Germany’s secret wartime U-boat headquarters
In the silence you don’t know, you must go on. I cower in the pitch darkness ten meters below, unable to move, frozen still. Deafening silence, broken only by a solitary drip. DRIP! Then silence again.
I can hear my heart beating. Heart pounds before the next inevitable drip, steady as the last. DRIP!
I flash a torch at the wall beside me. It glistens black. Wet. The drop falls again. DRIP! The only sound but for the thumping of my heart. I can’t go on, I’ll go on. I’ve made it this far.
Subterranean treasures are rarely easy to find. Submarine even less so. Armed with sketchy directions, hope and a rough sea idea, I set off, leave the road and cut through the forest. Trees, trees and more trees, more trees again, and more, more again, then there it is. Boom! A shock when it finally appears. Looming in murky light. Surrounded by a rusty barbed wire fence. The dilapidated shack I was looking for.
A “Betreten Verboten” sign confirms it. Flies swarm to greet me as soon as I defy it. One lands on my neck. Bites. A dog barks, somewhere. Christ, I hope it isn’t on the site. It sounds further away. Too late to turn back now anyway. Come on man, get a hold of yourself, get a grip!
I pull myself together, spot the hatch I’m looking for. A bee hums, something else rustles in the grass. I lift up the lid. A swarm of flies buzz up in my face. AAAAGH!! A gunshot. BANG! Another bark, closer. More gunshots, louder.
The hole is eight meters straight down. No steps, ladder, nichts, not what I was expecting, but damn it I have to go now. I jam my legs on one side, my back on the other, and jimmy down like a peanut. No idea how to get back. Jacket ruined. I pull the flashlight out and proceed. I’m in the bunker!
Soon, however, I discover it’s not the right bunker. It was smaller and had less rooms than expected. Not what I was looking for. It leads me straight back to the dilapidated shack. I get out and start again, back through the trees.
More abandoned buildings present themselves, each with stories to tell, no doubt, but I was looking for something specific.
I cycle on. Then I meet two oul’ lads ambling along through the forest. Vladimir and Estragon.
“Excuse me, do you know where the old bunker is?”
The smaller, younger one replies.
“Ah yes, that’s where the Russians used to store their rockets. They had them aimed at Berlin. Very bad. But there’s nothing there to see now. The bunker’s destroyed. I’m 71, you know!”
I didn’t, but thank him profusely all the same.
I wander on, eventually find gates. The gates I was looking for!
I hurry in. More buildings, more, more, more, but where’s the fucking bunker? I’d about given up, had enough, when finally, I lift the manhole and see the ladder down, down, down…
It’s dark. Darker than Thatcher’s soul. I can’t see a thing. I’m 10 meters underground, in the very bunker that controlled Germany’s feted U-boat fleet during World War II. Central command for submarines marauding the seven seas. It was here those poor fuckers on Das Boot would have been ordered to go past Gibraltar! Wow, just wow.
They began building here in 1939, for what was originally supposed to be a naval intelligence school. When all the falling bombs made Berlin somewhat uncomfortable, some bright spark decided the German Naval High Command should move here, to this heavily forested area in the middle of nowhere, via Eberswalde, where it moved first after leaving Tiergarten in Berlin.
The Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU), which was the part concerned with Germany’s submarine war, moved to what was codenamed “Lager Koralle” (Coral Camp) on Jan. 30, 1943, and began controlling U-boat operations shortly afterward under direction of German Navy Commander-in-Chief Karl Dönitz, later to achieve fame as Hitler’s successor.
Koralle’s end came in April 1945, however, with an air raid doing its bit on the 17th, and the Russians taking over on the 21st. Dönitz had already ordered the BdU to “Objekt Forelle” in Plön, near Denmark, before going on to Flensburg-Mürwik, even closer to Denmark, eight days later.
When all was already lost, Dönitz succeeded Hitler according to the mad fella’s last will and testament, though there was little to do at that stage but surrender and hope for the best.
Dönitz led the short-lived Flensberg Government before undergoing trial in Nuremberg.
On his release from prison he gained further fame for creating the snack that bears his name, the Döner Kebab. It remains popular to this day.*
The Red Army took over Koralle of course, blowing up the flak bunker and the other overground bunker. Perhaps in gratitude for the lovely kebabs he made, they spared Dönitz’ house and the underground bunker, where the navy headquarters had been based over four levels. It had a barracks, officers’ casino, loads of telecommunications equipment and other army-type stuff.
Maybe that’s why the Soviets kept it. They used the site as a munitions depot, storing the missiles previously mentioned by Estragon, or Vladimir.
As I said, it was dark down there, 10 meters underfoot. I actually felt I was in a submarine, not just a subterrain. The silence was deafening, excruciating. Nothing but the drip. Drip! Drip! Then thump, thump, the thump of my heartbeat. The loudest silence there ever was.
There’s not much to see, not even graffiti. Wet crumbling rooms, corridors, pipes, tubes and cans of fuck knows what. Crazy cans, silver, big, sitting there with tubes coming out.
The Soviets must have stripped the place of all its U-Boot paraphernalia. Those Russians are parasites of the military world and will strip any military stuff they reckon is better than their own. Any military stuff then.
When there’s nothing to hear, you listen. I thought I heard a voice, a girl’s voice, a laugh. I stopped, listened again, but there was only the incessant dripping and thumping. It occurred to me someone outside could come along and close the hatch, sealing me in there forever, leaving me to lick walls for sustenance and grow big bulbous eyes to cope with the dark. Trapped forever with the ghosts of tortured submarine men.
I could imagine the clang of the hatch slamming shut. It wasn’t fun anymore, I needed to get out. I flashed the light along the dark empty walls, retraced my steps through holes, long forgotten corridors, empty doorways.
It was endless, I hoped to fuck I didn’t take a wrong turn. The hatch was unrecognizable – it was almost twilight outside – but I finally found the damn ladder and emerged. I was never so happy to see the sky. Even heroes of the deep were happy to see the surface.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Lager Koralle. Between 1943-45 Germany’s Naval High Command Headquarters, (Führungszentrum des Oberkommandos der Kriegsmarine, or OKM). Central command center for the German U-boat fleet during this time.
- Where: Two-thirds of the way to Lanke from Bernau, in off the road to the right. The site is in a northwesterly direction from the village of Lobetal. Here’s a map showing where what’s left of the destroyed (overground) flak bunker is. The rest is nearby.
- How to get there: See above. I got the train to Bernau and cycled from there. Even armed with directions, it took me a long time to find, however. The area is still heavily forested. It’s not signposted and the tracks go off in all directions.
- Getting in: Unfortunately the hatch was closed, weighed down with a large concrete block, on the latest visit (April 18, 2020). There was a note from Team Delta, who are apparently looking after it, to say it was closed due to an influx of visitors led to graffiti in the bunker after some video about it was published on YouTube. So there ain’t no getting in now. They did say they would open it for Tag der Denkmale in July, but we’ll have to see how this coronavirus business pans out in the meantime. At least you can still visit the destroyed bunkers nearby. They’re pretty impressive, too.
- When to go: Daytime, definitely daytime. A fall is very bad news, and I seriously do not recommend taking any chances in the dark.
- Difficulty rating: 9/10. Finding this is the main problem. If I were going again, I’d probably bring a tent and overnight in the woods. It’s also very dangerous. Apparently there are munitions still on the site, so you might get a leg blown off if you’re unlucky.
- Who to bring: Bring someone, for safety’s sake. Mobile phones don’t work here, neither in the bunker nor above it.
- What to bring: A torch. Do not forget a torch. Make sure it’s a good one. In fact, bring two. A compass would be useful in case you get lost. A map, too. Bring a camera of course, some beer for the road, perhaps a bottle of water too. And some grub. Prepare to be out for a whole day at least.
- Dangers: Like I mentioned already, unexploded bombs, hidden pitfalls, rusty ladders, loose bricks, low ceilings. I’m guessing the underground bunker itself is sound enough but you never know. A helmet is not going to save you if it does collapse. At least there’s no security, unless you count the ghosts of tortured submarine men…
*Karl Dönitz didn’t really create the Döner Kebab. On his release from prison he wrote a couple of books, autographed postcards and answered correspondence until he died on Christmas Eve, 1980.
German traces of war
Lew McDaniel of West Virginia worked as a linguist at Teufelsberg, Field Station Berlin, from 1968-71. He tells Abandoned Berlin of life at the spy station.
Niederlehme TSL 44
Niederlehme’s Treib- und Schmierstofflager 44, aka TSL 44, was a former oil and fuel storage facility used by Nazi Germany, then East Germany’s armed forces.
Germany’s Luftwaffe used Flugplatz Schönwalde for the war. The Soviets took over afterward and left their traces after abandoning the airfield in 1992.
Dönitz invented Döner? Nice one 🙂
Haha! Glad you enjoyed it. 😉
Hi, An excellent article, I went there about 5 years ago. I walked from Bernau and only had a rough idea of where it was located. Information was hard to come by, though the local tourist information office made some inquiries and pointed out which road to take and an approximate location. I walked around the woods for sometime before stumbling upon a house where someone pointed me in the right direction. I would agree that it is difficult to find and never found the hatch, though being a senior I may not have risked it. You can catch a bus there which I believe is #890 from Bernau Railway Station. The other danger when walking through the woods is ticks which I kept on brushing off my clothes. There is also a house in the area which I believe Donitz used.
Visited this yesterday, amazing. Thanks for the post! I was surprised how unvandalized the underground part is, hope it will remain like that.
A more pleasant alternative route for bike riders who want to avoid the main road: follow the signs to Lobetal, turn left on the main street of Lobetal, then keep right when it forks and turns into dirt road. Turn left at the barrier (52.73823,13.58099) this will take you straight to the flakturm. The rest is up to you 😉 Note: about one third of this route is unpaved, relatively well cyclable.
I found this sign nearby (“Bunkeranlage, Besichtigung Möglich”) at 52.71984,13.59434 anyone knows what that might be? Same bunker or something else?
I found this page (in German) useful to learn more about the place:
Apparently, the bunker is wintering site for bats which means it would be better in winter not to go there (see “Schutzprojekt”).
One more interesting thing: can anyone explain why the brick walls were erected on the top of the ruins of the smaller flak bunker?
Thanks for the comment Alan. You’re right about Donitz’ house.
Hi Irisch Berliner
My name is Clara Marc, I work as a freelance journalist in Switzerland and I have a couple of questions I would like to ask you, about your experience as a discoverer! Would it be possible for you to write me an email (clara.marc1[at]gmail.com) or with FB ( facebook.com/clara.marc1), or to give me a way to contact you?
Thank you very much. And thanks for your blog, it’s fantastic!
Hi Irish Berliner!
Just came back from visiting all the spots of the bunker. It was amazing! from the empty shacks we encountered to the cracked bunker which ultimately led to the manhole (was harder to find than I thought) every bit was awesome to explore. Just like you said: it’s more fun to explore the spots with a good indication where it is, but not the exact route. The underground was exactly like most horror scenes would be, I went with 3 friends and if you’re a normal human being like me, I think it’s better to go with other people. I would never go alone…
Very much worth the trip to the bunker and will recommend it to everyone!
I like the posts very much and want to thank you for it! Keep it up!
Hi! I’ve just discovered your blog and can’t stop reading it anymore… It’s so great! Thank you for sharing all these beautiful places and experiences! 🙂
Cool, my first trip inspired by this nice “tourist guide”. Actually I am surprised that I even found it 🙂
Just forgot to take my torch… So tomorrow my 2nd descent.
Yes, you definitely need a torch. It’s even more vital than beer.
Hi…can anyone verify that the hatch is still accessible?! I was there for two hours today and couldn’t find it…is it IN the big bunker? Or is it around the big bunker?
I haven’t been there since, but the hatch was a bit of a walk away from the big overground destroyed bunker. You need to walk in a north-easterly direction from that. You’ll find gates to hop over and then you know you’re in. You’ll find the hatch.
I’m sorry you were wandering around without success for two hours… 🙁
Hi I came across this website just before flying out to Germany for a short break and I’m really glad I did as you really made my trip with this place. I visited there Wednesday, I did the long walk from the town at the top of the lake through the woods across the fields and into more woods where we found several pillboxes the 2 surface bunkers and the way scary resident evil underground bunker. I have a long interest in ww2 history and buildings and this was the best place I’ve visited so far. 🙂 🙂
I just went there last sunday.
The place is as described: there are 2 bunkers which are smashed (nothing to see but a stack of stones) and If you walk a little more north-east you’ll find the entrance (hole) of the radio bunker. The entrance is in a good shape (I weight 90Kg and I had no prob.)
Inside there’s nothing left (no objects). Apart from that it surprised me cuz it’s really in a good shape: no graffiti, no homeless; no littering, no kids that smash everything up.
I also recommend you to walk around: the surrounding forest hides a loooot of strange things (objects, etc..).
In case you’re curious check out this video:
Found it 🙂 … Thanks to whoever left the message !
Could anyone please advise where exactly is the entrance into underground located? I was there once but have not found though, thanks a lot
Why don’t you try Google Maps? There is a picture “Entrance to Koralle”; that will give you a good clue, where to search…
We were there earlier today.
The entrance is locked not: you cannot open it anymore. Unless there is a second entry (we found the one behind the two gates on the left, near the standalone wall), you’d have to bring a very decent iron saw to get in…
The parts above the ground were nice to see, but the real spectacular part is “temporarily unavailable” 🙂 Post a message if someone has cut the lock! I’d definitely want to visit the underground part!
The comment above is correct. The underground bunker fun is OVER.
It is now impossible to visit the underground bunker. I visited 2 years ago with no problems. Today (August, 2015), I went again and found that the 2 gates leading to the area now have chains, padlocks, and many signs that prohibit you from entering. Of course, I climbed the fences anyway, but found that the hatch that leads down into the bunker is also locked! Thus is a special lock inside the hatch, which is impossible to cut or break, so do not try. According to one of the signs, a group now owns the sites and provides organized tours on certain dates. I am disappointed that this bunker is no longer accessible. The above ground structures can still be explored, so it is still worth a trip.
Do you know what the group organizing tours is called and how to contact them?
We find no way inside and the moskitos was hungry.
Wir konnten keinen Weg in den unterirdischen Bereich finden. Die Farne, Brennnessel stehen hoch und die Mücken und Zecken warten auf einen nur.
Ohne genaue Angabe ,no way
indeed..the only way to visit the “nachrichten Bunker” is with a guided tour.. delta-team.de
They only do tours during the weekend of “Tag des Offenen Denkmal” (in 2017 today and tomorrow 10th sept)
sorry..the correct website is team-delta.de
Top Bilder! Aber schreib doch lieber auf deutsch, wenn englisch nicht so deine Stärke ist.. “I pull myself together”? XD
Lol – he’s a native English speaker. ‘I pull myself together’ is an idiom.
Irish Berliner is a really smart guy. Don’t call him an idiom.
It’s true. I am an idiom.
I went there yesterday. The bunker is inside a fence, obviously not visible from outside. Once you step inside the area (right to the gate there is way in), walk 50 meters and you’ll see a wall with a graffiti (famous one, a man with a oxygen mask) is un the top of what is seems a very little hill. In the way up to the wall, there is the entrance, still open. You can get down and explore.
I went inside for a quick look, my girlfriend was too afraid to descend, so I just looked if it was the right one.
It was. Pay attention. Bring a big light with you, and maybe somebody who will wait you outside in case something happen.
Have fun, leave no trace!
Coordinates of the bunker entrance:
Went there today without checking the comments – we didn’t find the fence or the entrance! But I guess since it’s closed anyway, it doesn’t matter! For me it wasn’t worth the trip since I expected to be able to go inside, but the forest was pretty nice.
Went there ca. 2 months ago. Can confirm: the bunker itself is sealed. But u can still visit the destroyed flak bunkers. There are even climbing routes on some of them!
The underground bunker and surrounding buildings are privately owned and enclosed. On their website, the owners write that they will press charges against any intruder. But there are plenty of holes in the fence and after we couldn’t see anyone on the property we tried our luck. The main entrance is blocked with a concrete slab that some idiots tried to cut through, so even the owners can’t open the entrance anymore. We couldn’t find any other access either.
Hier ist der Kanal von der guten Seele der Anlage.
Hier mal ein Beitrag zum nachdenken.
Attempted to visit over the weekend (February 5, 2022).
Access to the bunker is sealed and completely unaccessible.
The location has new history-loving owners that also love cameras and calling police.
Exploration is no longer possible.