A Journey Through Vogelsang: Once USSR's Massive East German Nuclear Military Base, And Now A Ghost Town
And now for something completely different. Instead of scary tales of horrifying Math 101 (soon to be banned in one of the many upcoming Eurosummits), which confirms that no matter how it is spun, the global reality is ugly and getting worse (and ever more diluted in paper format), courtesy of Spiegel we present a photographic journey through Vogelsang: formerly one of the biggest Soviet military garrisons housing nuclear weapons and numerous nuclear launch pads, home of the 25th tank division protecting the USSR's most prized external asset, located in the forest near Berlin and housing over 15,000 people. It is now a surreal ghost town, and as haunted as any of the "cities" one can find deep in China.
Vogelsang is not exactly a boomtown. Located just northwest of Berlin, it has a mere 100 residents and a tiny train station. It is extremely quiet.
But in the forest nearby, there is a different Vogelsang. It its day, it was completely autonomous from the nearby village, had its own residential buildings, cinemas, warehouses and even a school. Some 15,000 people once lived there, and it was seldom quiet. The second Vogelsang was the home of Soviet troops, the warehouses were crammed full of tanks, howitzers and all-terrain vehicles. The cinemas were for the soldiers' families.
Vogelsang, one of the largest Soviet garrisons outside of the Soviet Union, was the base of the 25th tank division. For almost 40 year, soldiers belonging to the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany lived here -- until they finally withdrew in 1994.
Sine then, Vogelsang has been left to the elements, a ghost town in the middle of the Brandenburg forest. And yet, two decades after the last light was switched off, there is still plenty of life at the site. Deer and raccoon roam among the trees as do feral sheep and goats.
The barracks too still hint at the life they once contained. While most look the same from the outside, plenty of differences can be seen on the inside. The type of heating within, for example, indicates whether they housed officers or mere foot soldiers. The former tended to have decorative, tiled wood stoves instead of simple potbelly stoves. Window grates in the form of a shining sun likewise provided a bit of ornamentation.
The residential buildings, similar to the gigantic halls housing military equipment and vehicles, were painted in standard shades of gray, blue, green, yellow and sometimes even pink. The resulting mixture is a photographer's dream.
One part of the facility was sealed off from the rest, surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. It housed the prison, full of tiny cells, some of them with no window. The only furnishing was a wooden bench that stretched from wall to wall, leaving little open space in the cell. It is difficult to believe that people were locked into the rooms, but messages scratched into the walls continue to bear testament to their former prisoners.
What will be the ghost towns of 2034?
A memento of days past: Here a jacket still hangs on a nail in the boiler room.
The glass may be broken on this window at Vogelsang but the metal bars remain.
An empty wheelbarrow lies abandoned on the grounds. Vogelsang was the base of the 25th tank division.
There is nothing left to indicate what this room may have been used for during the Soviet era.
The inhabitants were afforded different levels of comfort depending on their status. While officers warmed themselves at tiled ovens, lower-ranking soliders had to make due with improvised, potbelly stoves such as this one.
A former prison cell. The only thing that remains is the graffiti the unlucky prisoners scrawled on the walls.
Most of the furnishings have vanished from Vogelsang. Some, however, like this stool, remain.