To understand Berlin one needs to look around the city as well. In a circle reaching some 50 km from Berlin many (semi-) military sites give a stronger impression of the violent history than many inner city monuments do. One can find abandoned NAZI and Russian airfields, barracks, bunkers and more.
One specific site stands out from all of them: Zossen-Wünsdorf. The villages were actually part of a huge complex of military sites. Kaiser Willem II, Hitler and Stalin came to the same place and turning it to the heart of war and occupation.
This website doesn’t usually feature military sites and objects. So many sites already do (better). But to understand Berlin, we need to pay a closer look to this section of ‘the circle of evil’.
The ‘circle of evil’
Berlin is associated with a turbulent and violent history, unprecedented for Europe. It was centre of World War I, initiated by Kaiser Willem II. It hosted the evil empire of the NAZI’s and became the focus of the Cold War. Politics connected to these wars were made in the offices in Berlin. But the execution of the criminal plans was in the hands of those stationed in military compounds hidden in de fast woods around Berlin. Understanding Berlin and his specific history is not fully possible without getting to know what took place around the city. Just scanning the area around Berlin with Google Maps will give you an impression of how the political ambitions were put into practice. But also how the Sovjet Red Army kept the pressure on Berlin and all of East-Germany (GDR). One of those locations is Zossen-Wünsdorf, some 50 km from the Berliner Wilhelmstraße, the political centre of the NAZI’s. It can be considered as one of the most important, if not the most important location in the execution of the ambitions of the NAZI’s.
Zossen-Wünsdorf: base of 3 wars
Ask a local resident where you can find the former military compound and he will tell you that all of the area was military domain, called ‘the Forbidden City’. It is hard to believe, but Zossen-Wünsdorf hosted the armies for three wars: World War I, Word War II and the Cold war.
The military role of the area started in 1910 as Kaiser Wilhelm II stationed his garrison here and used the place as training area for his troops. The area Zossen-Wünsdorf is considered to be the birthplace of World War I. Its plans were conceived and executed from this area.
With World War II on the way, Hitler opened here his ‘Kommandozentrale‘ of the German Army (Deutschen Heeresführung). From here most of the military operations across the whole of Europe were coordinated.
The end of World War II came when troops of the western allies and the Red Army defeated the German Army. The Sovjets decided that the area of Zossen-Wünsdorf with its fast in tact technical facilities must be the main base of the occupation forces of the eastern part of Germany (later GDR) and Berlin.
Joined staff of navy, army and air-force in WWII
What makes Zossen-Wünsdorf important in World War II, is the fact that the joined staff of navy, army and air-force were stationed together in so called villa’s next to one another. Their homes looked like normal villa’s from the outside, but on the inside, they were command bunkers. Every of the 2 x 12 villa-bunkers had special assignments. So was Operation Barbarossa, the devastating war against the Sovjet Union (27 million Russians lost their lives) coordinated from ‘villa 3’. All villa’s (total 24, ‘Maybach I and II’) where connected by a system of tunnels (‘Stollen’).
The heart of the compound is formed by the immense bunker ‘Zeppelin’. It reaches till some 24 m under ground level, has 2 stories that measure 117 x 22 m and and 3 extra stories of 57 x 40 m. It was used as the central communication center of all operations. There were no antennas on the compound or the area around it. Antennas could be traced easily. All communications went through a fast cable network. If air to air communications were needed, the cables connected the ‘Zeppelin’ to antenna parks many kilometers away from Zossen-Wünsdorf.
Ironically at this compound the most of the plans to assassinate Hitler were conceived. The most known attempt was by Officer Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. He was stationed in Zossen-Wünsdorf and found here more like-minded colleagues. His assault on Hitler on July 20th, 1944 failed and he was shot the same day. Hitler knew that he could not trust some of the high ranking officers at the compound. He therefor never visited Zossen-Wünsdorf. He created a network of work-around command centers to be less dependent of his unreliable staff.
Almost 50 years Sovjet use of Zossen-Wünsdorf
The so-called ‘1000 year empire’ that Hitler envisioned, fortunately lasted not more than 6 years. The NAZI-use of the compound, that started in 1935, ended in not more than 10 years in april 1945 when the Red Army approached the area from the south. The NAZI-staff had to leave the compound on a short notice, leaving most of the installations intact. It was therefore not surprising that the Russians did chose Zossen-Wünsdorf as there main command centre for the occupation of the eastern sector of Germany and East-Berlin. In a wider area they build homes for 40.000 troops. Many of this housing is (after modernization) now in use by the citizens of the villages. But still 20% of the old barracks are unused.
Not far from Zossen-Wünsdorf the Sovjets build, hidden in dense woods, a military airfield by the name of ‘Sperenberg’ (see image above). Zossen-Wünsdorf and Sperenberg are part of a circle of military locations and objects that facilitated 2 hot wars and 1 cold war.
The fate of Berlin was politically decided in the city itself, but the execution of the plans and its 49 years of occupation that followed, came from ‘the circle of evil’ that surrounded Berlin.
The Russians (after the fall of the Sovjet Union and the re-unification of Germany), left Germany in 1994. The last compound they dismantled was Zossen-Wünsdorf.
Unfortunately the government of Brandenburg decided to ‘demilitarize’ the whole compound, dismantling all reminders to the Sovjet presence.
What is left is still an impressive monument of the madness of wars and its consequence in 49 years of occupation.
Visits to Zossen-Wünsdorf