World War Two’s devastation can still be witnessed the world over. In the old cities of Europe, the conflict’s destruction is demonstrated by the hastily built post-war architecture. The millions of soldiers and civilians who lost their lives are remembered in cemeteries and memorials across the globe. And in the world’s museums, from Auschwitz to Hiroshima, the conflict’s relics can be seen and studied.
Here are 10 of the world’s most significant World War Two sites, where visitors can delve into the history of the conflict.
1. Bletchley Park
Bletchley Park is a country estate fifty miles north of London. In 1938 it was converted from a residential house into a British intelligence centre. It was there that the Government Code and Cypher School, aided by Alan Turing, deciphered the ‘Enigma’, the highly effective code encryption machines used by the Nazis.
Today, visitors can explore the history of Bletchley Park’s role during the war. With a visitor’s centre and an interactive multimedia guide, the museum promises visitors an engaging and informative tour through time.
2. Anne Frank’s House
Anne Frank’s house was the site where German Jewish teenager and Holocaust victim Anne Frank, her family, the van Pels family and later a man called Fritz Pfeffer went into hiding from the Nazis during World War Two. All 8 inhabitants lived in a secret annex in the attic hidden by a moveable bookcase. Tragically, the group’s whereabouts were eventually betrayed to the Nazis. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, but her diary was later discovered by her father and published to worldwide acclaim.
Anne Frank’s House is now a museum, where visitors can see the moving bookcase, walk through the cramped secret annex and gain a true appreciation of the hardship this group endured in their fight for survival. Anne Frank’s original diary is also on display.
3. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial
On 6 August 1945, US forces dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It was the first-ever use of the ‘A-bomb’, and it devastated the city. The destruction was so great that only one structure survived the blast. That sole surviving building now houses the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.
Originally constructed in 1915, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial building is a domed structure that once served as an office building. Today, the structure forms part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which also includes a museum. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
4. Cabinet War Rooms
Hidden away beneath the streets of Westminster are the Cabinet War Rooms. It was there, in an underground bunker complex, that Winston Churchill orchestrated Britain’s war effort during World War Two. The War Rooms were left untouched from 1945, when they were no longer needed, until the 1980s when they were restored and opened to the public.
Today, visitors can explore portions of the sprawling underground complex. Churchill’s office, his bedroom and the cabinet war room, where the British government’s war cabinet met, are among the rooms open to the public. Visitors should allow themselves at least 90 minutes to absorb the atmosphere of this iconic World War Two site.
5. The Holocaust Memorial - Berlin
The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is an installation commemorating the genocide of the Jewish people perpetrated under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
The memorial is devoted to the 6 million European Jews who died in the Holocaust. Made up of a vast dark granite maze and a subterranean information centre containing details about the victims, the Holocaust Memorial is a moving and important site.
6. HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy light cruiser ship, was one of the Britain’s most formidable vessels during World War Two and also its largest. In December 1943, during the Battle of the North Cape, the Belfast contributed to the sinking of the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst. She also played a significant role in ‘Operation Neptune’, the naval element of the Normandy landings of D-Day in 1944.
Today, HMS Belfast resides in London and is open to the public under the remit of the Imperial War Museum.
7. World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
The World War Two Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Oahu, Hawaii, provides an all-encompassing insight into the Pacific theatre during World War Two. It covers everything from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the US entry into the war and beyond.
Visitors can see and experience several of the most important sites from this period, including the USS Arizona Memorial, Ford Island, USS Missouri, the USS Oklahoma Memorial and the Pacific Aviation Museum.
8. Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is a museum and a memorial of the Holocaust, in which over six million Jews, and at least five million from other ethnic groups, were murdered in an act of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis under Adolf Hitler.
Through exhibits including photographs, victims’ accounts, art installations and information panels, Yad Vashem offers a moving – and harrowing – account of the events of the Holocaust.
9. German Resistance Memorial Centre
On 20 July 1944, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and his allies attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The failed coup became known as the ‘July 20 Plot’, or Operation Valkyrie. It was planned in the former Bendler Block in Berlin’s Mitte district, once the diplomatic quarter.
Today, the site contains the German Resistance Memorial Centre, a monument and museum to those who fought against the Nazis before and during World War II. The courtyard of the German Resistance Memorial Centre, where the coup’s perpetrators were executed, contains a memorial statue of a man with bound hands.
10. Kranji War Memorial
The Kranji War Memorial is a monument in the northern Singapore region of Kranji in honour of the men and women who lost their lives defending Singapore from Japanese invasion during World War Two.
The Kranji War Memorial commemorates the three branches of the armies that fought for Singapore’s freedom. Its wing-shaped roof is an ode to the air force. The memorial’s twelve columns represent the formation in which the military marches. And its walls depict a periscope in dedication to the navy.