-tank and anti-aircraft cannons. There are also a couple of truck-transported antennas, including a very effective early warning Flat Face radar, aka P19 Danube according to the soviet classification, as well as a PRW-9 Thin Skin target altitude detection radar. Similar platforms are still in use today, and can be coupled with modern SAM launching systems.

Getting there and moving around

The fort is a major attraction in the area. It features a large parking ahead of the entrance, address: 2900 Komárom Duna-part 1. Visiting is on a self-guided basis, with a short paper guide in English distributed at the entrance, and the visit will be extremely interesting for anybody interested in history, military engineering, etc. – not only Cold-War-minded subjects.

Visiting may take 1.5 hours, due to the size of the fort. The place is also used as a venue for theater performances and concerts, so timetables may vary. Some info in English can be found on this website.

Papa Airbase

Papa is today an active base of the Air Force, hence it cannot be accessed. However, with a short adventure drive along an unpaved road, you may reach a part of the former premises of the base – from Soviet times – now lying outside the perimeter.

There you can find a pretty unique array of old abandoned aircraft of Soviet make, in the colors of the Hungarian Air Force.

They are MiG-21 of many types, and also massive Sukhoi Su-22.

The state of conservation is not so bad – you can find airframes in worse condition in some museums – but some aircraft are missing some parts, possibly due to spare recycling, or vandalism, even though the place is really secluded, and the proximity with privately owned land and a military base is not ideal for vandals and idiot spoilers.

Of course, a few more years without any attention to these birds and little will remain of this improvised fleet. Hopefully, at least a share of this mighty force will find a due place in some museum or collection over the next years.

By the way, the former military area where these planes are sitting was perhaps a place for SAMs, put for protection of the base in the Cold War years.

Getting there and moving around

This is the only item on this post which is not a museum. It’s hard to tell whether these aircraft are lying on private land or not. However, to reach this strange flock of aircraft, you can move with a standard city car to this crossroads: 47.33966571405878, 17.550239693088113.

From here, you need to take north, until you reach this other waypoint: 47.35812676567956, 17.530436267329513. At some point along this path, the road turns unpaved, but the condition is generally manageable. On the latter waypoint you need to turn sharp left. You may notice old concrete posts, from the original soviet fence of the base.

You will finally land here: 47.35812676567956, 17.530436267329513, where you find an asphalted road, in the middle of a former peripheral area of the base. Driving towards the base along this road, you will find the aircraft here: 47.3541655146187, 17.514827811942904.

Visiting is not a long business, cause you should not move around the aircraft, as they are likely on the border of a private lot (fenced). Totally recommended for Cold War aircraft enthusiasts however.

Komo-Sky 51 Air Museum, Dunavarsany

This wonderful military exhibition is the based on the collection of a Hungarian military pilot, Zoltán Néhai Komócsi, nicknamed ‘Komo’, from which came the name of the museum. Unfortunately, the man passed away years ago in a crash. The collection was publicly put on display only more recently.

Items on display include military aircraft and helicopters, military trucks, trucks from the firefighting squad, engines, and more! Some of the exhibit can be boarded, and reportedly some vehicles are still operative.

Most of the exhibits are in very good condition, a few are still awaiting light refurbishment. An old Mil-2 helicopter can be boarded, revealing an old-fashioned cockpit, made more exotic by the Russian inscriptions.

Also an attack Mil-8 helicopter in Hungarian colors can be checked inside. A Mil-24 is undergoing restoration (as of 2020).

The ‘MiG alley’ includes MiG-15, 21 – in various versions – and 23, all in very good condition, refurbished for display.

Also some trucks can be boarded, revealing once more the excellent state of preservation, as well as abundant Russian signs.

To the far end of the collection, an Antonov An-2 utility biplane, an ubiquitous workhorse of the Soviet empire, can be boarded up to the cockpit.

You can sit in the pilot’s seat, getting a nice view from the cockpit of this bird.

Three deployable radar antennas can be seen on their trailers – apparently a not complete P80 Back Net system from the 1960s is the largest one.

Finally, a MiG-21 in the colors of the Hungarian national flag can be boarded. This is extremely interesting, as it provides a look in the cockpit of this high-performance and successful fighter/interceptor from the Cold War years, when ‘high-performance’ implied ‘high-complexity’ analog cockpits!

Getting there and moving around

The museum can be found at these coordinates, 47.292057190313706, 19.029565655926707, corresponding to a convenient parking. The site is about 30 minutes driving south of central Budapest. It is an open-air museum, with timetables and ticket. Information on their website (in Hungarian). Time required for visiting may range between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours for an interested subject, taking all the pictures.

Komo-Sky Bunker, Dunavarsany

A recent addition by the current managers of the Komo-Sky 51 Air Museum is this fully refurbished Soviet bunker, once used for air traffic control. The place is actually in the vicinity of the former Soviet airbase of Tokol, one of the largest in Hungary in its heyday (see this post).

Today the bunker has been partly restored in look, with some rooms changed into ambiances for interactive experiences, including shooting!

Some rooms host interesting collections of artifacts from the everyday life of communist Hungary.

Military memorabilia from the Red Army, with conspicuous Russian writings, are scattered everywhere.

A room of special interest hosts a collection of militaria from the Eastern Bloc, with artifacts ranging from weapons to flight suits, military decorations to aircraft parts. Really something for everybody!

Getting there and moving around

The bunker is a recent (as of 2020) addition to the Komo-Sky 51 Air Museum. No dedicated website available at the time of writing. The place can be reached at the coordinates 47.297663350792774, 19.0351554512774, about 3 minutes driving north of the Air Museum. I visited by invitation of the owner, hence I don’t know about the actual timetable. A website of a hotel nearby – actually on the very same lot of the bunker – is here, with some information on the bunker in Hungarian.

Museum of Military History, House of Terror, Memento Park, Houses of Parliament – Budapest

Budapest is rightly famous for a history spanning many centuries, for its art collections, incredible architectures, thermal baths and many other enjoyable features. However, having been the capital of a communist country in the Eastern Bloc, it also hosted a ‘state security service’, i.e. an agency of the government attempting to control the minds of Hungarian citizens, and keeping everybody’s behavior under strict surveillance. The palace chosen as the seat for this service is named ‘House of Terror’ (‘Terror Haza’ in the local idiom). Here many were kept under arrest, interrogated, and in some instances secretly murdered in the basement.

The place is among the most visited museums in Hungary, and can be found right in the city center. Comprehensibly, no photo is allowed in the most sensitive areas of this sad building. Website here.

Another place of Cold War interest, making for a rather popular touristic attraction, is Memento Park. In this small park about 15 minutes driving south of the city center most of the statues and monuments once adorning the capital’s downtown have been collected and put on display.

Some from older times, celebrating the friendship of the Soviet and Hungarian peoples, are unbearably rhetoric.

Others are more artistically interesting, in the context of official artistic currents authorized by the Communist Party.

Lenin is of course a favorite subject.

By the entrance, Marx, Engels and Lenin are kind of ‘gate guardians’.

In front of the entrance, you can find a reproduction of the base of a statue of Stalin put in place at some point and surviving in pictures, and later dismantled after the death of Stalin. In the basement of the same construction, you can find a weird set of official busts of Lenin and Stalin, as well as a once popular image of Lenin as a child.

Close by, a small deposit of statues still waiting to be put on display can be found. Website here.

A less visited museum covering the military history of Hungary over the ages, but especially the 19th and 20th centuries, can be found right in the old district of Buda. The display is rather classical and didactic, but for more military-minded people, or those interested in the recent history of Hungary, it is for sure worth a stop when visiting uptown. Website here.