»Nine days did they lie weltering, and there was none to bury them, for the son of Saturn turned the people into stone; but on the tenth day the gods in heaven themselves buried them.» 

Homer, Iliad, 24th book

The Necropolis-Project Berlin-Neukölln 1945

» 1945. It starts with a photo.

The task of keeping this important figure on a simple black-and-white photograph seems simple,  at first glance.

Quickly done, rushing to a war grave in between two lectures.

But then it hits you. The number. The numbers. The masses. 1945, 1945 and 1945. Personal, impersonal – anonymous. Unprepared. I calculate.

26 years, the human who is buried here has become as old as I am now.

Many that I find here did not even reach that age.

The innumerable war graves that I have previously passed blindly. Berlin, the necropolis.

Taking the pictures makes me very thoughtful. It sharpens my consciousness.

I look at the streets, the buildings, the trees, today’s Berlin, which I know. I am grateful.

1945. That was the end. «

V.J., Master student, Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin


A cooperation

of architectural master classes of the Beuth University of Applied Sciences, Berlin


The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V., National Association of Berlin









I) Project Background

72 years ago the World War II ended. One of the last major offensives of the Second World War in Europe was the »Battle of Berlin« from April to early May 1945, which ended with the unconditional surrender of Berlin. The war came back to Germany from where it had started. The struggle for the capital did cost countless lives of soldiers and civilians.

In the Berlin city landscape there are still traces of the violent death of these people. At around 220 burial grounds there are many individual tombs and mass graves, where the dead of the World War II as well as victims of the Nazi tyranny are buried. More than 136,000 dead – many of whom are unknown – are found at Berlin cemeteries, civilians, forced laborers, victims from concentration camps, resistance fighters, victims of so-called “euthanasia” and soldiers of different nationalities.

Neukölln combines all the characteristics of the metropolis Berlin – also as a necropolis – in a cultural, religious and social diversity. In Neukölln alone there are 16 cemeteries.

At the Columbiadamm, at Hermannstraße, Buschkrugallee and Lilienthalstraße, about 15,000 individual graves and mass graves on an area of ​​1,600 square meters can be found. Mass graves with deaths of the war as well as victims of the Nazi tyranny – an urban shift in the midst of the daily life. This layer resembles an ancient necropolis – but above the ground. Although most burial places are open to the public, very few are part of the general perception, e.g. as a classic park cemetery or as prominent tourist attractions. The majority of these victims of war and dictatorship therefore remain  invisible, regardless of origin, age, role, destiny.

II) The Master classes

International master classes consisting of architecture students from 14 nations produced photographs, architectural designs and a short film documenting the project as an audiovisual component.

III) The Parcours - a Cross-Media Exhibition

It is now about the media exhibition project, which takes place simultaneously in five locations during the anniversary of the »Battle for Berlin« 2017: at the Columbiadamm and Buschkrugallee cemeteries, in the German-Russian Museum Karlshorst, in Kulturstall Schloss Britz and in the Reginal Centre for Civic Education Berlin close to Zoo Station.

The exhibition begins on 16 April 2017 and ends with a finissage on 2 May 2017, the anniversary of the capitulation of the city of Berlin. A reception with a panel discussion is scheduled for April 25, 2017 at Kulturstall Schloss Britz.

The project is understood as a curated staging of the space and time of these »invisible places«. Most essential is the cross-media triptych, like a medieval altar, which leads to an emotional as well as an intellectual activity. The combination of digital media and students’ built designs reveals an ambivalent interaction between reality, imagination and associations – and thus reacts to today’s media viewing habits, such as the war in mass media television or the omnipresent computer games.

The powerful photographs, technically brilliant portraits with the Leica M Monochrom at sizes of 2 x 2 m, and works in the classical as well as digital medium of drawing – including collage, photomontage, watercolor, fade-over, split screens and renderings – have been created at the Beuth University for Applied Sciences. In addition to still living eyewitnesses, the students will also be listened to in this project. They will explain the design process and report on their feelings and insights in dealing with this challenging subject.

For example, a student from Syria designed the ivy beds of the tombs with a wall of printed mirrors – viewers, graves and soldiers merge into a direct image mixture – it awakens sad memories of their hometown Aleppo and again points to her portrait, a silent cry. Her personal story is touching.

A Mexican-German student team sets a rusty »heavenly ladder« between the paths of the war-torn warriors, which, unlike Jacob and the Angels, leads not to heaven, but to a huge empty framework, entitled »Insight«. This rusted frame could become part of a multi-screen projection, contrasting the Hitler-pennant with constructed iconographic images.

Significant are myths from the Greek world of legends – the ferryman across the river Styx, allegories of death, shadows, obscuring as well as broken mirrors – parts of the architectural work for portal rooms.

As temporary installations with a temporal reference to the »Battle for Berlin« we are realizing several designs on the »Parcours« through Berlin-Neukölln. We therefore cooperate with local enterprises and regional partners.

We relate the authentic place of the graves directly to the present urban context, that is, as an urban, historical, and sociopolitical intervention on the subject of war and tyranny.