Berlin to honour the 12,000 Poles who took part in the Battle of Berlin
Germany plans to commemorate Polish soldiers who fought in the Battle of Berlin by mounting a plaque on the Polytechnic building in the city.
The memorial which reads “In memory of the Men and Women Soldiers of the Polish First Army, participants in the Battle of Berlin in 1945, who fought as part of the Anti-Hitler Coalition in the districts of Charlottenburg and Tiergarten for the liberation of Poland and Europe from fascism,” will honour the 12,000 Poles who fought in what has been described as one of the most intense battles in human history.
The memorial’s flag design is a reference to the Polish flag that Polish soldiers raised on the Victory Column in Berlin’s Tiergarten on 2 May 1945.
Kamil Majchrzak from the Berlin branch of the Association of Victims of Persecution by the Nazi Regime which initiated the memorial said: “We would like to commemorate those 12,000 Poles who fought here.
“Many Germans do not even know that Poles liberated Berlin.”
The Battle of Berlin was one of the last major battles of World War Two. By the time it had ended on 2 May 1945, the German army had surrendered and Adolf Hitler had committed suicide.
A few days later Germany surrendered unconditionally marking the end Hitler's self-proclaimed 1,000-year Reich and the end of the war in Europe.
The Soviets were able to put around two and a half million soldiers into battle against three quarters of a million Germans.
The battle was extremely bloody and it is estimated that joint losses on both sides were 170,000 dead and nearly half a million wounded.
Around 12,000 Polish soldiers of the First and Second Polish Armies fighting under the First Belorussian Front were heavily involved in the fighting.
The First Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division finally broke the fierce resistance of the Germans defending the Berlin Polytechnic building and it is soldiers from this formation that the plaque intends to commemorate.
The Berlin branch of the Association of Victims of Persecution by the Nazi Regime has been lobbying Berlin city council for several years to commemorate the Poles who took part in the battle.
Local councillors endorsed the initiative last year and the Commission for Memorials approved the design by the sculptor Anna Kaufmann.
The plaque will resemble the Polish flag set on a nearly three-metre long flagpole. Text in Polish, German, English and Russian will accompany a map showing the movement of Polish troops in Berlin during the assault on the city.
Due to the pandemic, only modest commemorations are taking place in Berlin today, which Germany calls the Day of Liberation from Nazism.
The postponed unveiling ceremony will now take place on 1 September later this year.