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Spandau Citadel

The Spandau Citadel (German: Zitadelle Spandau) is a fortress in Berlin, Germany, one of the best-preserved Renaissance military structures of Europe. Built from 1559-94 atop a medieval fort on an island created by the meeting of the Hevel and the Spree, it was designed to protect the town of Spandau, which is now part of Berlin. 

Spandau Citadel, 1633.
Spandau Citadel, 1919.

During the Second World War, this fortress served as a secret chemical weapons development centre. The fortress was armed with heavy long-range artillery in early 1945 and became an eyesore for the Red Army during the battle of Berlin. On 1 May 1945, the fortress was surrounded by Soviet troops and negotiations were started with the commanding officers of the garrison (which consisted of a significant number of Waffen-SS soldiers). If the German garrison would surrender themselves before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the garrison would be spared. Many Waffen-SS soldiers wanted to continue on fighting, but the commanding officers eventually decided to surrender.

After the Second World War, the Spandau Citadel was first occupied by Soviet troops. After the division of Berlin by the Allied powers, Spandau and its Citadel were part of the British sector. Despite its history as a prison, the Citadel was not used to hold National Socialist war criminals. Rather, they were housed at Spandau prison in the same Berlin borough. 

From 1950 to 1986, the citadel housed vocational school Otto Bartning. Subsequently, more and more buildings were redesigned for museums and exhibition.

Today, Spandau Citadel is famous for its open-air concerts. Every year in summer, the Citadel hosts major national and international names at the Citadel Music Festival, which regularly attracts up to 10,000 fans. Against the backdrop of the illuminated fortress complex, the festival has a very special atmosphere – and this unusual setting only adds to the thrills of the music. The Citadel is not only about history and music festival – it is also a magnet for bat experts and fans! Every year, the fortress provides a winter home to around ten thousand bats.