Tempelhof, hört zu, schweigen


Why is the world still silent?!

The Columbia House, also known by inmates as “Columbia Hell”, is a former military prison that was built at the end of the 19th century on the northern edge of the Tempelhofer Feld. From spring 1933 to November 1936 there was initially a Gestapo prison and, since late 1934, the Columbia concentration camp. About 8,000 men are detained here. The conditions of detention are inhumane, the prisoners are completely inadequate, and abuse by the SS guards is part of everyday life in the Columbia-Haus. In addition to an introduction to the history of the Columbia House, this website presents numerous biographies of former inmates of the Gestapo prison and concentration camp. The selection of biographies is constantly expanding.

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Conquest of Tempelhof Airport

On 26 April 1945, Berlin Tempelhof Airport came under the control of 8th Guards Army led by General Vasily Chuikov. With ready for take-off aircraft parked in underground hangars, Tempelhof provided the last escape route for the Nazi leadership and was therefore a priority in Chuikov’s attack plans. Chuikov’s troops had routed the German 7th Army at Stalingrad in 1942/43. On 22 April 1945, after the battle of the Seelow Heights in which they had sustained heavy losses, Chuikov’s forces pushed forward into the southernmost districts of the German capital and advanced towards the south of the airfield. The German troops opposing them were a hodgepodge of SS units, an armoured division, local flak units and the airbase garrison. They resisted stubbornly for several hours. Only after intensive aerial bombardment and massive artillery fire from reinforcing units, Tempelhof Airport was taken. A few days later, the Soviet war photographer Yevgeny Khaldey shot his famous photograph showing Soviet troops under their victory banner standing next to the Nazi eagle on the roof of Tempelhof Airport. On 4 July 1945, the American Independence Day, U.S. troops officially took charge of their occupation sector in southwest Berlin and, the same day, took over control of Tempelhof Airport.

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Forced labour

More than two thousand foreign workers were employed in “Weserflug” on the Tempelhof airport in 1944, most of whom were forced labourers from occupied European countries, in the beginning often still recruited and later forcibly relocated here. Like the German aviation industry, “Weserflug” had demanded and employed particularly energetic foreign workers, mainly from occupied Poland; other production areas followed. Without foreign forced workers, the Nazi war economy and provision for German population collapsed not later than 1942; they replaced the men at the front – as skilled workers as well as workers at the conveyor belt in the rapidly expanding arms production as well as agriculture and handicrafts. From December 1938 to the end of 1943, a large number of Jews were also forced to work, who were made to undertake “private work”. They were predominantly employed in the armament factory. In the year 1941, around 20000 Jews worked in Berlin in companies relevant to the war while the Jewish population of Berlin, who could escape to foreign countries, were deported in East European ghettos and extermination camps.

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