Hi-jinx, lo-jinx and the plot to kill Hitler
Four years later we went back to the scene of the crime. It was cool, clear, bright. The air tasted like adventure garnished by fear, something wrong. A strange bird watched like a hangover, waiting to see if we’d go through with it. He cocked his head tauntingly. Damn you bird, we’re going through with it.
“Remember be quiet this time. No crying, no wailing. That’s why we were caught the last time.”
The young fella nods solemnly, big brown eyes wide. He couldn’t remember the last time – he was two months old – but he was determined not to get us caught again.
We survey the fence. Flattened. As if by an elephant.
“We’d better watch out for elephants.”
He nods solemnly again, big brown eyes wider still.
We push our bikes over the fence, plow on furtively through the trees and follow in the footsteps of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.
This is where he took off with a bomb for Hitler only to be foiled by a table leg. A common wooden table leg, stubbornly loyal to the last.
I don’t mention any of this to the young fella. He was still looking for elephants among the trees and weeds, conquerors of the mighty German Luftwaffe and Soviet air forces.
Flugplatz Rangsdorf’s dalliance with the skies began in autumn 1935, when Bücker-Flugzeugbau GmbH, which had been established on Oct. 3, 1933, moved here from Johannisthal and began production of its sports and training airplanes.
Bü-131 biplanes were snapped up by the Luftwaffe (German air force) for training purposes, while more were exported and others were produced under license abroad. More than 5,000 were built altogether.
The airport was officially opened as “Reichssportflughafen Rangsdorf” on July 30, 1936, on the eve of the Olympic Games.
You also had the accompanying Aero-Club-Haus at Rangsdorfer See and Reichsschule für Motorflug (RfM), the only sports flying school in Germany, which was attracting students from abroad. They used to converge at the Aero-Club-Haus for a laugh and a giggle. You know, students.
Ernst Sagebiel, who also designed Tempelhof, was responsible for the plans. Sagebiel was a bit of a genius but he caught the Nazi bug going around at the time.
Despite the grass runways Rangsdorf was the fittest airport in the Third Reich! Press at the time apparently described it as “the most beautiful sports airport in Germany.”
The Army Sports School wasn’t too far away in Wünsdorf and of course sport was all in vogue with the Olympics in town. It provided a nice distraction from war preparations, with the convenient benefit of contributing to them too. Fit soldiers make better soldiers and the Nazis were obsessed with physical perfection.
Carl Clemens Bücker continued with his burgeoning aircraft production and the stars were coming out to shine as well as national and international flying shows took place.
Long-distance flier Elli Beinhorn introduced her Messerschmitt Me-108 “Taifun” monoplane at Rangsdorf, while her racing car driver husband Bernd Rosemeyer learned to fly here. They were quite the celebrity couple, feted across the land.
Rosemeyer was killed while attempting to reclaim his speed record in 1938. Beinhorn lived to 100. (That’s them pictured above with Ferdinand Porsche on the right. Ferdi had just told them what Volkswagen would be getting up later on, the rascal.)
Beate Köstlin, who later became Beate Uhse and opened the world’s first sex shop, also learned to fly at Rangsdorf. A pretty remarkable woman, her museum is supposed to be in Berlin. It’s temporarily closed since the building was knocked down to make way for something more lucrative. If it’s not bombs it’s speculation that destroys the capital.
The actor Heinz Rühmann kept his plane in a hanger at Rangsdorf, hangin’ on, while his pal Ernst Udet, the second-highest scoring German flying ace of the First World War, also had a plane here.
So too did the stunt pilot Gerd Achgelis. European champion aerobatic flyer Liesel Bach was among many fearless fliers to win titles with the Rangsdorf-constructed Bü-133.
Once the war broke out, or, to put it another way, once Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Rangsdorf took over from Tempelhof for six months as Berlin’s main passenger airport.
Lufthansa had flights to/from Danzig, Königsberg, Munich, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Bucharest, Athens, Istanbul, Copenhagen and Stockholm. A connection with Moscow was reestablished from Jan. 21, 1940.
Otherwise, the focus turned from sport to war. Fighter planes were everywhere, whether from Berlin or nearby Zossen-Wünsdorf, where of course the Germans had their army headquarters.
Meanwhile the Bücker factory was making use of French and Soviet forced labor to keep churning out those flying war machines. Not only did it have to fulfill its own orders but it had to help others too.
It built the silent and sneaky DFS 230 glider, wings for the Stuka Junkers Ju 87 dive-bomber, tail panels for Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters, as well as parts for the radio-controlled Henschel Hs 293 glide-bomber, a predecessor to today’s noble drones.
During the war many aircraft from the Luftwaffe and German army were stationed here. So it was that one Oberst Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg flew off with Oberleutnant Werner von Haeften at 7am on July 20, 1944, with two bombs in briefcases for Adolf, who’d gone off the rails a bit.
The war wasn’t going as well anymore and von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators had had enough.
Von Stauffenberg had his own ideas – he’d never joined the Nazi party, but he was all for invading Poland and furthering German interests. He’s a hero to the German resistance movement but he acquiesced to Hitler and Co. until the shit hit the fan and conscience stirred enough for him to take action.
Von Stauffenberg got to Wolfsschanze (“Wolf’s Lair”) in what’s now Poland, managed to arm his bomb, but there wasn’t time to set the other. He left his briefcase at the table where Hitler would be and stepped aside, waiting for the phone call that would excuse him.
It came in time, he made his apologies and left before the explosion ripped though the room. That was it, von Stauffenberg thought, Hitler’s dead, the fucker. He hopped on his plane, flew back to Rangsdorf and spread the good news.
Of course Hitler wasn’t dead at all but alive and majorly pissed off with all these assassinatory developments.
Someone had unwittingly moved the briefcase out of the way behind the table leg that saved him. The table leg didn’t know any better.
Hitler was intolerant at the best of times and a purge followed, with guilty and innocent, everyone murdered, including von Stauffenberg and von Haeften. There was no let up to the killing. The war carried on, the dying continued.
Production at Rangsdorf continued too until Apr. 20, 1945. The Luftwaffe flew west the following day. The game was up, noose tightening.
The Red Army took over without a fight a day after that. On Apr. 30 Hitler took his own life. He did it just a stone’s throw from where von Stauffenberg was shot.
The Soviets occupied Rangsdorf after the war and put the Bücker factory works back into use from August 1946, overhauling and repairing aircraft piston engines initially, then jet engines, and then helicopters from the seventies. Training continued at the airfield till the mid-fifties.
A signal regiment of the Soviets’ 16th Air Army was stationed here from 1955. The Russians knocked down some buildings and built others and they stayed up to 1994.
By then the airfield was full of rubbish from other Soviet airfields cleared after German reunification, old aircraft and missile wrecks and things like that.
None of the Russians were left by the time we made our first visit, just a gruff security man, alerted to our presence by my young sidekick’s crying. I guess we can’t hold it against him. He was hungry or maybe he just didn’t like the place. Too many ghosts.
We didn’t find any elephants in the end either unless you consider von Stauffenberg was the elephant in the room. Ultimately the resistance was only token, but at least there was that.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Flugplatz Rangsdorf. Former airfield that gained notoriety as the one from which Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg flew off with a bomb for Hitler as part of the ultimately unsuccessful July 20 plot.
- Where: Walther-Rathenau-Straße, 15834 Rangsdorf, Germany.
- How to get there: Hop on a train to Rangsdorf – the RE7 and RE3 pass through – and head south once you come on the right hand side of the rail line. Once you get to the roundabout turn right and walk or cycle along Seebadallee until you get to Puschkinstraße on your left. Turn left and go along Puschkstraße until the first fork in the road, where you turn left onto Walther-Rathenau-Straße. Walk (or cycle) the length of Walther-Rathenau-Straße until you can’t go any further. You’re there. Here’s a map as if you needed one.
- Getting in: Just find a bit of the fence that you can hop or even cycle over.
- When to go: Daytime is best to see what you’re looking at. You could have a party at night but it’s a residential area and I’d say it wouldn’t be long before someone called the Polizei.
- Difficulty rating: 2/10. Very easy. A four-year-old can do it.
- Who to bring: Bring a four-year-old if you want to test the above, or a grown up if you don’t.
- What to bring: Bring a few sandwiches to ward off the hunger, some booze to ward off the thirst, and maybe a stick to ward off the ghosts of disgruntled airmen.
- Dangers: Ghosts, Polizei, nosy neighbors. There was a car parked to the north of the site on the last visit that may or may not have belonged to a security guard, or a ghost. Hallowe’en is just around the corner. Best to proceed with caution.
High fliers no more
West Berlin’s lifeline during the Soviet Blockade, Tempelhof Airport has since become the city’s biggest park. Berliners will fight to keep it that way.
Germany’s Luftwaffe used Flugplatz Schönwalde for the war. The Soviets took over afterward and left their traces after abandoning the airfield in 1992.
Flugplatz Brand was strategically important for the Soviet Air Force. Thankfully its battalions of flying fighters remained on ice for the duration of the Cold War.
I was there last Monday at 7 am. When you approach this place from Usedomer Str. you will find a gap in the wall on the right-hand side. The tower was not accessible, in contrast to two hangars. Watch out for boars. cheers
Hello I spent an hour or two in this amazing place….last Saturday 16th april….
I never encountered any problems apart from a couple of deer who ran out in front of me…the only shock of the day….very eerie to be in there all alone…..
It had been raining and the sound of all the drops coming through all the roofs was an added bonus…still there was a couuple of times where it sounded like people were walking towards me…..only to find no-one around….thanks for the blog and all the advice….!!!
I was there yesterday. At the end of Walther-Rathenau-Straße there was a big (>1 m) fence/gate right next to a private house. Was in the middle of the day so a lot of people around. Instead we crawled under a fence on a quiet part of Kumminer Str (to the west), through some bushes.
We went today and took the advice of the previous ‘anonymous’ post: we found a way onto the airfield in Kumminer Str, but we didn’t have to crawl, there was a nice hole in the fence. I liked the abandoned gym best, it’s an amazing spot to take pictures. But beware of the wooden floor. It’s not deep if you crack through, but if you’re wearing short pants, you can quite easily sratch up your leg 🙁 Lesson learned!
We met one other urbexer, and there was a drone coming our way and stopping for quite some time – that was kind of creepy.
Amazing place. Been there yesterday. facebook.com/jumpallintheair/media_set?set=a.10153873427856476.1073741836.713091475
was there today. Went via Krumminer Strasse (and not Kumminer strasse, as so people mentioned above). Easy access
СЛУЖИЛ 1990-1992 . ВЗВОД ОХРАНЫ.ВСЕМ ПРИВЕТ.
visited this place in may, quite easy to get in. found a cool place with graffiti:
I finally had the chance the visit the place this month. Great sight, few people, extreme cold. 🙂
I also took the chance and I´d like to contribute to your findings:
i went today, i was probably too foggy but it made the place somehow especial. i went with my bike and even with the bike is really easy to get in, there are some parts of the fence that are broken and i just had to lift the bike and that was it….
There are a few more building that the ones you can see on the pictures, i really recommend to go early if posible with day light and take your camera with you; dont expect to take anything from there with you home because there are just empty hangars and rooms but quite interesting aswell.
there are some doors closed but you can always find a place to get into every building, so if you dont have much to do a saturday or sunday morning this is probably a nice place to expend it.
We did an early morning visit this Sunday 14 May 2017. The place seem to be more smashed than on the pictures. Easy to get in through the north-west corner of the area. We made a 4 minute documentary style video of our visit. You might want to check it out and please do not hesitate to comment. youtu.be/kOdzshHl7wk
The video is great!
What an absolutely amazing childhood for the “little fella”. Explore on! He will never forget it. (56 year old father and former four year old)
Went there today (Sunday). Still easy to enter, nature is taking over slowly, trees are growing inside the hangars.
Unfortunately I hadn’t enough time to have a closer look on the other buildings, also at about 4pm a white van was driving slowly some rounds inside the area and then left through the main gate – maybe security?
Was there today (2017/11/22) and it was great. Very easy to access following the instruction above. One really feel the ghosts of the past, standing on the towers balcony have the feeling, one of the propeller plains pilot stands beside You… I entered almost every building, although the site is quite huge. Be careful; some of the floors and roofs really look like collapsing every second. Amazing, how much relicts from soviet times left. The gym is extraordinary. And yes…there are ghosts.It was raining and all the noise made by the drops is Skin creeping.
We were there today (Saturday 30th of December 2017). There are several access easy to approach. The one at Krumminerstrasse is to reach the main building where most pictures are taken. Then there is another entrance via Walther-Rathenau-Straße. At the end of the street you turn left into a grassland. You walk at the edge of the grassfield/farmerfield having the fence on the right side. You are still outside of the Flughaven. Than you continue in direction of the railroad. At some point on your right side the wall is broken. Super easy and no one will see you. On our adventure we encoutered only two deers and one peacock. Big side, but a lot has been destroyed. Have fun and a good start into 2018 🙂
We were there today. The place is badly trashed by stupid vandalists but the place still has something to give. We met a group of loud young American sounding people, but they lett quickly. At the end – just missing a few buildings a security car came. We managed to hide and while sneaking out, a couple of wild boars came running in our direction — At first we thought it was the security guys dogs. Pretty scary.
Thank you Abandoned Berlin :0)
Visited the airport today. Found two entrances: first one in the end of Krumminerstrasse (just use the gap in the fence which you like the most, there are plenty of it), the second one in the end of Usedomer Str. (the two big yellow houses to the left, the pile of trash and plants two the right, climb up the pile and step over the fallen fence). Inside everything is in terrible condition, the main hangar is slowly falling apart. Met some friendly germans. Be prepared for a very windy conditions!
Ich war gestern dort, alles war schön und gut aber zuerst mussten wir ein ganzes stück durch einen Wald laufen, wir wollten gerade aufgeben als wir die ersten Gebäude gesehen haben. Wir haben es leider nur geschafft 2 große Hallen zu sehen, danach kam ein Auto um die Ecke gebogen und wir mussten das Gelände verlassen, ich denke der Eigentümer ist nicht immer da, wir waren nur zur falschen Zeit dort. Trozdem war es ein echt toller Ort.
We visited this place on 20th of May. There are few possibilities how to get there from Krumminer Strasse. You have to only find the hole in the fence. We enjoyed beatiful spring afternoon there. Every building seems to be accessible, but sometimes it is bit difficultier to reach some of them. We didn´t go into the soldiers dormitory, because of the building looks to be in really bad condition. Also both hangars seems slowly falling apart. Mainly the roof looks like it can collapse during rainy or windy days. Anyway, it is great place to visit and feel free and airy after beeing in crowded Berlin. M
Thank you! It took me a year to notice you words of appreciation but again… thanks! 🙂 We stayed on the location for 2,5h including capturing the drone shots. Back in the hotel we edited the video and uploaded in the morning. “Same day edit” is a challenge but it worked out!
Ik was er twee weken geleden. Zeer gemakkelijk toegang verschaft, over platgetrapt gaas gelopen. Eén nieuwsgierige buur op afstand gezien, maar we hebben ons daarvoor een beetje verscholen. Bijzonder om op een geschiedkundige plaats te staan en te lopen.
Ik ben de anonieme persoon hierboven. Vreemde vertaling van Google.
Ik heb willen zeggen dat de plaats gemakkelijk toegankelijk is en dat je dit dus gemakkelijk kunt doen!
Fantastic site – thank you. We visited this a few weeks back (August 2018) and used the gap in the fence at Krumminer Strasse. It’s far easier – very residential on the other side. Passed two people coming out and saw another two whilst there. Very impressive scale of buildings and lots to see.
Huge site with a few buildings. Very easy to vist. Went there on the 8th of October. Used the gap in the fence at Krumminer Strasse. The top floor of the main building is in a poor state. Great view from up there!
We accessed yesterday via Krumminerstrasse, still very easy. I’d been 6 months ago and there was one noticeable change, that all the entrance points into the hangars now have very new looking verbotten signs & someone has piled up glass and junk against the gaps to discourage people going in. It’s not a problem to walk over but just might be a step up in security potentially. I still saw a local walking her dog, so it’s fairly relaxed in general.
We checked the site yesterday evening. Still easily accessible by creeping below the fence left to main entrance south from Kumminer Str.-turning circle. Unfortunately a lot of signs of destruction – but still a place which truly breathes history!
I was there last week, the site is still easy to access by walking over the fallen fence at the end of Kumminer-Str. if you’re able-bodied. A really cool place. Does anyone know what the concrete tower in the distance to the South is?
We visited on 27 July, and initially got a bit confused by the gate at the end of the residential neighbourhood (I’d forgotten the instructions on this page), then we walked around to the side a bit and found the collapsed fence.
The greenery in the first hangar has grown quite a lot, and bits of the Soviet murals have decayed. We also climbed onto the rooftop of the second hangar, which isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Still easy to get in and no security the area ist quiet big with multiple hangars it’s just fantastic
Went there today and it was very easy to get in using the previously mentioned gap.
Was there just this week. Really cool place and lots of places to explore.
Was there on a Saturday of September ’21.
Possible to enter, difficulty 2/10.
Have been there yesterday (12.09.2021). There was something like a „open house“ day where a company informed everyone about some future apartment plans for the area. That’s why it was super easy to get in, but it seemed, that is also easy to step over one of the damaged fences on any normal day.
There is only one building which we couldn’t get in because it was closed, but everything else was still accessable. Spent almost 2 ½ hours there and it was really fun but you need to be careful because some of the buildings aren’t in good condition anymore.
If you haven’t seen this place already you should hurry up – they might start to demolish this place soon.
The place is super big, totally worths a visit! Still a lot of buildings you can access, however some of them you have to be careful. Few people were around visiting the place, but none of them were dangerous. I went today (saturday)
Definitely it takes about good 2 hours to visit all the buildings.