The seemingly sleepy town of Eberswalde, and hour north of Berlin has a lot more history than one could expect. Eberswalde saw a rapid industrialization in the middle of the 19th century with factories and industries ranging from Ironworks, a Paper Factory (now abandoned) to Silk production. It’s also worth mentioning that on the 23rd of November 1877, the first telephone set in Germany (between Eberswalde and Schöpfurth) was put into operation.
Eberswalde saw its first real military expansion, when not one but two Military Barracks were built in 1935 (constructed roughly around the same time as the Adolf Hitler Lager close to Jüterbog). One was built for the Schützenregiment 3, and the other was built for the Artillerieregiment 75 – which was subordinate to the 3.Panzer-Division. Interestingly, a similar approach was taken with the Löwen Kaserne and Adler Kaserne, most commonly referred to as Löwen Adler Kaserne in Elstal. Both Military Barracks were constructed at the same time as the ones in Eberswalde.
A quick side note – a memorial to the 3rd Panzer Division can be found at the back of the military cemetery at the Friedhof Lilienthalstraße in Berlin.
A short history of the Artillerie Kaserne in Eberswalde
The Kaserne in Eberswalde was officially titled Prinz-Friedrich-Karl Kaserne – this name seemingly used for both complexes, but most sources simply referred to the complex which housed the Artillerieregiment 75 as AK Eberswalde or Artillerie Kaserne Eberswalde.
Eberswalde had always been a popular haunt for high ranking Nazi Officials (Hitler even held a campaign speech here in 1933) -as it was a town they all had to cross through to get to their respective retreats. Göring had Carinhall (where he exhibited all his stolen artworks) in the Schorfheide, Goebbels has his Haus am Bogensee, Ribbentrop had the Schloss Sonneburg, and Himmler had the Schloss Dammsmühle (also sadly abandoned now).
As the tide of the war turned for the Nazis, the Soviets managed to advance rapidly towards Berlin. German bombers dropped incendiary bombs over Eberswalde during the night of the 25th of April 1945 in the vein attempt to destroy any useful infrastructure for the Soviets. It was an unnecessary action, especially since the advancing Soviet troops completely avoided Eberswalde in order to reach Berlin quicker. Eberswalde was then taken by the Soviets a day later.
As with every military installation that the Soviets came across, they soon appropriated it. By 1989, 11 Soviet Military Battalions were stationed in and around Eberswalde – including the headquarters of the 20th Guards Army, which had its subdivisions stationed at the Panzerkaserne Bernau.
With this many battalions stationed in the area,(the 20th Guards Army alone had over 10,000 military personnel and 5,000 civilian employees.) the number of Soviet soldiers ballooned up to 30,000. Counting the civilian employees and family members, there were as many soviets living in Eberswalde as Germans themselves (roughly 54,000) though it was never officially communicated that there were almost 100,000 people living in the area.
The Soviet withdrawal and another lost place in Brandenburg
The Soviet troops finally withdrew from Eberswalde in 1994 and the Artillerie Kaserne, four years after German reunification. The military installations were handed over to the Government – who then in turn after decommissioning them handed them back to the local government. Since then many of the old barracks have been converted back to civilian use – such as housing units and hospitals.
The southern section of the Artillerie Kaserne in Eberswalde had a different fate though. Quite a few buildings were torn down, while the rest of the area was re-naturalized and opened up back to the public in 2007. While nature indeed reclaimed back what was rightfully hers, plenty of buildings survived, having been left abandoned – to an unsure fate. Hidden in the underbrush, a lonely empty plinth can be found. Lenin once stood here, watching over an officers casino that was openend in 1975 (if you do want to see a Lenin Statue still standing in its original place, have a look at the Lenin Statue in Schwerin). The Casino is no longer there, and the statue was bought up by a local military museum and now watches over old soviet and GDR aircraft. The plinth now stands seemingly lost among the undergrowth.
A more prominent leftover of Eberswalde’s abandoned military past is the Clocktower (Uhrenturm). The Uhrenturm once marked the center of the Barracks and was earmarked for destruction, but apparently (a rumor that was passed over to me) a bird – apparently a hawk – nested in it. Thanks to German conservation/nature laws, they had to leave the tower. Thanks to the campaigning of the local heritage community in Eberswalde – the Uhrenturm was finally declared a listed monument on the 13th of July 2012.
While there isn’t much left to see in Eberswalde (especially since these photos were taken all the way back in 2015) – the nature route through this lost place does make for a beautiful walk (or cycle).