Berlin Massacre

Rudolf Breitscheid, the Man Behind the Square

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The square chosen for Germany’s worst post-war act of terrorism was named after Rudolf Breitscheid, a noted anti-Nazi opponent.

  • Facts


    • Rudolf Breitscheid was born in Cologne in 1874 and after working briefly as a journalist, became a politician, voting against Hitler’s power grab in 1933 in the Reichstag.
    • For his anti-Nazi stance, Mr. Breitscheid was publicly scorned and ridiculed, and eventually fled Nazi Germany to France in 1940.
    • Mr. Breitscheid was eventually turned over to the Gestapo in Arles, France, and later died in 1944 in Buchenwald concentration camp. Some reports say he was killed by Allied bombing; others say he was shot by the Nazis.
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The site of the Berlin Christmas massacre is named after Rudolf Breitscheid, a Nazi opponent and German Social Democrat who died in Nazi captivity at the end of World War II. Source: DDR Stamp

Whoever drove that tractor-trailer rig into the Christmas market on Monday night in the heart of west Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 48, probably had no clue of the irony behind his heinous act.

But the murderer couldn’t have chosen a better place for his craven massacre: Breitscheidplatz, or Breitscheid Square, an unspectacular but historically significant expanse of concrete between Budapesterstrasse and Kurfürstendamm in the shadow of the Kaiser Wilhelm Remembrance Church.

The square is named after Rudolf Breitscheid, the interior minister of Prussia and a leading Social Democrat in the Reichstag who was one of the few to publicly oppose Hitler. The church on the square is a ruin, preserved at the end of WWII to remind Germans of the insanity of war and ideological “krieg.”

While most photos of Monday’s terror attack have focused on church and its striking, jagged spire, it is no coincidence Berlin’s most-visible memorial to the dangers of mass hysteria is named after Mr. Breitscheid, a native of Cologne.


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