The Second World War 60 years on: Lest We Forget: the Major Sites of War

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Stalingrad

The battle of (24 Aug 1942 to 2 Feb 1943) was one of the longest and bloodiest that the German army fought. The city now known as Volgograd had immense strategic importance for both Hitler and Stalin. Before Field Marshal von Weichs began his ground campaign, was subjected to a three-day aerial Blitz; much of the city was destroyed and few of the buildings standing there today date back before the 1950s.

A key position in the battle was the Mamayev-Kurgan hill, from which both Russian and German forces tried to control the city with heavy artillery.

Today the hill is dominated by a crumbling, 85-metre-high statue of a woman with a sword, known as "The Motherland". To get there, a bus runs to the base of the hill from the main street, Prospekt Lenina.

To get to Volgograd, fly to Moscow (eg pounds 326 on SAS from London, through The Russia House, 0171-450 3262), and get a connecting flight from there with Aeroflot for pounds 77.

Berlin

The Haus der Wannsee was the scene of one of history's most infamous conferences: in 1942, Heydrich, along with several other top SS figures, met in this villa on the shores of Lake Wannsee and began to lay the plans for the extermination of millions of Jews. Today, the building houses a graphic exhibit dedicated to those whose fate was decided within its walls half a century ago.

The Haus der Wannsee Konferenz exhibition (0049 30 805 00 10) is open from Monday to Friday between, 10am and 6pm, and on Saturdays from 2pm-6pm. Admission is free.

To get there, take the S-Bahn train to Wannsee station, and then the 114 bus to the villa. Airline Network (0800 727747) has flights to Berlin for pounds 169.30.

France

The savagery of fighting on the Normandy beaches has been highlighted recently in Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. If you take a trip to any of the Allied landing sites - code- named Utah and Omaha (in the US sectors) and Gold, Juno and Sword (in the British and Canadian sectors) - you will not need a great deal of imagination to appreciate the horror that the soldiers must have felt.

When one looks up at the massive cliff tops, bristling with old (although relatively well-preserved) German machine-gun housings, and then takes in the vast expanse of sand that came between the soldiers and any sort of cover, it becomes sickeningly easy to understand how tens of thousands could have lost their lives in the first few hours of the Allied invasion on 6 June 1944.

One of the best memorial museums is the Musee pour la Paix (00 33 231 06 06 44) in Caen. This is open from 9am-7pm every day and entrance is 72ff. To get there from the centre of Caen, take the No 17 bus, which leaves from opposite the tourist office (which is on the Place Saint Pierre).

Brittany Ferries (0990 360360) has crossings that leave from Portsmouth and arrive in Ouistreham, just to the north of Caen. The service runs three times a day. The fare for two adults and a car is pounds 146 return (additional passengers are charged at pounds 7 per person).

Poland

Auschwitz: Many of the prison blocks that are standing today are home to memorials and exhibitions that graphically chart the terrible history of this, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps.

Each of the blocks is home to a different type of memorial - some are dedicated to the victims of a particular country, some are more general historical exhibitions with photos and documents. Entrance to the museum is free and opening times are from 8am to 6pm.

To get there, first travel to Krakow; British Airways (0345 222111) flies direct each day for pounds 270.50 throughout September. From Krakow there are several buses each day to Auschwitz, and numerous organised excursions.

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