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Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins
Vogelsang - Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin

Hidden amongst the thick Brandenburg Forest - north of Berlin - is what amounts to a hidden city.  Vogelsang Soviet Nuclear Military Base was where the Soviet Union had atomic weapons primed for Western Europe, ready to launch in retaliation for a preemptive strike or in preemption of an imminent retaliation. The secretive nature of this base at that time meant the local population were forbidden to go near it and no local officials were informed of its Cold War activities. 

Like many other East German villages and smaller towns with natural strategic positioning, Vogelsang was used as a Soviet military base after the Second World War. The nature park around it provides ideal camouflage from both air and land. It is 170 feet above sea level and due to its close proximity to the River Oder, it could be supplied easily and regularly, via the waterway. As time passed by - and Vogelsang became a district - two more residential areas were added to it: Bergluch and Deutschboden.

Paid for by the German Democratic Republic, this site became headquarters for the 25th Armored Division, and was also home to the 20th Guards Army, the 162nd Armored Regiment, and the 803rd Mot. Rifle Regiment, which joined later after the closure of another Soviet military base in Eastern Germany.

At the peak of the operation, this base housed more than 15,000 Soviet soldiers and civilians who lived in the military town.

It has been estimated that up to 19 units were stationed at the complex. According Military Research Office (MGFA, today ZMSBw), the following Russian forces stayed here:

• Staff of the 25th Panzer Division • 162 Armoured Regiment • 1702nd anti-aircraft missile regiment • 1158 Anti-aircraft missile regiment
• 152 Missile Brigade • 25th Panzer Division • 803 motorized rifle regiment • 721 support message center ( bunker ) • Portable, atomic rockets technical basis; Field post number 55543 • Company 'Chemical Defence' • air defense • Military Prosecutor

On the 15 square kilometers large areas were 300 combat and 200 armored personnel carriers.

The site consisted - amongst other buildings - of separate schools, theaters and cinemas , shops , clubs officer, a tank simulator, a sewage treatment plant, a prison, swimming pool with sauna area and much more …

In the north of the plant is the Schorfheide, which served as a military training area . Still further north was a large military hospital which was operated by the Soviets.


Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

The Officer's House. April 2022

Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

Quarters Building. April 2022

Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

The Theatre. April 2022

Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

The school. April 2022

Today the whole site is an abandoned relic of a sinister past. Giant bunkers on the garrison’s outskirts stand empty, paint is peeling off tired doors, the numerous buildings scattered around such a huge area remain empty of life. Germany would rather forget this ghost town ever existed, despite the remaining Soviet art, the murals, or Lenin’s statue. Demolition workers are slowly demolishing sections so the forest can reclaim its space.

The Soviets began the process of clearing and construction on the 2,000-hectare site six years after the end of WW2 in 1951. The garrison - one of the few complexes purpose-built by the Russians - became home to around 15,000 soldiers and civilians, some 550 buildings, tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, tactical missiles, and nuclear missiles. Soldiers carried out manoeuvres at night to avoid Allied surveillance. The local population had no idea what was going on behind the heavily guarded walls.

As part of “Operation Atom,” R5-M (SS-3 Shyster) missiles were brought here and to another base at nearby Neuthymen (Fürstenberg) by the elite 72nd RVGK Engineer Brigade in January of 1959. The nuclear warheads followed in mid-April. Four of the weapons were apparently aimed at England, to take out Thor (PGM-17) missile bases in Norfolk and Lincolnshire while others were pointed towards The United States air bases in Western Europe. Other warheads pointed at population centres such as London, Paris, Brussels, the Ruhrgebiet and Bonn. Each missile weighed 29.1 tons and was 20.74 meters long. They were over 20 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Four mobile launching units and 12 missiles were ready for deployment between the two bases capable of striking targets up to 1200 kilometres away.

The East Germans were not informed, and the missiles were delivered under cover of darkness using back roads so they wouldn’t find out. General Heinz Kessler speaking in 1999 stated ....The Soviet Army leadership did not give the GDR (German Democratic Republic) military leadership any information about the stationing of missiles in Vogelsang and Fürstenberg. In my position at the time as head of the GDR air force, I had no knowledge of any action of that type.

The Russians withdrew the weapons in a hurry after just a few months, in August, likely for political reasons with Nikita Khrushchev visiting American counterpart Dwight Eisenhower in September, yet R-12 (SS-4 Sandal) nuclear missiles - capable of reaching 2,000 kilometers - were sent here between 1961 and 1962 during the top secret 'Operatsiya Tuman'. The secrecy ran so deep that not even the soldiers knew where they were being deployed.

Commander in charge Colonel Vladimir Aleksandrov stated that...Officers and career servicemen for a long time had no clue that the road ahead of them crosses the western border of the USSR and transited to the GDR.... He left for Berlin on September 17, going first to Wünsdorf — where Soviet military forces in Germany were headquartered — then up to Vogelsang and Fürstenberg with his team to make preparations for deployment.

In addition to the military buildings, a news support centre of the basic radio network was also established on the site. Officially, this radio network (STNZ) was not part of the military operations or used by the military base.

Launch sites were constructed close to both bases, buildings and storage facilities built, communications equipment provided, and slabs were laid for command vehicles, launch vehicles, and technical batteries. Colonel Aleksandrov further stated that....road signs were put up, repairs were made to the road bed and bridges were reinforced. Work was performed to camouflage both BSPs (launch sites)...

With preparations completed, he returned to the USSR on October 11. The new independent missile regiment set up at Zhitkovichi (Belarus), and underwent training over November and December before waiting another month for the order to leave for the GDR. 

In the end, the Soviet Union’s production of the R-14 Chusovaya missile (SS-5 Skean), with its much greater range, eliminated the need for armed nuclear missiles in Germany and consequently Colonel Aleksandrov was given the order to disband on July 12, 1962.

Meanwhile, there was enough going on through the Cold War and beyond to keep Vogelsang busy. The Red Army’s 25th Tank Division was based here, and the Russians didn’t leave until 1994. Rumours of TR-1 (SS-12 Scaleboard) nuclear missiles being stored at Vogelsang between 1983 and 1988 remain unconfirmed.

Soviet troops departed from Vogelsand in 1994 and since then the vast base and the associated structures have been in a state of slow decline. Some of the buildings have already been demolished as a part of safety regulation measures by the local government.

Today, the whole site is in a slow process of being torn down and erased from the map. 



Visited in 2022, myself and Becci picked up our rickety old bicycles from a nearby house - which had been prearranged - and cycled through the dense forest until the first building became visible - The Officer's House. Thereafter, we spent a good few hours exploring as many buildings as we had time for and documenting what we saw. In truth, we only saw a fraction of what still remains, many more visits would need to be undertaken if the whole site was to be covered, such is the vastness of the whole complex. Below are the buildings i photographed on that day. 

Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

The Grocery Store. April 2022

Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

The Dining Hall. April 2022

Vogelsang-Soviet Nuclear Military Base, Berlin. Urbex, Abandoned, A World in Ruins

The Gymnasium. 2023

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