Berlin’s Abandoned Past

by jonnywhitlam

The tattered remains of the canvas walls of the tallest tower at Teufelsberg.

Berlin largely does a great job of remembering the incredibly tortured past it’s had to go through in the last century alone. In the last one hundred years Berlin has been the centre of a collapsed monarchy, a failed idealistic democracy, a fascist state, a divided city split into two countries. Finally it has become the centre of a modern European state, one of the strongest economies in the world, and pretty much the bank of modern Europe.

However some relics from this past remain. One of the most interesting lies way out to the West, in the former British Sector, deep within Grunewald Forest. Prior to WWII there was a Nazi military-technical college here, after the war this building was covered with the ruins of 40,000 buildings from the ruins of bombed Berlin.

Read on for more.

Teufelsberg's tallest tower, the highest point in West Berlin.

During the Cold War the Western Allies discovered that this bizarre structure had become the tallest hill in West Berlin – Berlin being a very flat city. Consequently it was decided that the Americans would build a listening post here – to spy not only into East Berlin, but other Warsaw Pact countries. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and reunification of Germany in 1990 the Cold War was over, at least for Berlin. The Americans decided to up and leave this listening post, Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) fairly quickly. They took anything of value and simply left the structure abandoned.

Completely abandoned, the place has an eery beauty.


This has made for one of the most interesting places to explore in Berlin. It’s technically illegal to trespass here, though it doesn’t stop many people. I decided to explore the place alone earlier this month. Exploring the abandoned ruins alone really added something to the experience for me. It felt almost post-apocalyptic. Clambering through destroyed offices and feeling so small in huge empty spaces, and all of this with the obvious signs of this incredibly suspicious Cold War history. The silence was the strangest thing.

The emptiness and loneliness were captivating.

There is nothing left intact here.

This ladder leads to one of the listening posts.

As I climbed up through the building it really started to feel like such an important part of not only Berlin’s rich yet tortured heritage, but part of what has made this city so great over the past 20 years as well. It’s clear that this is a popular place among the Berliners as well, if the remnants of New Year’s Eve were anything to go by. This is not least because you get such a clear view over all the city, but because like so many abandoned places this has  become a place for the alternative scene in Berlin to show itself.

Street Art culture has made its way all the way out here, too.

Debris from New Years Eve partying, and about 50 years of history.

It was such a creepy place to explore alone, but I really recommend it, if you’re in Berlin you should definitely check it out. Head to the S-Bahn station Grunewald, walk into the forest, and as soon as you’re heading uphill you’re going the right way.

The walls are completely exposed from ceiling to floor, some doorways even simply lead to a huge drop. There are holes in the floor in places. Careful!

It is ever such a creepy place, but so interesting as you never know what to find around the next corner.

The acoustics within these domes are incredible. You can hear anything and everything. Convenient for a listening post, I suppose.

If you want to see more of Teufelsberg I’ve included a video I shot there as well. Me and a couple of my friends from my university like to make these videos where we essentially compete to see who can produce the worst poetry. This is by far the most elaborate. I am aware that this is quite an obscure joke, and if you don’t get it, that’s fine. In fact it’s probably better for your mental health that way.

As ever, feel free to get in touch or leave feedback on these photos on Flickr.

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