Forst Zinna- Soviet Red Army
Military Base, Berlin
Visited on our tour in April 2022 with Becci [Ninja Kitten], this was our first location. After landing in Berlin and getting the hire car we stopped for food then headed to the site late in the day. In reality, one needs an entire day - or maybe two, to properly get round the entire sight - such is its size. However, in the 3-4 hours we were there before it got dark, we did see quite a lot of it and managed to get the our photographs.
One of the remaining abandoned Soviet Military sites still standing in Berlin. Many of the former Soviet sites have been demolished or renovated so it was nice to see this one still there; deep in the forest of East Berlin.
This base was founded at the dawn of the Third Reich in the mid-1930s and named after the Führer, Adolf Hitler.
The core was constituted by a set of solid multi-storey buildings, aligned along at least four parallel rows about a third of a mile in length, built in a typical old-German style. These hosted barracks and training rooms, used by an artillery and transportation school. There were also many service buildings, like canteens, sport and administration facilities. The base was operated by the Wehrmacht until the end of WWII, when the region was conquered by the Red Army. Thanks to its design, - featuring large halls and common spaces - it was selected immediately after WWII to host an academy for future German functionaries of the yet-to-be-founded GDR .
The place was decorated and refurbished reflecting the style of the new communist owners and the cultural paradigms enforced by Stalin. Just before the latter’s death, in February 1953 the academy was transferred, and Forst Zinna was handed over to the Soviet army. They further enlarged the base, adding storage areas, small farms for food production, technical buildings, plus over the years some new housing.
When the Soviets finally left, the bases were too many for reunified post-Cold War Germany, so many of the bases were either demolished, converted or simply abandoned. Some parts of Forst Zinna have been demolished, but some of the buildings, built before the end of WWII, are reportedly registered as landmarks.
The barracks area to the southwest is populated with the oldest buildings, erected well before WWII. These consist of living quarters, school-like buildings, canteens, administration buildings, at least one gym, a theatre, an open-air movie theatre, a prison, and more. There are also a couple of clearly distinguishable Soviet-built apartment buildings, much more recent and taller than their neighbours.
To the north of the base you can find a sizeable area which likely hosted a huge deposit for vehicles, as well as other technical facilities. Here demolition works have stricken hard, and today only a few buildings are still in place. Yet these include what appears as a centralised power/hot water supply plant, as well as large services for the troops, which make for interesting pictures.
In the third sector to the northeast, a large U-shaped technical building hosts a unique room with Soviet memorabilia. In this area you can find also a swimming pool, a football field with nice Soviet murals, and much dumped military material. Also here demolition works must have been carried out at an early post-Soviet stage, as vegetation has already grown over the debris.
A highlight of the northern part of this sector is the large theatre. Unfortunately, the roof of the theatre room has recently collapsed completely, destroying everything below it. Yet the foyer was spared, with one of the most famous Soviet murals in the GDR. Considering the style, it must date from a relatively recent Soviet age, even though the military gear in the portrait is not really recent.
The actual function of the buildings needs to be guessed, but some must have been used as schools – or even kindergartens – at least in Soviet times, when modern housing was added to the base also for the families of the troops. This theory maybe supported by the type of decoration you sometimes find in these buildings.
Walking in some of the taller yellow buildings, likely hosting also some living areas in the years of operation, you soon perceive the style is clearly pre-Soviet – too elaborated for USSR standard, and typically German. The age of the buildings can be judged also by the heating system, based on tiled stoves fed with coal.
Due to the sheer size of the base and time constraints, we didn't see many parts of the base such as the monument to the soviet cosmonauts in Moscow and other monuments and slabs. Also the football field with the goals still in place where the wall of the base is decorated with some nice sport-themed Soviet murals. Also the Olympics symbol made of metal gearwheels, the open-air swimming pool and service bases amongst other parts.