With more and more abandoned places in Berlin being converted into apartments and offices – it’s becoming increasingly rare to find “untouched” and forgotten places in Berlin. Thankfully Startups and Hipsters don’t want to live in Brandenburg, so the countryside is still littered with abandoned factories, bunkers and military bases. One of these buildings to have eluded development is the Heeresbekleidungsamt Bernau, a former military uniform depot – and one of the largest surviving connected structures of the 3rd Reich.
*Warning – Heeresbekleidungsamt Bernau Info*
Germany is steeped in military history and traditions (ever wondered where those stereotypes about punctuality and order come from?). Every Military needs uniforms, and with the German Military being exceptionally large in the early 19th Century, it needed lots of Uniforms. It is hard to imagine but Berlin used to be full of large military complexes (dating back further than the 1930s). From 1848 onwards, an area that stretched from the Hauptbahnhof to the Perleberger Straße housed the largest military complex in Berlin. The complex housed garrisons, several factories, a parade ground and officers casinos (a surviving casino is now the Embassy of Uzbekistan). The complex also housed the Heeresbekleidungsamt, the central manufacturing site/depot for Military uniforms.
When the Nazis came to power, they had big plans. The Wehrmacht needed lots of new uniforms and the Heeresbekleidungsamt in the Lehrter Straße ended up being too small for intended purpose, so the Nazis decided to build a more suitable complex in Bernau, just north of Berlin. On a 65,000 sqm large plot of land, the architects constructed 8 interconnected, bow-shaped buildings. Each of the 2 story high clinker brick buildings was built with reinforced concrete (quite a new development at the time, and something the Germans mastered quite well).
When the construction was completed in 1942, 1300 employes were moved from the old Bekleidungsamt in Berlin to Bernau. The Germans only managed to use the buildings for 3 years as the Soviets rolled in on the 20th of April, 1945 and seized the property. The site was used until 1947 as a storage for the war loot, that was then shipped off to the Soviet Union. Never letting a good military structure go to waste, the Russians then used the Heeresbekleidungsamt in Bernau as a logistics and supply depot, as well as using is for the same reasons as the Nazis did – to store and repair Uniforms. As well as housing a Chemical Laundry – the Heeresbekleidungsamt was home to a Transport Unit, the Command of the Central Supply Depot, and a Military Mail Distribution Center.
After the allied occupation of Germany ended, the russian military forces withdrew from the Supply Depot in 1994. The area was marked off as a “restricted zone” and the buildings were left to themselves. While the property is owned by the “Brandenburgische Boden Gesellschaft für Grundstücksverwaltung”, not much is being done with it. For several years the society ”Panke-Park Kulturkonvent Bernau e. V.” started campaigning for the preservation of the historic buildings. In 2003 the group managed – with the help of the EU and the German Government – to establish a half-yearly clean up service of the area. While it is a small step, it is definitely in the right direction.
It would be an understatement to describe the Heeresbekleidungsamt in Bernau as huge. When looking at the satellite images, one can easily draw comparisons between the old Tempelhof Airport. But as is so often with such buildings – the larger they are, the less there is to see. Endless mirroring corridors – only differentiating themselves by the color schemes of the walls. As seen in so many other abandoned Russian military bases, soldiers have carved their names into the walls, and left parting messages. Some of the rooms are littered with little cards – believed at first to be laundry stubs – but upon closer inspection turned out to be some sort of Radiation Dosage Cards.
Other rooms look like they were used as a kindergarden and youth center, toys and various sporting equipment lay strewn across the floor, while other rooms were full of journals and drawings. Venturing into the attic, you’ll stumble across the “Russen Disko” – the local discotheque. You can only imagine the tunes that they played in here. As a general rule of thumb, you can almost always assume to find the most interesting stuff upstairs. Generally the Russians always seemed to have a knack for placing basketball courts and gyms upstairs – they must have really had some faith in german architects and builders. But aside from that – the rest of the complex consists out of empty hallways and storage rooms.
Aside from the usual funky soviet murals (which in this case really have an 80s touch) and some Russian and German labelling, the Heeresbekleidungsamt is just a very large warehouse.
The owners of the property – the “Brandenburgische Boden Gesellschaft für Grundstücksverwaltung” – obviously see some potential in the property as they have a security service guarding the large complex.
It turns out though that you can legally visit this place through the ”Panke-Park Kulturkonvent Bernau e. V.“. Im not sure if it costs anything, but its def. worth supporting groups like this whose aim it is to preserve these buildings.
For more photos of the supply depot – check out the Flickr album: Heeresbekleidungsamt in Bernau
Heeresbekleidungsamt in Bernau
Schönfelder Weg 17
Public Transport: Take the S2 to Bernau. From there is just short walk to the Heeresbekleidungsamt.