The Forbidden City
Lenin is a lonely man. He’s the only one left, gazing forlornly across the overgrown lawn, abandoned by his comrades after they all departed in a hurry on a fateful day in September 1994.
Loneliness prevails despite the fact there are two of him. Another Lenin frowns disparagingly in front of a boarded-up villa, maintaining some form of stoic dignity despite the fact he’s covered in lichen and no one has even asked him how he’s feeling for over 20 years.
They still haven’t come back, the Soviets. There used to be thousands of them, so many that Wünsdorf was known as Little Moscow, with trains to the real Moscow going every day.
To the natives it was die verbotene Stadt, the Forbidden City. The East Germans weren’t allowed within an ass’s roar of it, and they just had to like it or lump it.
The GDR’s head honchos were happy to have the Red Army on hand in case their people got a bit rowdy, as they did in 1953, when Soviet tanks and troops put an end to the short-lived rebellion of June 17.
Wünsdorf was the Red Army’s headquarters in Germany, the biggest Soviet military camp outside the USSR. It’s abandoned now, mostly forgotten and discarded, left largely to rot in the woods that give Wünsdorf-Waldstadt, the ‘Forest City.’ its name.
But this story is a long one. What follows is what I’ve gleamed from painstaking research into various conflicting and contradictory reports.
Military facilities existed in and around Wünsdorf long before the Russians came along. The Nazis – as Germans were called for that unfortunate period in history – used it for military purposes too. They used it even before they became Nazis, when they were finding their feet as Germans.
Six years after the formation of the German Empire in 1871, the Prussian army established a shooting range at Kummersdorf. In 1888, that was linked by rail line with another shooting range at nearby Jüterbog. The whole area really gained in strategic significance with the construction of the railway.
The train station opened on the Berlin-Dresden line in 1897 and by 1910 there were quite a few army barracks in Wünsdorf-Zossen. (Zossen being the main town to the north.)
A telephone and telegraph office was established in 1912 and the infantry school followed the year after that. The 60,000-acre area had become Europe’s largest military base by the time the World War I kicked off in 1914.
That same year, work began on the first mosque to be built on German soil. It opened the following year on July 13, 1915, catering for Muslim POWs from the Halbmondlager (Crescent moon camp).
The wooden mosque remained open for Berlin’s Muslims even after the end of WWI, but was closed due to disrepair in 1924 and subsequently torn down.
There weren’t only Muslim prisoners in the Halbmondlager. There were Irish POWs there too. They weren’t happy about being thrown in with the more exotic prisoners, however, and they were subsequently moved to a separate barracks, also in Zossen.
Some were recruited by Roger Casement to form the Irish Brigade to fight against Britain for Irish independence, and an Irish team beat Germany 4-1 in a football game on Dec. 5, 1915. Never let it be forgotten!
The Germans treated the Irish well enough, until one of the camp guards called them “English” and a brawl broke out between them. Apparently they weren’t looked after so well after that. They probably weren’t called English after that either.
Wünsdorf remained important from a military perspective even after the war, with barracks, a military hospital and stables. The Army Sports School was established in 1919, honing German athletes up to 1943.
German athletes trained here ahead of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, though there was little they could do to stop Jesse Owens stealing the show. The building later became Haus der Offiziere (Officers’ House) under Soviet administration.
The military bathhouse was built around 1919 too, but the Russians destroyed that in the 1950s. Maybe they weren’t all that much into hygiene.
Wünsdorf-Zossen was already home to a motorized division of the Reichswehr (Weimar Republic army) in 1931, but the shit really hit the fan when the Nazis came to prominence in 1933.
Hitler’s buddies didn’t waste any time and quickly expanded the area’s military capabilities, forming the first Panzer division of the German Wehrmacht (as the unified army, navy and air force would become in 1935) that same year.
By 1935 they moved the Wehrmacht headquarters here, formed the third Panzer division, and reestablished the army’s driving school in Wünsdorf. They also started with a load of building work in the forest to the north of the town to accommodate all the workers and employees.
Of course, they weren’t satisfied with just that. There were serious plans afoot! Initial work on the highly modern underground communications center called Zeppelin, which had walls up to 3.2 meters thick and a 1-meter shell around it, began in March 1937.
Construction on Maybach I and II, bombproof bunkers with underground sections, began the following year.
Maybach I, which bordered the Zeppelin bunker, consisted of 12 buildings disguised as rural homes. Maybach II only had 11. They had 80-centimeter thick roofs, covered with regular roof tiles. Chimneys poking from each provided fresh filtered air.
The complexes were unique in that the overground rooms were duplicated in each of the two levels below. Steel doors that could be sealed in emergency meant operators could move from the upper rooms below to continue their work with minimum interruption. A ring tunnel connected all the Maybach I bunkers and to the Zeppelin bunker.
There were also 19 of the remarkable-looking aerial defense bunkers that resemble Stone Age rockets. Bombs would simply slide down their sides and explode harmlessly below. Well, they were harmless unless you happened to be ringing the doorbell.
Each one had its own dog and a Tier-Luftschutzkasten, a sort of first aid kit for animals affected by bombing raids, particularly horses, cattle and pigs. I’m not sure if the dogs administered first aid or merely found the poor creatures.
Each kit had a scissors, gauze, cotton wool, 600 grams of sodium carbonate and 850 grams of disinfectant chloramine-T powder.
Work on Maybach I was completed in 1939 and the Supreme High Command of the German Army (Oberkommando des Heeres, or OKH) moved in on August 26, a few days before the invasion of Poland.
Maybach II wasn’t ready until early summer 1940, when the Wehrmacht headquarters – the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, OKW) – moved in.
The OKW and OKH fulfilled different roles but likely would have been united only for the dastardly Hitler, who kept the rivals separate so he could maintain control. He was too mad for his own good in the end.
Zeppelin, codenamed Amt 500, was one of the largest newsgathering hubs in operation during the Second World War. It sent commands to German troops everywhere.
With the war in full swing, other important German army command offices were moved here in 1943 to get away from the pesky bombs falling elsewhere. Of course, the bombs fell on Wünsdorf too as the war was coming to an end. Nowhere was safe.
The first bombing took place in 1945, with the third and apparently most serious attack on March 15, when 120 people were killed and a heap of houses destroyed.
The Red Army arrived on April 20, apparently taking the place without a fight.
As the story goes, the only Germans left were the caretaker and four soldiers, three of whom surrendered immediately, while the fourth couldn’t “because he was dead drunk.” The phone rang and one of the Russians answered. It was a senior German officer. “Ivan is here,” said the soldier who picked up before telling yer man to go to hell.
Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s leading staff made Wünsdorf-Zossen their headquarters, and evidently the Russians felt at home, for it became the High Command seat for the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany until they left in 1994.
The bunkers were mostly blown up to make them unsuitable for military use according to the Potsdam Agreement, but Zeppelin survived with just a bit of damage to the western entrance.
Locals were booted out, the road was closed to traffic, and the area was restricted for Soviet use only. In March 1953, there were around 800 residents and 30,000 soldiers.
From Wünsdorf-Zossen, the Russians provided their East German counterparts with military backing to secure the 155-kilometer border around West Berlin on Aug. 13, 1961. The Berlin Wall began life as a shield of soldiers with guns.
From Oct. 22, 1971, the Russians were also charged with ensuring East Germany’s skies were safe. Zeppelin became headquarters for the Soviets’ 16th Air Army.
At times, ‘Little Moscow’ was home to as many as 75,000 Soviet men, women and children. The forest city had everything for their needs including schools, supermarkets and businesses.
When they left on the last train to Moscow, the Russians left behind a 260-hectare area from which 98,300 rounds of ammunition, 47,000 pieces of ordnance, and 29.3 tons of munitions were disposed of, not to mention other bomb and weapon parts. There was also the 45,000 cubic meters of rubbish, including chemicals, waste oil, old paint, tires, batteries and asbestos.
Some of the buildings have since been converted back into homes and occupied by families lured by affordable housing to the middle of a forest, while Wünsdorf-Waldstadt has also been declared a “book town” in an effort to draw visitors, or books.
There’s plenty of wildlife here too. I’ve met deer on every occasion I’ve been to the forest city. On the last occasion I saw a deer the size of a rabbit and a rabbit the size of a deer. There’s other wildlife too, but that will declare itself if it wants to. The mosquitoes will want to.
Only the really trashed buildings are easily accessible. Wünsdorf enthusiasts have taken care to seal the most historically important buildings, keeping them in pretty good condition.
See below for details on how to visit the former Army Sports School/Officers’ House including theater and swimming hall. It’s the building with Lenin gazing impressively outside. Its fading glory is reminiscent of Beelitz-Heilstätten’s – beauty to warm the cockles of your heart.
Of course there are other sights too – the infantry school, military hospital, tower, garages, rocket bunkers, communication bunkers, more, more, more.
I ran from one to the other in a frenzy, cramming as much as physically possible, snapping like a crocodile, jumping walls, climbing fences. I didn’t notice the barbed wire tearing my legs till I was on the train back to Berlin, looked down and saw the blood. My shirt was white with sweat, arms and hands covered with dirt. I didn’t care. I’d been to the Forbidden City. I have to go back, I’ll go back.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Former headquarters of the Soviet military forces in Germany, a city in the forest, aka Little Moscow, aka the ‘Forbidden City.’ Before that, the Nazis’ underground bunker headquarters for the German Wehrmacht and Army’s High Command, home to the sophisticated Zeppelin communications bunker that sent commands to German forces during WWII. Before that, a military area going back to the time of the Imperial German Army and Prussian Army.
- Where: Wünsdorf-Waldstadt, Zossen, Germany.
- How to get there: Regional trains go every half hour or so to Wünsdorf-Waldstadt from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße, as well as Gesundbrunnen. The journey takes about an hour. The ‘Airport Express’ often terminates at Wünsdorf-Waldstadt, so next time you’re going to the airport you can marvel at all the history hidden at the end of the line. When you get out of the train station, turn east of the tracks (left of the direction the train was traveling), and walk up Bahnhofstraße as far as the junction. Turn left onto Berliner Straße, walk up a good bit and the bunkers, flak towers and abandoned barracks are all up to your right, through the woods and some other stuff. To get to the ‘Haus der Offiziere’ (with Lenin outside) from the station, turn right at Berliner Straße, take the second left along Hauptallee, and you should find it without too much difficulty on the right hand side. There’s even more stuff to the right of that. There’s stuff everywhere really. This shows you where Lenin’s statue in front of ‘Haus der Offiziere’ is, more buildings are south of that, and the bunker part of town is all around here.
- Getting in: Well, it depends where you want to get in to. The thrashed buildings are easy to get into as mentioned before, while the preserved buildings, namely those in and around the ‘Haus der Offiziere’ with Lenin outside, are not.
To get into ‘Haus der Offiziere’ though, you can call caretaker Jürgen Naumann at 0178-5806569 and he’ll happily make an appointment to let you in and take as many pictures as you can snap for €15. I think it’s worth it. He’s a very nice man, doing his best to preserve the place as best as he can.
“The Soviets handed everything over in perfect working order. There was nothing out of place,” he told me. “It was the Germans who wrecked the place. The politicians are to blame. Various companies came in and just stripped the place, taking what they wanted.”
Herr Naumann moved to Wünsdorf in 1974 – a girl lured him, a familiar story – and he found employment working for the Soviets. He’ll give you a map of the whole premises and even open doors to various buildings you would not be able to sneak into otherwise, the swimming pool, theater and boiler room for example. He wants to preserve the place from vandals, but is happy to open it to photographers.
Besides, the previous way in the ‘Haus der Offiziere’ has been sealed with an impenetrable wall of bricks and cement.
The Maybach I&II bunkers were mostly destroyed by the Russians but there are tours of the bunkers and other tours available if you’re of a mind to pay. These are generally run from the ‘Bucherstadt’ part of Wünsdorf.
The Garnisonsmuseum Wünsdorf is well worth a visit to get an overview of the site before the Russians came along. It’s a labor of love for the staff there, and they’re very friendly and helpful. If you ask nicely they’ll also let you enter one of the remarkable rocket-shaped aerial defense bunkers for a look. Highly recommended.
- When to go: Go during the day so you can see stuff. There’s so much stuff to see you’re better off going early in the day too. It’s not really a party location so I would not recommend going at night.
- Difficulty rating: 5/10. Hard to give this a proper rating because the site is so big with so many buildings, all with different levels of difficulty to access. Some buildings are easy, some not. Some are well-preserved and some not, making them all the more treacherous to visit. Be careful! Navigating the site is quite tricky on account of its sheer size, while a lot of the main points of interest are scattered all around. Tours are no doubt an easier option, though they’re not quite the same.
- Who to bring: Like-minded explorers, someone to carry your sandwiches and beer, or drag you back out by the legs if a roof falls on your head.
- What to bring: A bit to eat, a bottle of water, a beer, camera, torch, mosquito repellent, carrots for the rabbits, news from Russia for Lenin.
- Dangers: As mentioned before, some of the buildings are in a bad way so obviously you need to take care when snooping around. Floorboards should not always be trusted and ceilings only fall in one direction. You may see neighbors living in some of the former barracks. Just ignore them and carry on unless they happen to be giving you dirty looks. As usual in such places, there are warnings about munitions, explosives, chemicals, unexploded bombs and that kind of thing, so just be careful where you step isn’t your last one.
More German/Soviet military traces…
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.
Vogelsang still clings to its nuclear secrets. One sneaky deployment of bad weapons was so damned secret it was even kept from the Soviet soldiers involved.
Wünsdorf was the Red Army’s headquarters in Germany, the biggest Soviet military camp outside the USSR.
I’ve heard that the biggest camp outside the USSR was in Legnica (Liegniz), Poland, where were Red Army’s headquarters for all Soviet troops in Warsaw Pact countries (except USSR itself of course) located. BTW Legnica was called “little Moscow” too 😉
Wow, that was quick – I just posted this 15 minutes ago!
Thanks for the info. Maybe every country had the biggest Soviet military camp outside the USSR! 😉
I’ll check it out further. From the research I did so far it’s claimed that Wünsdorf was the biggest, though of course that’s open to contradiction and debate. I’ll see if I can get some definitive answers.
Hey mate,going there with some friends tomorrow and i have a couple of questions…how would you evaluate the getting caught risk?any security guards driving around?cameras?going from one site to the other?people who run private tours there for pornographic amounts of money?
thanks in advance and thanks for being who you are!!ehehe
No cameras as far as I know, no security either. But there are tours on Sundays so you’re likely to bump into them. I don’t think they want pornographic amounts of money. But if they see you sneaking around then obviously you’re very likely to get caught.
My advice is to get there earlyish and simply ask in the Bucherstadt part of town what the story is. A tour might actually be a good option. And there’s more than enough for a full day’s explorational activities…
thanks for the quick reply! so, I will probably call these guys – buecherstadt.com/en/bunker/ – in the morning and see what’s the deal…
bike or no bike?
I’d bring a bike. The tour would only last so long and it’ll be nice to cycle around. The whole site is huge.
There are a camera(s?) on the back of the main building with the clock tower and Lenin in front. Not that hard to get around but long distances and loads to see. Definitely possible to spend another great Sunday at these sites. Did not even get to the bunkers. Thanks for an awesome tip!
exactly! at least one camera behind the Haus der Offiziere facing the round building in the back…thanks again!
So two people have seen at least one camera. Whether it’s on and recording is another question, but obviously it’s best to be careful in any case. Thanks for the detective work!
I do not know much of Lenin. It seems sad that he only lived 53 years old. But it is so nice to see that the buildings are preserved so that they could show more historical significance. Although the building are already trashed, they still look nice. It will be nice if the ammunition, explosives, chemicals and unexploded bombs were already removed or disposed safely.
At the Haus der Offiziere you can easily get in if you are polite and ask the security up front to open up for you
They much prefer you to ask rather than break in and cause damage ect
And all they ask for is to sign a piece of paper that you take responsibility if you break your neck ect and a very small fee up front
Just ask at the gate if you find it as you will be most surprised how nice some security can be
What’s a very small fee? I already mentioned you can do tours if you’re of a mind to pay.
I think it’s safe enough now – most of the ammunition, explosives, chemicals and unexploded bombs are gone! 🙂
I got butterflies just looking at this. Incredible stuff. I know where I’ll be flying to at Christmas, thanks for this.
Thanks for the kind comment. You have a great blog going on. Great stuff.
Hey, I just went to Bunkerstadt and ‘Little Moscow’. If anyone is interested, in the latter there are signs saying the area is under video surveillance and there’s a guard hanging around who you should avoid. We got caught and he was fairly nice, but if you’re unlucky they could press charges against you for trespassing. If you’re of a mind to pay you can book a tour with the owners of the place, just call Herr Naumann under 0178 5806 569, he’s one of the guards and seems like a decent fellow (should cost about 15€ tho…). Anyway, still got to see Lenin and had a fantastic day exploring, thanks for calling my attention the place!
Thanks for the info Max.
Yeah, the fact that the place is so well preserved suggests someone is taking care of the place. From that point of view, and in this case, I wouldn’t object too much to paying for a tour. They actually care avbout the place and are not merely exploiting it (like Teufelsberg for example).
makin a trip to berlin this winter not much stuff in ireland left for me to explore, beautiful photos.
Thanks for the tip, I went there recently, through o hole in the fence, just in front of Lenin and it was pretty good. It was way too big though, I could have spent a week in there. And as I was just passing the factory behind the Lenin villa, a car stopped by and the driver was shouting something in German so I didn’t understand. Well then I just kept on walking but he was calling the cops so I quickly got off the road and ran away. When I got into my car parked just in front, I saw the cops driving by.. Just to let you know that there really is a slight danger of getting caught inside..
Roger Casement…never forget!
Very nice site btw, this is my saturday evening fun.
Went today, all went smoothly. I found the main Lenin, the tank garages and hundreds of other decaying buildings. I didn’t see a single sole the whole day other than some oversized bunnies.
Went yesterday, great site, so undamaged compared to most of the places which are closer to Berlin, thanks for the tip :).
We saw the security camera too, it is on the back of the Haus der Offiziere (big yellow building with clock tower which sits behind the Lenin). It’s on the back-right side of the building,when facing the building with Lenin at your back. The camera looks quite modern (wireless) and might well function. It faces a wide road with a factory (it has a brick tower) on one side, so avoid walking up that road. There is a parallel road that goes past what looks like the sports/swimming hall, that one seems OK. When you walk past the the theater/auditorium (decoratively tiled futuristic-looking building second photo down on this page), and under the walkway that connects it to other buildings, stay close to the walls of the big yellow clock tower building (Haus der Offiziere) to avoid the camera.
As mentioned, there are tours of the forbidden city in the summer, probably a nice thing to support if you’re there at the right time and/or a bit worried about getting caught. You can get info at the Buch/Bunkerstadt offices buecherstadt.com/en/ and they have a small map of the site taped to the counter so handy for fact-finding too.
Herr Naumann, the friendly security guard who takes care of the place and allows people in if you ask at the gate, reports that now the site is being broken into more than ever and every weekend. These idiots are breaking into the historic and listed buildings damaging doors and windows. For Herr Naumann every Monday a waste of time repairing damage. Fortunately up until now there hasn’t been much vandalization and garbage here at this site, other than for example the Heeresbäckerei — vandals tore down and destroyed all the old neon lamps and iron radiators in the old military bakery. Herr Naumannn can’t be everywhere.
I really like your blog and have found inspiration in it for a lot of short trips in and around Berlin, but could you pleas cut off with the anti-GDR, anti-Soviet bullshits? BRD, the US and the West are no inch better and actually much worse. So just drop it, for the sake of truth.
Sorry Erich, I appear to have touched a nerve. No offense intended.
The relics of former Heeresbäckerei have been sold by Entwicklungsgesellschaft Wünsdorf to someone, who wants to turn these two buildings into an exquisite vintage car shop. So, its no longer under survey of Mr. Naumann and his colleagues.
Sorry, Spudnik. Someone with pseudonym “FDJ” and so wholehearted defending a dictatorship should be addressed as Egon, not Erich 😀
You’re right of course! Deepest apologies to Egon. I certainly did not mean to ruffle any feathers!
One of the best blogs I ever came across on the web. I really enjoy the writing and the pictures.
(For the following I will burn in hell, probably) Need to admit that the “anti-eastern” emphasis sometimes spoils the reading (and surely makes the lonely Lenin sad).
But nam, keep the blog up 🙂
What “anti-eastern” emphasis?! Has everyone joined the FDJ all of a sudden? Is Putin funding another recruitment drive?
You haven’t touch any nerve. It’s just that the usual Western propaganda against an already deceased Socialist alternative system is kind of annoying. The definition of dictatorship is evanescent as the one of democracy and if you really think – as probably “anonymous” does – that the capitalism and consumerism we are living in/with are expression of freedom and democracy… well… not even worth an answer. But hey keep believing in the American Dream and the evil red Bolsheviks and all the bullshits about GDR and USSR they told you, if you’re happy this way. PS: It’s not that just because someone defends the former Eastern Block she/he’s all of a sudden a Putin’s worshipper… you really ought to study a bit more.
Very nice place to visit. Parked the car at Fichtenstrasse. There is a house on the side of the road. On the other side of the house there is space beteen the fence and house to go through. Then you easely walk to Lenin. The big buildings looked pretty boarded up, some smaller ones were easy to get into. Watch out for the security camera on the back of the big building behind Lenin. The camera faces the back, not Lenin. If you walk alongside the wall the camera can’t see you. Watch out for ticks, nasty creatures!
Greetings from the Holland Urban Ex Club 🙂
Went here twice, once in winter 2012 and once about a year ago, the first time through a hole in the fence and the second with a tour. To be honest, unless you’re hot for the ‘Nervenkitzel’ that comes with being in there without permission, I would actually recommend the tour since the interiors (theatre, Haus der Offiziere etc) are impressive and you won’t get in there otherwise. The same goes for the nearby ‘Maybach I’ bunkers, the amazing underground one of which you can’t enter without a key. Sometimes it’s not uncool to take a tour.
That said, Wünsdorf is an absolutely huge area and there are many structures in other parts that can indeed be explored illegally (and, dare I say it, safely). However the real treats are well locked off, so consider lashing out the 10 EUR.
Finally, the chap from our tour – who had the Russian ‘Nationale’ as a ring tone! – explained that they are actually trying to sell the Haus der Offiziere etc, which is presumably why this section is relatively well maintained (except for the weird modernist panorama building around the back) and surveilled. Apparently they almost had a buyer, but it didn’t work out (a familiar tale with these things I guess).
The “Haus der Offiziere” is impressive indeed as it reaches back to emperor times. The swimming pool is a fantastic place for photography, so is the theatre. I had access to all the buildings but was there on my own, as made an appointment with the owner.
Fascinating blog. Keep up the good work.
You mentioned getting a map of the site. There is a book: “The Undergound Military Command Bunkers of Zossen, Germany: Construction history and use by the Wehrmacht and Soviet Army 1937-1994” by Hans George Kampe, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996 ISBN 0-7643-0164-0. There several maps included. Perhaps you could contact the author for permission to use or find out the source. Or convert a map to your own purposes.
I visited Wunsdorf about a week ago and people doesnt kid when they say its huge – its HUGE. My jaw dropped when driving into Wunsdorf and realizing that i needed a couple of days to explore the whole site.
Saw the Lenin, went on the bunker tour but sadly missed the tour of the “normal” buildings. But boy, what a site. Amazing, thanks!
I was there last week. It’s really cool if you go take your bike, because the place is huge. I would also definitely recommend to mix the independent visit of the abandoned places with the tours that exist. I went to the bunker tour and really liked it!
This place is just amazing: it’s big an in every corner you have new surprises. I will see if I can post here a map I got from the place because it really helps a lot (you can buy them for 2 Euros at the tour office of Bücherstadt).
Miguel here, thanks for this blog, its truly inspirating
Since I picked up my info here just wanna leave an update for all the others like me that come here looking for information.
Been last week in Haus der Offiziere. Herr Naumann still taking care of it. Very friendly and nice guy.The phone number indicated in comments area is still his phone so in case you cant grab his attention from outside you can always call him and indicate him you are at the fence.
Entrance to the area is 15 euros and if you go this time of year you can be completely alone as I was for more than 6 hours. You have to sign a paper to take responsability of any damage you make or injury you suffer and that’s all. Herr Naumann go with you and open all the doors, give you a map of the area were highlights are indicated and finnally say goodbye and come back to the entrance.
It’s difficult to think in a better solution. You can stay alone checking all the place alone for many hours with the security of not being doing nothing illegal and being able to take all the time you need to enjoy the place. If you are photographer place is perfect for practice.
Place is stunning. A really worthy visit for everybody interested in history.
Just hope my comment helps
I’ve been recently to the Infanterieschule (also with the help of Mr. N.). Both complexes – Haus der Offiziere and Infanterieschule – are really big, if you want to see and explore both it’s probably better to go 2 days. That’s what I did and actually there are still some places, which i didn’t have time to explore 100% and in these buildings you never know were the little treasures are…
I already visited some cool abandoned soviet military areas as Vogelsang, Waldstadt or Bernau. I was thinking about visiting also Jüterbog and Fürstenberg/Havel. Does anybody know if these spots are still visitable? In the Internet I found very little and not quite updated information…
you can enter Haus der Offiziere and Infrantrieschule by permission of the security guard for just 15 euros. That was way great as he opened all up to go in. you can go from like 8.15 to 4 pm!
Nice place to see indeed.
I just went there for a quick shot of the Lenin statue today. Mid-sized hole in the fence on the side of Rosa Luxembourg Straße still there if you just want a glimpse of the main building entrance. But it doesn’t help if you’re not in shape.
Just a brief update (as of 21 May 2015), Herr Naumann is still there. The cost is still €15 and he gives you a map of the building.
However, this is just for the Officers Building by the statue of Lenin. The bunker tours are totally separate and are also €15 and start at 14:00 every day.
Sounds like an amazing place. I think I’ll go there soon. Any recent news about the place?
And when you guys say you have to pay the security guy 15e to access Haus der Offiziere, it’s 15e per person or 15e access, no matter how many you are (we might be 4)? Thanks for all the info! Can’t wait!
You might not be able to do that for long. Most of the renovated properties around the former High Command (Weisse Haus) and Officer House (Haus des Offiziers) have been sold to private investors, waldstadt-wuensdorf.de/index.html. And that’s what’s gonna happen, 3d-agentur-berlin.de/portfolio/renderings/architekturvisualisierung/das-weisse-haus-eingang/ .
I was there last week end and concentrated on the bunkers (the destroyed ones you can easily access). Incredible site. I’ve visited several abandoned Soviet bases in Germany and Hungary and have to say that these crippled bunkers were really scenic. Their destruction by the retreating Soviets they are really left in shambles. I’ve been around fortifications dating back to WWI and WWII, structures that were heavily bombarded and the magnitude of destruction at Wunsdorf equals those sites. Some bunkers are definitely dangerous. Almost upside down, dark and filled with unexpected deep holes in the ground. Some have clear entrances to underground tunnels, but the state of the surrounding structures commands extreme care. Tons of supplies abandoned everywhere. Found books, boots, uniforms, cups, badges, posters and what not. Also, loads of asbestos, strangely smelling barrels and hidden rusty barbed wire, so do mind what you touch and where you walk.
You can bet that once most properties are sold and invested on, the bunkers will be either entirely demolished or completely sealed off.
The renovated buildings around the Haus des Offiziers look neat and nicely preserved (well of course, they’re bloody selling them..). Called the number listed in some comments above to try access them, but no answer. Not too bad though, since I am much more into abandoned landmarks.
Also (forgot to mention), a former Soviet officer of Kazkah origin (who actually indicated me and my friend the easiest and quickest way to get to the bunkers) told us that Wunsdorf-Waldstadt will see the arrival in the coming months of several hundreds refugees. He was very sad that instead of renovating the existing structures new housing modules were being installed just opposite the Haus der Offiziere. I did not understand myself why for example the Weisse Haus was not used to house them..and now we know! It’s been sold!
So, yet another reason to get there NOW. The relocation of migrants will probably see some form of enhanced control over the area. So yeah, get your Regio and enjoy that incredible site while you still can.
Thanks for your information! 🙂 The number listed in some comments still exists. I called Mr. Naumann yesterday and it’s still possible to visit Haus der Offiziere und Infanterieschule. Perhaps you called him the wrong time, he works from 8.15-16.15 o’clock (monday-friday). Nice guy.
With 2 friends, we went there in december, and I must say that is the most amazing place I have seen so far in Berlin. Sadly, Herr Neumann wasn’t answering his phone, so we used the good old method of barrier climbing. The buildings around the Haus der Offiziere are in a very good way, and it’s quite big (spent around 2 hours there). We couldn’t enter the main building but made our way in the communist theater. It was dark but we have seen a enormous russian map on the Berlin battle on the first stage (1945). We also climbed up on the roof of this big beton theater to have a complete view. It was really beautiful.
What’s amazing is that Wünsdorf Waldstadt in composed of modern buildings that were built in the neighborhood of non-destroyed but abandoned old soviet buildings, including a lot of weird bunkers. The atmosphere is so special, I really recommend it ! Concerning the refugees, they are installed face of the Haus der Offiziere, but only use a very small part of this enormous city.
To be seen also : a statue of Youri Gagarin, a panzer garage, woods, an old stadium (2 km far from Haus der Offiziere, following the main road on the right).
Visited today late in the afternoon. The main building with Lenin out the front is easy to get to. I didn’t try and enter the building though since I wanted to check out the bunkers.
I found whole lot of barracks right of the roundabout, however I was not able to find a way into the underground section. Turns out I was looking in the wrong place, I checked google maps and the main underground bunkers are further north. Make sure you go really early in the morning since you’ll be spend the whole day. Also maybe take a rated mask since there is enough asbestos to insulate a small african nation.
Was there today. What a place! But before going I wondered for a long time what the situation was regarding getting in. So here it goes: the ‘guard’ is there from Monday to Saturday, in general, from 9-16:15 (I’m sure about the 16:15 anyway). He’s very nice, and for 15€ pp (30€ during the week-end, but you can negotiate) he lets you in everything, doors open.
I did not see him (perhaps because I didn’t really want to) at the entry so I used the back door, where the fences are non-existent. Getting in any of the buildings with doors closed is no easy task, and in some cases I’d say impossible unless you’re bringing big guns. The thing is, we got into everything because another dude was touring the place and had payed, so we were just walking in doors open. At some point – at the end, actually – the guard picked up on us. We had a chat, and said we’d be back, basically. No charges. Then after 16:15 we went back in to have some fun with Lenin, cuz that’s by the front entrance and we could not do that while he was there.
The way I see it you have three options: a) you pay b) you don’t pay and feel lucky like we did c) you don’t pay and don’t want to rely on such luck as we had, so you go there on Sunday, all guns blazing. But beware, there’s police patrolling from time to time, etc.
Highlights for us included Lenin’s statue, the pool + heating system, the general feel and look of the place, and one extra: in the cylindrical building behind the main building (connected to it) there’s something worth seing that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere here. Go find it. You’ll need a torch lamp.
One disappointment: we did NOT see the Theater which appears on the second before last picture on this page. I even asked the guard at some point, during our chat, where was that Theater anyway. He pointed me at #23 on his map, which is a place I had been into. There was no such thing there as a Theater.
Could someone explain where that one is then? I might go back, and when I do I wanna see that Theater!
Another info which I had to guess a bit from the info here, is that the bunkers are up north, 3-4km from all this, close (obviously) to the place which organizes guided tours of those bunkers. Bring a bike if you wanna visit both spots!
All in all an awesome exploring experience. Since I missed (?) the Theater and did not go north to the bunkers, I’d say it remains a little under Vogelsang, in terms of impact. Also, for one-timers in Berlin I do not recommend it given the difficulties in getting in. It’s a risky shot.
Uhhh and has somebody of you the map of the place to may be upload it here?
Went there last week, they were filming so we had to go back another day. The guard was there so we payed to get in. Might be worth it though, he warned us about some mines and told us where not to go. The place is huge, main building is pretty much the same all over, empty rooms.. Swimming hall was definitely the coolest spot!!
Hello, Does anyone know if the guard or Herr Neumann are still operative? I am in the area tomorrow and would like to try to get in for a few hours. I don’t want to go on the official tour (obviously) and I don’t want to take my chances so would happily pay the guard or whoever to let me in semi-officially. By the way, what is the guard’s position on cameras? Does he mind you taking a big camera or should it be “discreet”? Thanks. Anyone with the latest, do let me know.
Mēsli krievi,kur tik iet visu piedirš!
Thank you Ciaran and others for posting information about this place. Absolutely amazing and so big! I was only around the Haus der Offiziere, swimming pool, theatre but there is obviously so much more to explore. Mr Neumann is still there. Very friendly and no problem getting in, paying the 15,- entree fee. I basically had the place to myself, only running into a Russian guy at some stage who had actually stayed there as a child! Would someone mind sharing where the ‘second’ Lenin statute is, the one on the photo above this article (of course I saw the one in front of the HdO). Thank you!
Enjoyed reading this piece today, Ciaran
Is that 15€ per Person, or as a group?
We went there today, it’s a great place to explore. Yesterday we tried to hop the fence, but the place is completely surrounded by multiple fences so we did not manage to get in. It’s really better to call her Neumann and pay 15 euros. He will open the most interesting buildings which you otherwise only get into if you break a window or force a door. Which would be a shame since they really try to preserve the place for visitors. During weekdays you can walk around by yourself and call here Neumann for an appointment. In weekend you can join a tour around the area.
I really want to see this place! Is it still possible to make an appointment with Naumann via phone 0178-5806569??
-> Siamond & glencca
Mr. Naumann hasn’t completely retired yet and still is in charge for the area around (the large statue of) Lenin (former ‘Militärturnanstalt’ and soviet House of Officers). The annexing former ‘Infanterieschule’ has been sold and official access there is no longer provided. However, Mr. Naumann’s telephone number did change to +49-176-46641256 and that of his colleague Mr. Geist is +49-1578-3459986. So, it should be possible to make an arrangement with one of the mentioned caretakers for photographers on working days. Please avoid these overpriced offers from third party!
To speak in general, Wünsdorf acutually sees a lot of construction work. Many of those derelict barracks all the way between “Bücher- und Bunkerstadt” (i.e. 2 or 3 paper waste filled ‘antique’ book shops, 2 rather good exhibitions on the history of german/soviet military at Wünsdorf and the ‘Zeppelin’-‘Maybach’-bunker complex) in the north and ‘lenin’ in the south of Wünsdorf currently are rebuild! Areas, where there are no machines and workers yet, although have been cleared from trees and bushes, so to expect further changes there…
We made an appointment with Mr Naumann in May 2017 and stayed within the facilities of Haus der Offiziere for two full days. He was very helpful and explained (in German) his dealings with the area during the Cold War era. He understands a lot of English but prefer to answer in German. He opened the gates and we could park our car within the facility. Great! We paid 15 €/person/day which seems really fair.
During our stay in Wünsdorf we filmed material for a series of six short documentary style movies. They are 4-5 minutes each. The language is Swedish but close captions/subtitles in English is available. We tour the Russian Monument, Swimming pool hall with the boiler room, the Theater, A cinema and lots of other areas. We have published five movies and we are actually releasing the last movie within the next few days. That will be no. six about “Haus der Offiziere”. You might want to consider subscribing to the channel on Youtube. Much appreciated if you decide to do so. This particular movie is about the Theater: youtu.be/QPViEOUDkBo
Went here yesterday (12/07/18), what a place! We were there for 2 hours and barely touched the sides. Wish our flight was a little later because there was honestly so much to see. Such a historic place and definitely a must see if you’re near the area. I STRONGLY recommend you either get there early or ring Jurgen in advance because on Wednesday (11/07/18) we turned up at 1pm and couldn’t get in because he was finishing soon and we wouldn’t have had much time there. He doesn’t speak very good English but you’ll manage fine, proper sound bloke he is. He’s recently organised a little room as a mini museum with lots of old books/appliances/everyday items left over from the place, from original Soviet Ushankas, Soviet handbooks, beds and bikes to old plates, cutlery and tea cups. Really crazy place well worth it!
Thank you for shooting this. I definitely need to go now.
Did you have trouble reaching Mr. Neumann by any chance? I’ve tried calling him a few times now to set up a tour for November, but I haven’t been able to get in contact with him. Any chance you recall which phone number you used, what time of day (German time) you called, etc?
Thanks for any help!
Hi Mike, did you use this number +49-176-46641256? Other questions contact [email protected] Cheers
I want to visit this for the second time, at the end of october. Is there a mail address to ask for premission or some open doors/windows? I only see the verrrrry expansive tours 🙁
Planning to get there soon
Is Mr Neumann still available at his phone number?
Thanks for the excellent blog
He’s available at +49-176-46641256.
The previous number +49-178-5806569 belongs to someone else and is constantly on answering machine.
Hello, I have made an appointment with Mr. Neumann to see the Forbidden City. We agreed upon a date and time, but I could not find out where to meet him due to the language barrier. Can anyone who has met Mr. Neumann or the security guard tell me where they specifically met them (i.e. near the statue or back end of the building)?
Thank you all so much!
Rumors that an investor has bought the site and has already started clearing land and demolition work, including a small gym. Any truth to this?
I would like to shoot a short video inside Wünsdorf. I read the article about paying a fee to Herr Naumann to get into. But my doubt is concerning bringing a small crew inside. I have 4 actors, a cameraman, a sound guy and 2 other people. Do you guys know if it is possible to have a one-day-shooting inside there? Thanks a lot!
Hi there guys! As above – does anyone know if it’s still possible to arrange a visit with Mr Neumann? Big thanks!
As a few others already asked, is it still possible to contact Herrn Neumann and go into the Haus der Offiziere for 15€? Because I read some rumors, that some investor bought it and it’s only possible to take an expensive photo tour to get in. It would be great if somebody could help.
Thanks for sharing. Would be awesome to buy this place…and restore it but I see someone got it before me!
Hey, any recent news – is it still possible to get into with help of caretaker ?
Were there just yesterday, still possible to find a hole in the fence. Its a huge complex, really bring a bike. We walked for 4 hours and only found some old hangars and few smaller houses. Just bring something against insects, i have over 20 mosquito bites on my legs only 😀
It’s important to understand that Wünsdorf has 2 areas of interest – the Bunkerstadt 3k north, and the Verbotene Stadt around Haus der Offiziere (HdO).
In July and August, you can take tours of both. I did the latter, which runs 3 times a week (duration 2h, in German!) and costs 10€. It’s a bargain as you can access the full HdO with it – otherwise its impossible. Its run by an old dude which is neither owner nor security guy – he is simply a lover and former worker at this site and thus knows the place very well. It doesn’t exactly look as neat anymore as on this blog’s pics (theatre is dark for example, no lights) but well worth.
Where can you book the tours?
Was there the first Saturday of September ’21. Managed to get in the place and two of the buildings (without a tour). Fenced all around but easy to jump, a few cameras and a security man waiting for you to make his job somewhat less boring (or maybe not).
Difficulty around 6/10, depending on your luck and skills.
Did you finally know how to get in the normal way? We want to go back it’s very hard to find out.
By normal way you mean booking the tour in agreement with this person?
If yes, I have no idea.
Went there yesterday. The Bunker and Haus der Offiziere can only be visited via tours. At least we were able to get in one of the many buildings at Verbotene Stadt – the former Garnisonslazarett is good to go at the moment.
Do you know who does tours? I was hoping to go with go2know but I can’t make any of their tour dates. Was it easy to get in without a tour? I am not from Germany so I don’t know the dangers of breaking and entering. At worst, will you just be asked to leave? Thank you!!
Went last week! It’s a seriously incredible place (and the whole town is full of endless abandoned places to explore, most of them easily accessible). Haus der Offiziere is NOT easily accessible. There is a private security guard on patrol and you can’t really access the inside of buildings without booking a tour. I somehow got in and out without being caught, but missed a lot of the best parts because I couldn’t get into buildings. There ARE cameras, but I only saw them around the main buildings.
According to signs at the property gates, if you are inclined, you can book a tour with Go2Know, Fototouren Berlin, or Bunkerstadt.
These “cameras” ever have been fake…
The cameras in the other part of town, around the building beside the other Lenin, are not fake.
As reported from usually well-informed circles, the previous caretaker in Wünsdorf will have a new job elsewhere starting tomorrow. Those who have his phone numbers are therefore asked not to use them anymore. For the time being, the only thing that can be said about the now second successor to the widely well-liked Mr. Naumann is that the additional income that has been tolerated for years – according to the well-known rule of 15 euros per person and day on weekdays – has now aroused the displeasure of the employer.