On a recent visit to Germany I was pointed in the direction of an interesting third reich ruin: the REIMAHG facility near Kahla. Like nearby Lehesten, this was another case of the Nazis using forced labour to construct technologically advanced weapons towards the end of the war, imposing tremendous cruelty and suffering on their captive slaves in the process.
The former holiday retreat of East Germany’s great granddaddy and the man who built the Berlin Wall lies in ruins just meters from a famous winter sports track, yet it’s history is far from benign, testament that when it comes to greed, corruption, misappropriation of public funds and even murder, capitalism has plenty of competition from the East. What better way to break up the drive through Winter Wonderland?
When Albert Speer, Architect of the Third Reich, drew plans for Hitler’s »Welthauptstadt« he had no idea he was about to create a collection of time capsules on par with those of London, Paris, or Rome – cities whose historical significance he sought to eclipse by creating a new World Capital. And they say Germans have no sense of irony …
In 1960 my grandfather was abducted by Communist secret police for speaking out against the state. Locked away in a correctional facility that didn’t exist, in a district that wasn’t on any maps, regular people who gave voice to popular opinion were methodically tortured and in some cases killed by civil servants in the name of democracy. Fast-forward 53 years and I’m standing in a cell with my camera, trying not to believe what a former inmate is trying to tell me.
I first heard about this abandoned village near an old quarry a couple of years ago and decided to add it to a road trip being planned at the time. Sadly when we arrived the place was overrun with film crew and trailers so we bailed on to our next destination, reasoning that if it’s so well known it’ll likely be trashed and boring. I forgot all about Örtelsbruch until a recent visit presented me with the chance for a return – and a headlong dive into the rabbit hole.
There’s nothing like an impromptu explore on the way to the airport, and the Sprungschanzenhaus in Frauenwald fits the bill nicely: a bit of history, zero security, and all the crumbling paint you can eat. OK, so it’s a bit trashed in places and if you’re not careful you can fall down eight flights of stairs or through an open window, but then that just adds to the charm of this wedge-shaped wonder.
It’s roots firmly in the 19th century, this sleepy town just south of Berlin was not only home and HQ to German high command through both world wars, but also played a crucial role in grooming the Reich’s elite, the olympic sports teams, and housing up to 75,000 secretive Soviets during Russia’s occupation of Germany. Today only ruins remain, and with bunkers below as numerous as buildings above ground you’d be hard pushed to find a site more richly steeped in history.
Hidden behind the sleepy village of the same name, Krampnitz was originally built for the German cavalry and later used the Soviet army for pretty much the same thing. Today it’s a vast complex of trashed barracks, overgrown parade grounds, and rusting machinery, but it also presents some photogenic secrets for those inclined to keep digging.
Located just 30 minutes south of Berlin, Beelitz Heilstätten is an urban explorer’s paradise. The former tuberculosis therapy centre features 64 architecturally fascinating buildings in various states of decay / vandalism, and has a long history speckled with famous patients such as Hitler and Honecker. What a lovely destination for a day in the snow …