The Topography of Terror is a museum and memorial located in Berlin at the site of the national headquarters of the SS and Gestapo program of persecution and annihilation, dedicated to presenting and understanding the European dimensions of the Nazi reign of terror.
Between 1933 and 1945, the headquarters of the Gestapo and SS headquarters –the Reich Security Main Office, the SS High Command, Security Service of the SS High Command and prison- were located on the present-day grounds of the Topography of Terror. The original buildings that housed the organization were leveled shortly after the end of the Second World War and the lingered, “historically contaminated” subject to random uses and eventual decay. In conjunction with Berlin’s 750th anniversary celebration in 1987, the site was open to the public as for reflection, research and education.
After the German reunification in 1992, a foundation was established to develop the site and an architectural competition was held to create a more permanent structure for exhibition. Architect Peter Zumthor was chosen though the winning entry was never completely built. In 2010, after almost a decade of delay, the Topography of Terror Documentation Center designed by architect Ursula Wilms of Heinle, Wischer und Partner in Berlin opened to the public.
The museum is an unusual cultural artifact, yet an important one. Located at an ominous address, fallow for many years, the overall site intentionally retains the rough, depopulated look it acquired over its years of abandonment. It is one of a very few memorial museums located on an authentic site.
The architecture is a cool, glass rectangle sheathed in steel lamellae, a perforated, screen-like surface, which yields views of the surroundings from almost anywhere on the ground floor. The building houses three permanent exhibitions, a varied program of temporary and special exhibitions, an extensive library, as well as a “Memorial Museums Department” that consults on initiatives institutionalizing national and international memorial sites.
Photo credits: Matthias Könsgen