Geoff Walden

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Berlin, Part 3

Other Sites in and around Berlin

   The following sites are found on this page: Tempelhof airport, Humboldt University, RAD headquarters in Berlin-Grunewald, Kummersdorf Proving Grounds, Zossen Bunker Site.

 

 Tempelhof airport was built south of the city center in 1923; the German airline Lufthansa was founded there in 1926. The airport was enlarged and a monumental building complex erected by the Nazi government in 1936-1941. During the Berlin Blockade of 1948, when the Soviets closed off ground access to Berlin at the start of the Cold War, Tempelhof was the main hub for Allied aircraft resupply during the Berlin Airlift. The U.S. military continued to run Tempelhof until 1994, although the airport was also used for civilian air traffic throughout the Cold War. Tempelhof was closed to air traffic in 2008, but the complex has been preserved as a historical monument and public tours are available (www.tempelhoferfreiheit.de).  (Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen in neuen Reich," Vol. 1, Bayreuth, 1938)  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

Two views of the Tempelhof aircraft hanger area. On the left, the area where passengers came under the roofed area and entered the airport after disembarking their aircraft. On the right, a series of metal doors closes off the hangers on either side of this roofed open area. These doors are mounted on rails and staggered so that they could be slid along the rails (seen at the right edge of the photo) and opened in any combination (that is, the door for Hanger 3, for example, could be opened without opening Hanger 1 or 2).

 

A monumental entry hallway almost 50 feet high was designed by architect Ernst Sagebiel, but it was never completed, and remains today in a derelict state (left). The basement contains an air defense shelter (Luftschutzraum) that still displays Third Reich period artwork on the walls (comical drawings and sayings).

 

The basement levels also contain the so-called "Film Bunker," a series of rooms with reinforced walls and ceilings that were used during the war to store secret films and photo negatives. In 1945, when the Soviets tried to break into this area (access to these rooms had been hidden), they started a fire that soon burned out of control due to the highly flammable film. The fire was so hot that it caused layers of concrete to pop off the ceilings and walls in several of the rooms. This area was never used after the war and can be seen today just as it was after the fire burned out, with soot-covered walls and rusty ventilation apparatus.

 

The main Tempelhof building had a large metal eagle on top (this can be seen in the architectural model above). This eagle was removed in the 1960s and the head was sent to the USA, but it was later returned and is now on a plinth in "Eagle Square." The adjacent buildings still carry six eagles at the corners. See the Reichsadler page.



 

Soon after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the square in front of the Humboldt University was the scene of a pro-Nazi rally. This location is across Unter den Linden from the Bebelplatz, site of the infamous Nazi book burning in May 1933.  (Bundesarchiv)  (Google Maps link)

 

In 1935-36 an administration building for the staff of the Reichsleitung of the Reichs Arbeits Dienst (RAD - Labor Service) was built in Berlin-Grunewald. The plan below shows an elevation of the front, with a large RAD shield in the pediment. The building has been considerably enlarged, with additions to both wings that now enclose an inner courtyard.  ("Bauten der Bewegung," Vol. 1, Berlin, 1938)  (Google Maps link)

 


Kummersdorf Proving Grounds and Rocket Test Site

An artillery test range was built south of Berlin near Kummersdorf in 1875, and this was the basis for a large proving ground (test area) for all sorts of weapons during the Third Reich period. However, before the Nazis came to power, the Kummersdorf area was used to test early experimental rockets. Various test stands and observation bunkers were built in the area to facilitate these tests. These two small bunkers are near the rocket test stand Prüfstand Ost. The one on the left was apparently an observation bunker for testing, as it has a view port opposite the doorway. The purpose of the open bunker on the right is unclear.  (Google Maps link - this link is to the local museum, where you can get a guided tour of this closed area)

 

These bunkers are in a small complex near the rocket test stand. They include separate rooms with observation ports for viewing weapons and/or rocket engine tests.

 

The bunkers in this complex are linked by underground tunnels, which also run to a larger bunker behind, which has been collapsed.

 

Prüfstand Ost (in the eastern part of the site) was the first of two large concrete structures built to test rocket engines (there were eventually four main structures for rocket testing). Built in 1932, the test stand was used for static testing of liquid fueled rocket engines. The test stand originally had folding metal doors at the large openings, and a sliding wooden roof.

 

The test stand includes various rooms and areas with observation ports for viewing the rocket engines under test, as well as mounts for fuel pipes, valves, and test meters. The usefulness of the Kummersdorf site as a rocket test area was limited due to the safety concerns of launching rockets near a populated area. A search was made for a better rocket test site, and in 1937 German rocket testing would move to Peenemünde.

 


Zossen/Wünsdorf Command Bunker Site - "Maybach" and "Zeppelin"

   A protected bunker command area was built from 1937-39 for the Army High Command (OKH) in the area between Zossen and Wünsdorf, south of Berlin. This bunker site was comprised principally of the "Maybach I" and "Maybach II" bunker complexes and the "Zeppelin" underground communications facility, along with several aboveground buildings of various functions. The "Maybach" bunker buildings were disguised to look like normal houses, complete with shingle roofs with "chimneys" (actually ventilation towers), "windows" and doors. In reality, these disguises were applied over thick concrete roofs and walls, although some of the doorways were functional. This building camouflage can be seen in the period photo below of one of the bunker "houses" (this structure was not one of the "Maybach" bunkers, but covered an exit to the "Zeppelin" bunker). The period photo above shows some of the same "Maybach I" buildings seen here in the modern photos of the ruins of "Maybach I."  (Google Maps link - this link is to the local museum, where you can arrange a tour of this bunker site)

 

Ruins of "Maybach I" Buildings A1 and A2 (above), and A3 (below). A1 housed the General Staff of the Luftwaffe, while A2 and A3 housed part of the Army General Staff. Pursuant to 1945 Allied agreements to destroy Nazi military facilities, the Soviets blew up the bunker houses of "Maybach" I and II in 1946-47. (Curiously, the Soviets adhered far more closely to this agreement than did the American or British forces.) Note the thick concrete walls, ventilation inlets, and armored access doors.

 

Ruins of "Maybach I" Buildings A4 and A12, which housed the staffs of the General Quartermaster and the Army Signal Corps. These bunker houses had similar facilities above and below ground, to enable the staff personnel to continue their work below ground while under bombing attack. The underground parts of the "Maybach I" buildings were all linked by a ring tunnel that also connected to the nearby "Zeppelin" communications center bunker.

 

The "Zeppelin" communications center, one of three main underground communications centers for the German military, was a large multi-level bunker built adjacent to the "Maybach I" area ("Zeppelin" was sometimes called "Amt 500"). The facility included many rooms of communications switchboards, terminals, telephone exchanges, amplifiers, transformers, batteries, and support equipment, along with miles of cabling. The facility also contained an elaborate pneumatic mail system, with tubing running in the walls throughout the bunker and to the "Maybach" complexes (some of these tubes can be seen in the photo on the right above). Unlike the "Maybach" complexes, the "Zeppelin" bunker was not destroyed by the Soviets after the war, but it was completely stripped of all equipment and had some explosive charges set in it. On the left above is one of the rooms that was stripped and set on fire by the Soviets, and not used again. The Soviets rehabilitated the "Zeppelin" bunker in 1960-61 as an underground command center (presumably nuclear-proof) for the Soviet military command in East Germany. This reuse involved several changes, including new entrances with Cold War era airlocks and bunker doors. The main entrance from the OKH period had a series of such airlocks and semi-circular bunker doors added, as seen in the photos below. (The conical tower seen in the photo on the left below was the outlet of a bunker emergency exit.)

 

On the left above is a junction in the "Zeppelin" bunker corridors, connecting to the exit tunnel on the north side. The room shown on the right above housed a telephone exchange for the Soviet headquarters. The photos below show the 230 meter long West Tunnel and the stairway at its end, leading to the surface exit.

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The Zossen/Wünsdorf command area included 19 air defense shelter concrete bunkers of the style designed by Leo Winkel, provided as protection for the numerous headquarters personnel who did not work in the "Zeppelin" or "Maybach" bunkers. This was the largest concentration of Winkel Towers in Germany. Most of the Winkeltürme at Zossen were destroyed by the Soviets after the war, but several remain standing. One of these is shown above, complete with original lightning rod on its metal tip. One of the destroyed Winkel Towers is shown below. The close-up shows the iron cap for the lightning rod that was an integral part of the tower tip.

 

The Winkelturm above is open to the public, as part of the adjacent museum complex. The photo on the right shows the steep internal wooden stairways for access to each level. Below are two more of the destroyed Zossen Winkeltürme. Click here to see other Winkeltürme in Giessen, and here for Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern, and Darmstadt.

 

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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