Tannenberg Memorial
The Tannenberg Memorial commemorated fallen German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 soldiers of the second Battle of Tannenberg
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...

 in 1914, which was named after the medieval Battle of Tannenberg (1410). The victorious German commander, Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

, became a national hero, and was later elected Reichspräsident
The Reichspräsident was the German head of state under the Weimar constitution, which was officially in force from 1919 to 1945. In English he was usually simply referred to as the President of Germany...


Dedicated by Hindenburg on the 10th anniversary of the battle of Tannenberg in 1924 near Hohenstein (Ostpreußen) (now Olsztynek, Poland), the structure, which was financed by donations, was built by the architects Johannes and Walter Krüger of Berlin and completed in 1927. The octagonal layout with eight towers, each 67 feet (20.4 m) high, was influenced by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

's Castel del Monte, and by Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...


When Reichspräsident Hindenburg died in 1934, his coffin and that of his wife, who had died in 1921, were placed there despite his wishes to be buried at his family plot in Hanover. Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 ordered the monument to be redesigned and renamed "Reichsehrenmal Tannenberg". As the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 approached in 1945, German troops removed Hindenburg's remains and partly demolished key structures. In the 1950s, Polish authorities razed the site, leaving few traces.

Concept & design

The memorial embraced the Anglo/French concept of the Unknown Soldier. In doing so, the architects anticipated the concept of Totenburgen (Fortresses of the Dead) housing mass graves of soldiers. This ideology was mooted in Germany in the 1920's and 1930's. The architects imagined the memorial to be a new volkish "community of the dead" and incorporated the burial of 20 unknown German soldiers from the Eastern Front into the project concept.

The memorial was built in a prominent place in a shape reminiscent of the castles of the Teutonic
Teutonic or Teuton may refer to:*the Teutons* Germanic peoples , see Theodiscus**Teutonic Mythology** Germanic languages * Having qualities related to Modern Germans*Nordic race*Furor Teutonicus...

 Knights. The monument's location on a hilltop was accentuated by massive earthworks and landscaping designed to look as if nature alone had shaped the site. The design influenced other projects undertaken by architects and builders during the era.

Opening and dedication

A gathering of thousands came to the dedication of the newly finished memorial in September 1927. The 80 year old Hindenburg was dressed in the uniform of a Colonel-in-chief
In the various Commonwealth armies, the Colonel-in-Chief of a regiment is its patron. This position is distinct from that of Colonel of the Regiment. They do not have an operational role. They are however kept informed of all important activities of the regiment, and pay occasional visits to its...

 of a Masurian regiment to which he'd been appointed by the Emperor (who had since abdicated). His speech was deemed highly nationalistic and in keeping with the times for the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

, but was not well received outside Germany. An extract from the speech was later carved into a bronze plaque by the Nazi regime and installed in one of the towers of the memorial. Six miles of veterans, resplendent in Imperial uniforms, paid homage to Hindenburg and the 20 unknown German soldiers from the 1914 battle who were interred at the memorial.


The architects had also built an inn nearby in traditional East Prussian style. The numbers of visitors did not meet expectations initially but during the Nazi era the numbers were such that the inn required to be extended.

The Nazi era

In August 1933 the Nazis held a massive demonstration at the memorial to commemorate the anniversary of the battle.
The Polish government allowed 1,500 cars to transit through the Polish Corridor
Polish Corridor
The Polish Corridor , also known as Danzig Corridor, Corridor to the Sea or Gdańsk Corridor, was a territory located in the region of Pomerelia , which provided the Second Republic of Poland with access to the Baltic Sea, thus dividing the bulk of Germany from the province of East...

. Among those attending were Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, Herman Goering, Franz von Papen
Franz von Papen
Lieutenant-Colonel Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen zu Köningen was a German nobleman, Roman Catholic monarchist politician, General Staff officer, and diplomat, who served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and as Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler in 1933–1934...

 and Erich Koch
Erich Koch
Erich Koch was a Gauleiter of the Nazi Party in East Prussia from 1928 until 1945. Between 1941 and 1945 he was the Chief of Civil Administration of Bezirk Bialystok. During this period, he was also the Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 until 1943...

, East Prussia's Nazi governor.

A year later, the monument again came to prominence on the death of Paul von Hindenburg. Hindenburg had requested a simple service and that he be interred next to his wife (who had died in 1921) in Hanover. However, Hitler decided to seize the opportunity for propaganda and instructed Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 to ensure that the day was spectacular. It began with the transportation of the deceased president in the dark of night, on a gun carriage, from Hindenburg's East Prussian home Neudeck. Following a torch-lit route and escorted by infantry and cavalry, the cortège made its way to Hohenstein..

Modernisation of the memorial

Following the interment of Hindenburg, the memorial once again became a national shrine. To add to the theatre, the government of the Reich again called upon the architectural firm of Krüger in Berlin and using the Stonehenge parallel again; above the entrance, a giant stone (symbolically from Koenigsberg) was placed, with the Field Marshall's name inscribed upon it. This stone was so large that railway bridges had to be strengthened to aid its transportation. Two giant stone soldiers (as if on guard) were placed outside the tomb. A porphyry statue of the victor, by the East Prussian Friedrich Bagdons, dominated the Hall of Honour above the tomb. The concourse grass was replaced with stone and around the memorial landscape were placed (historically inaccurate) interpretations of the Aryan German presence in East Prussia since the stone age.

The new crypt

Hindenburg was originally buried in the central yard or "plaza" of the monument on 7 August 1934. On 2 October 1935, the anniversary of Hindenburg's birthday, the President’s bronze coffin was relocated to a new, sombre chamber where he was joined by his wife Gertrud, who was moved from the family plot in Hanover
Hanover or Hannover, on the river Leine, is the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony , Germany and was once by personal union the family seat of the Hanoverian Kings of Great Britain, under their title as the dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg...

. The new crypt, which was completed in the fall of 1935, was located directly below the south tower. To create an entrance to the crypt, Hindenburg and the 20 unknown German soldiers from the 1914 battle were temporarily disinterred, and the level of the plaza was lowered by 8 feet (2.4 m), with stone steps surrounding it on all sides. The unknown soldiers were re-interred in the side chapels. Designed by the Kruger brothers and carved by Paul Bronisch, the entrance to Hindenburg's crypt was dominated by two fourteen-foot sculptures of the Eternal Watch, known as the Ewige Wache, which were carved out of more than 120 tons of imported Konigsberg granite. The mausoleum had a dramatic vaulted ceiling.


The re-interment of the Field Marshal was marked by much pomp and ceremony by the Hitler administration, who declared that the upkeep of the memorial would thenceforth be carried out at government expense. The sarcophagus was draped in the German War Flag
Reichskriegsflagge was the official name of the war flag used by the German armed forces from 1867 to 1945. A total of seven different designs were used during this period.-Imperial Germany:...

 for the ceremony, at which Adolf Hitler performed the rededication. Masuria
Masuria is an area in northeastern Poland famous for its 2,000 lakes. Geographically, Masuria is part of two adjacent lakeland districts, the Masurian Lake District and the Iława Lake District...

 where the memorial was built was going through an economic resurgence at that time and nationalistic spirit was running high, on top of this Hitler's remarks and the ceremony of re-interment caused one newspaper to claim "a glorious return of the Teutonic
Teutonic or Teuton may refer to:*the Teutons* Germanic peoples , see Theodiscus**Teutonic Mythology** Germanic languages * Having qualities related to Modern Germans*Nordic race*Furor Teutonicus...

 Order". From 1936-1939 a travelling exhibition about Masuria, but centred on the Tannenberg battle and memorial, toured Germany. The Baedecker guide of 1936 described the Tannenberg Memorial "Where President Hindenburg rests beside his fallen comrades" as "a place of national pilgrimage".

Plans were drawn up to install busts of the commanders and politicians involved in the Polish campaign with tablets inscribed with the Führer's speeches and a full-length statue of Adolf Hitler, but these never came about. At least one other commemoration was cancelled after the signing of the Anglo-Polish military alliance in September 1939. The last state ceremonies held at the memorial were of two generals killed in the July Plot of 1944.

Hindenburg's disinterment and partial demolition of the memorial

In January 1945, as Soviet forces advanced into East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 ordered the lead coffins of Hindenburg and his wife to be disinterred and along with some of the regimental standards in the tomb, removed to safety. They were first moved to a bunker just outside Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, then to a salt mine near the village of Bernterode
Bernterode (bei Worbis)
Bernterode is a village and a former municipality in the district of Eichsfeld, Thuringia, Germany. Since 1 September 2009, it is part of the town Breitenworbis....

, Thuringia
The Free State of Thuringia is a state of Germany, located in the central part of the country.It has an area of and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen states....

 (in north central Germany), along with the remains of both Wilhelm I, German Emperor and Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II of Prussia
Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

 (Frederick the Great). The four coffins were hastily marked to indicate their contents using red crayon, and interred behind a 6 feet (1.8 m) masonry wall in a deep recess of the 14 miles (22.5 km) mine complex, 1800 feet (548.6 m) underground. The coffins were discovered by U.S. Army Ordnance troops on 27 April 1945, and were moved to the basement of the heavily guarded Marburg Castle in Marburg an der Lahn, Germany. In August 1946, 20 months after being removed from the Tannenberg Memorial, Hindenburg and his wife were finally laid to rest by the American army at St. Elizabeth's
Elisabeth Church (Marburg)
St. Elisabeth's Church is a religious building in Marburg, Germany, built by the Order of the Teutonic Knights in honour of Elisabeth of Hungary...

, the church of his Teutonic ancestors in Marburg, where they remain today.

On 21 January 1945, withdrawing German forces planted demolition charges
Explosive material
An explosive material, also called an explosive, is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that can produce an explosion if released suddenly, usually accompanied by the production of light, heat, sound, and pressure...

 inside the entrance tower and the tower previously housing von Hindenburg's coffin, causing both towers to collapse. On 22 January Germans demolished more of the construction with a further 30 tonnes of explosives. After the war more destruction was caused by looting of bronze and metal from the structure, and even stones and bricks were taken to help with the rebuilding of Hohenstein.


In the spring of 1949, the Polish government ordered the dismantling of the remains of the monument—although enough remained for scavengers to continue recycling into local projects. Removal of the ruins continued until the 1980s, by which time virtually all traces of the memorial had gone. Today, only a protruding island in an isolated field remains to mark the extensive 120 acre (0.4856232 km²) site. The Court of Honour (which measured slightly larger than a football field) has been reduced to little more than an overgrown pit of scattered debris and rubble.

Several significant remnants of the structure can still be seen elsewhere. Among these is the perfectly preserved sculpted lion, which once topped a twenty-foot pillar at the entrance to the monument and now is displayed in the town square in nearby Olsztynek
Olsztynek is a town in Poland, in Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, in Olsztyn County. It has 7,648 inhabitants .-History:The town was founded as Hohenstein by the Teutonic Order, which began to construct a castle in 1351 and granted Kulm law city rights in 1359.The Battle of Grunwald in 1410 took...


After the Second World War, much of the fabric of the stone-and-granite memorial was used to build both the Soviet war memorial in Olsztyn
Olsztyn is a city in northeastern Poland, on the Łyna River. Olsztyn has been the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship since 1999. It was previously in the Olsztyn Voivodeship...

Hohenstein may refer to several different places in Germany, including* Hohenstein-Ernstthal, in Saxony* Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein, a county of the Holy Roman Empire , situated between Hesse-Darmstadt and Westphalia...

), the monument commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the Jewish resistance that arose within the Warsaw Ghetto in German occupied Poland during World War II, and which opposed Nazi Germany's effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Treblinka extermination camp....

 and in Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 for the new Communist Party Headquarters.


Architect Dietrich Zlomke was born in Koenigsberg. He was commissioned to design a memorial to the dead of East and West Prussia in the two world wars, which was dedicated at Oberschleissheim near Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

in 1995. His choice of design was a miniature copy of the Tannenberg Memorial in concrete, dominated in the centre by an oak cross twenty feet high and a smaller iron cross on the pale wall at the rear.

External links

Tannenberg-Denkmal (German Historic Museum)PostcardA Monument to German Pride: A history of the Tannenberg Memorial
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