The “most historically contaminated place in Berlin” is how Der Spiegel describes the site of a new center that documents the role of the top echelon of bureaucrats in the Nazi regime. They are the people whose daily accomplishments allowed the Nazi murder machine to function, but they have never been exposed as were the SS and other murderers who took an active part in actual selection, torture and murder.
The metallic gray building was inaugurated by German President Horst Kohler two days prior to the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. Located on the premises of the former art school at Prinz Albrecht Strasse 8, the building was once Gestapo headquarters, adjacent to the SS headquarters and close to those of the SS intelligence service, the SD.
The “Topography of Terror” exhibit center documents the evidence that the perpetrators continued to lead quiet, ordinary lives, undisturbed by Germany's criminal justice system, throughout the war and thereafter. The building is located near Berlin's Holocaust Memorial that is dedicated to preserving the memory of their victims.
This was the site where the “Final Solution” was prepared, and where the venue for a conference of high-ranking Nazis was chosen. It was here that Hitler's henchmen administered the death camps, directed the SS death squads, and maintained a watchful eye on the opponents to the Nazi regime. This also was where the offices of SS leaders Heinrich Himmler and SD chief Reinhard Heydrich were located. It contained the holding cells for for some 15,000 people who were arrested by the Gestapo, members of the German resistance.
Index cards reveal the details of several hundred of the 7,000 former staff members of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, the SS military force and the Gestapo secret police, posted on one wall. Of those, 16 are extended out from the wall – the only ones who were ever prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. And of those, just three jut out a bit further – the scant few staff members who were actually convicted for their crimes.
Three convicted -- out of 7,000 SS employees.
The “Butcher of Genoa” Friedrich Engel, former head of the SS in Genoa, was not among them; he died in 2006 at age 97, a free man. He had been convicted in 2002 for ordering the execution in 1944 of 59 Italian naval commandos, but the Bundegerichthof, Germany's highest court, overturned the ruling.