Wünsdorf could have been just like any other city in Brandenburg – but if it was we probably wouldn’t be writing about. Its location, close enough to Berlin – but also just far away enough made it the ideal location for the Nazis to establish a gigantic bunker complex most commonly referred to as “Bunker Wünsdorf Zeppelin” , “Bunker Maybach I” and “Bunker Maybach II”. This complex would serve as a central communication hub for the German troops as well as housing the Oberkommando des Heeres (High Command of the German Army).

Attention!

This article is Part 1 of 2. There will be a second article about Wünsdorf Waldstadt containing much more detailed information regarding the Military and structural development of the Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army in Wünsdorf and Zossen. Some information will either be omitted here, or mentioned in condensed form as to keep the focus on the Bunker Maybach and Bunker Zeppelin.

Attention!

This article is Part 1 of 2. There will be a second article about Wünsdorf Waldstadt containing much more detailed information regarding the Military and structural development of the Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army in Wünsdorf and Zossen. Some information will either be omitted here, or mentioned in condensed form as to keep the focus on the Bunker Maybach and Bunker Zeppelin.

Wünsdorf: From the 15th Century to 1910

The origins of Wünsdorf date back to at least the early 15th century, with the village being first officially cited in the year 1430. At the time, Wünsdorf actually consisted of two sperate villages – Nächst-Wünsdorf and Fern-Wünsdorf, which continued to grow steadily over the years.

In 1872, Kaiser Wilhelm II established Prussia’s (at the time) largest military proving ground in the area which laid the foundation for Wünsdorf’s long military history.

It wasn’t until 1874 (by royal decree) that both villages merged into what we know as Wünsdorf and became one of the largest municipalities in the region. Wünsdorf’s population began to steadily increase which was ultimately rewarded with it receiving a much-coveted connection to the Berlin-Dresden railway line.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Prussian Military decided to build a military railway line from Berlin down to Jüterbog (financed by French war reparations) which conveniently passed along Wünsdorf and which was constructed by the Berlin-Dresden Railway Company.

Stammlager Zossen and the First World War

Wünsdorf’s population grew even larger, as did its military importance when the Prussian Generals decided to establish another Truppenübungsplatz – in addition to the ones in Döberitz and in Jüterbog – outside of Zossen. Alongside the Truppenübungsplatz, the military constructed a brand-new infantry school and a telegraph office.

With the outbreak of the first world war, Wünsdorf and its military installations became the headquarters of the Deutsches Heer als known as Reichsheer (precursor of the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht). The Stammlager Zossen was used for training Reserve Divisions (Ersatztruppen) – and its capacity was further increased not much later with addition of a large barrack camp.

Wünsdorf was also home to the first Mosque in the German Kaiserreich – which was built in 1915 on the grounds of prisoner of war camp reserved for captured allied Muslim soldiers (a separate post about this fascinating topic is in the works).

Halbmondlager Mosque  in Zossen Wünsdorf circa 1915
Halbmondlager Mosque in Zossen Wünsdorf circa 1915

With the collapse of the German Allies, the November Revolution and the Armistice – the German Supreme Army Command used the post war chaos to issue a secret command on the 24th of November 1918 for the establishment of the Freikorps – a staunch anti-communist paramilitary force made up of German first world war veterans.

One of these – the Freiwillige Landesjägerkorps – also known as the Freikorps Maercker (led by Generalmajor Georg Maercker, who was involved in the Herero and Khoekhoen campaigns and genocide) was established in the Stammlager Zossen.

After the treaty of Versailles – the Germany military temporarily gave up the Truppenübungsplatz Zossen, but other Military installations in Wünsdorf continued to be used. While evacuees from Elsaß-Lothringe and the now cut off German territories in the east as well as emigrants from Poland and Russia were housed in the former military barracks in Zossen – the Freikops Lützow made use of the Barracks in Wünsdorf from January 1919 until April 1920. The Freikorps Lützow was most notably known for their bloody involvement in the March Battles as well as crushing the short lived Bavarian Soviet Republic.

The Nazis reestablish Wünsdorf as a military city

The Weimar Republic had already stationed mechanized units in Wünsdorf by 1931, but the Nazis didn’t waste any time when they came to power, and seized the opportunity to expand and fortify preexisting military installations.

The Stammlager Zossen was used to establish the Kraftfahr-Lehrkomando on the 1st of November 1933, which was a secret move to build up the German Armored Troops (aka Panzertruppen). This Kraftfahr-Lehrkomando was reestablished as the Panzer-Regiment 1 in 1934. In 1935, Heereskraftfahrschule was moved into Wünsdorf, and the 3. Panzer Division was re-established in Wünsdorf. More importantly, the Nazis had decided to make Wünsdorf the headquarters of the Oberkommando des Heeres.

The armored car troops enter their new base in Wünsdorf on the 20th of October 1935. The first car tears a ribbon stretched across the road. Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2006-1023-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

In January of 1933, the Army Command had decided that in case of an armed conflict or inner political unrest, the Stammlager Zossen should serve as the headquarters for the Oberkommando des Heeres, and that preparations for that eventually should be taken. By February 1933, the Inspector of the Signal Troops informed the heads of the Reichspostsministerium (the Ministry in charge of the Mail and the Telecommunications) that a Signal Intelligence Centre was to be established in the Stammlager Zossen.

The Provisional Fernmeldeamt Amt 5

The Deutsche Reichspost immediately began working on the telecommunications requirements needed to be able to command the troops from Zossen and Wünsdorf. The Reichspost planned three stages of completion: an emergency solution, an intermediary solution and the final solution.

The “emergency solution” – which was the quickest one – essentially consisted of the Reichspost setting up transmission equipment for the Zossen connection in Berlin (in the Berliner Fernmeldeamt in the Winterfeldstraße). As a result, all connections from Zossen and Wünsdorf initially ran via Berlin and in the case of the destruction of the Berlin telecommunication node, all connections would end being severed and all means of communication and command would collapse.

This scenario would be avoided with the “intermediary solution” – which would rely on the long-distance cable ring that was being constructed around Berlin. The “Final solution” was the construction of a heavily fortified underground communication bunker

The former Reichstpostministerium – now Museum for Communication in Berlin. © A.Savin, WikiCommons

On March 7, 1935, the Reichspostsministerium completed the installation of the Telecommunication Control Center in Wünsdorf and the completion of several important long-distance communication cables – both pivotal steps for the completion of the “medium term solution”. By the summer of 1935, all prerequisites for moving the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) to Zossen / Wünsdorf were fulfilled. The buildings for the Army headquarters were essentially ready and prepared to accommodate the units of the 1st Squadron of the Army General Staff.

The telecommunications center was installed in the basement of one of the troop camp’s barracks, and after it was put into operation in 1935, it was given the name “Amt 5”. From then on it formed the network center of all the command networks of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army on which the General Staff’s deployment plans were based. The “Amt 5” was only ever meant to be a “intermediate” aka provisional solution, and planning and construction of the final solution – codename “Amt 500” – an underground telecommunications bunker continued.

Nachrichtenbunker Zeppelin aka Amt 500

Although the Heeresleitung decided to use the Truppenlager Zossen as its new field headquarters early on in 1933, planning for the construction of the bunker (the so called “final solution”) did not actually begin until 1935. There were two main reasons for this. The first one was that the Truppenlager Zossen wasn’t technically equipped with the necessary telecommunication infrastructure. This was largely implemented and solved by the Deutsche Reichspost in close cooperation with the Inspector of the intelligence forces with the “emergency” and “interim” solutions by 1935.

The second reason was on November 1st, 1934, the “Aufmarsch und Kampfanweisung 34“ came into force, where the Heeresleitung decided to expand the Ohrdruf Truppenlager in Thüringen (close to Gotha) as a Field Headquarters and to build an underground communications bunker with the codename “Amt 10”.

The plans for the Ohrdruf Bunker dragged on but were set in motion by November 1st 1935. The Heeresleitung had taken into consideration that it could be pulled into a two front defensive conflict against France, Czechoslovakia and Poland – and depending on the situation it would make sense to have two separate Field Headquarters. Zossen was to be used as a headquarters if the conflict was mainly in the east and southeast, while Ohrdruf would be used if Germany was attacked and pushed into a defensive position from the west.

It took until 1936 – so 3 years after initially discussing the project – before the Nazis actually got the ball rolling for the secretive “Amt 500”. It seemed like there had been various discussions about favoring Ohrdruf instead of Zossen, as well as political developments which had caused some delays – but the fact that Zossen already the functional “Amt 5” in place – the military decided to reactive its grand plans for its bunker facilities in Zossen. The Deutsche Reichspost was tasked with the construction management, and by early 1937 – construction finally began for the Bunker Zeppelin.

The construction and planning for the Bunker Zeppelin was plagued with difficulty from the get go, mainly due to difficulties with the approval and procurement of the necessary raw materials – especially the reinforced steel for the bunker and the long delivery times for the telecommunication and power supply systems which were a direct consequence of the rapid rearmament that the Nazis had been pushing for.

A second bunker codenamed Amt 501 was planned for the Stab des Chefs des Heerestransportwesens (the staff of the chief of army transport), but had to be scrapped in 1937 due to these issues, and instead be incorporated into the Bunker Zeppelin (Amt 500). The addition of what was supposed to be the Amt 501, meant that the Amt 500 would be longer than initially planned so the plans had to be adjusted. Ironically the foundation had already been completed at this point, meaning that they had virtually start over again.

After the project planning work was completed in the summer of 1938, the German military had begun issuing new demands concerning the Bunker based on their experience during their operations against Czechoslovakia, thus pushing the project timeline back even further.

Construction work for the Amt 500 began in autumn. While the construction schedule had initially planned with 900 workers, only around 200 were available by spring 1938. The reason for the severe shortage of labor was due to the extensive background checks that the Gestapo was doing on the companies and workers potentially involved in the project. A complaint from the construction management to the head of the high command of the Wehrmacht and his submission to the Reichsführer SS, Himmler ultimately to solved this issue.

The consequence of the labor shortage mean that the planned deadlines could not be realistically met. Further delays resulting from the multiple redesign changes and additions meant that the Reichspostsministerium projected a completion date for the Amt 500 by the end of 1939. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army ordered the completion and commissioning of the headquarters’ intelligence center by May 1, 1939 – most likely in connection with “Fall Weiß” – the planned war against Poland. This caused construction to speed up, and the OKH moved into its new functioning headquarters on August 25, 1939.

Winkelturm Wünsdorf

When visiting Wünsdorf – specifically the area around the Bunker Zeppelin area, you’ll immediately come across an oddly shaped concrete structure – something akin to a cigar. The cigar shaped structure (im always more reminded of a rocket) is actually a “Winkelturm” (sometimes also referred to as a Winkelbunker or Spitzbunker) – an air raid shelter (Hochturmbunker).

These above ground bunkers were designed and patented by the architect Leo Winkel in 1934 (though the patent would only be granted in 1938). Leo Winkel designed Factories and Housing Units for the Thyssen AG as well as designing their emergency currency, but decided to found his own company – the “Winkel & Co. Duisburg zum Bau von Luftschutztürmen” in 1936.

The first version of the Winkelturm was roughly 20 meters high and consisted of nine (interior) stories – with two of them being located underground, and offered space for up to 200 people. While numerous models were built over the years, they all virtually retained the same shape. Winkel had even envisioned that these Winkelbunker could serve as water towers during peace time.

winkelbunker hochbunker winkelturm zossen wehrmacht wuensdorf

The Wehrmacht / Luftwaffe decided to perform a series of secret tests on these bunkers around 1935 and 1936 in Rechlin (where the infamous Weisse Häuser – aka Hitlers Bomb Proof City was built) – and came to the conclusion that these structures could withstand a direct hit.

The Winkeltürme – in all their variations – generally had a diameter between 8 and 10 meters, and ranged between 20 and 25 meters in height. The walls were, depending on if reinforced concrete was used, 1,1 meters thick, and decreased in 3cm thickness every meter in height. Construction of the Winkelturm was phased out (actually forbidden) by 1941 as their construction consumed significantly more concrete than normal air raid shelters. By that point roughly 200 of these concrete cigars had been built around Germany (and as far away as Sarajevo and Malmö) predominantly for military installations and factories.

After the war, as decreed by the allied control commission, the bulk of these bunkers were torn down – though more than a handful still exist today. Wünsdorf had 19 Winkeltürme of which 7 survive to this day and are under “Heritage” protection. One of these Winkelturm Bunkers has been converted into a Museum and can be visited. Details can be found at the end of this article.

Layout of the Bunker Zeppelin

The Amt 500 aka Bunker Zeppelin was a two-story concrete structure built roughly 20 meters underground with 1.6m thick outer walls. The floor plan of the Zeppelin Bunker showed that it had a longitudinal structure of 117 x 22m (the so called “Längsbau”), with a T-shaped extension of 40 x 60m.

The interior of the building could be reached via two approximately 120m long tunnels to the two front sides of the longitudinal building and via a staircase built directly above the bunker. The numerous technical rooms and halls, such as the telephone and telex exchanges, the repeater office, and the power supply were to the right and left of the corridors that ran through both floors of the Längsbau.

The Reichspost would use their gained experience and go on to construct multiple “Führungsbunker” over the years, with many of them being around the Berlin and Brandenburg area. An interesting example is the so called “Lager Koralle” – the secret bunker headquarters of the Germany Navy and Submarine Fleet – located outside of Bernau just 20km north of Berlin.

Bunkeranlage Maybach I and Maybach II

Parallel to the construction work on the Zeppelin Bunker, work started close by on 12 “Bunker houses” for the Staff Departments of the Army High Command. Responsible for the construction was the Heeresbauamt rather than the Reichspostsministerium.

The Bunkers were designed and built in such a way that camouflaged themselves amongst the other military buildings. All houses of the Maybach Siedlung were equipped with normal house windows, the roofs were masked with roofing felt and the doors were clad with wood. The Bunkers even had two chimneys which functioned as air supply and exhaust ducts.

From above, they appeared to be just another settlement – which soon earned itself the name Maybach. Each of the Maybach bunkers was 36 meters long and 16 meters wide, had 3 above ground floors (reaching a height of 15 meters), and 2 underground floors which went to a depth of 9 meters. The underground floors were a little bit smaller than their above ground counterparts.

Each Maybach Bunker had four entrances, and all of the 12 Bunkers were connected to each other by a 600-meter-long ring tunnel which allowed the occupants to move between bunkers safely in the event of an attack. Each of the bunkers was also connected by a pneumatic tube system, which connected them the main Zeppelin Bunker. Apparently the Maybach Siedlung also had direct access to the Bunker Zeppelin via a southern tunnel (but I’ve heard conflicting reports about this.)

The above ground floors had a secure core, which consisted of 1-meter thick reinforced concrete, while the outer rooms were left relatively unprotected with only a 36cm thick wall. The ceilings were reinforced with 24cm thick double I-beams. These inner cores are very visible when exploring the bombed-out ruins today. Construction for the Maybach I complex was completed by 1939.

The Maybach I Bunkers were occupied by the following branches:

wehrmacht bunker map bunker zeppelin amt 500 maybach bunker ranet wehrmacht sowjet soviet military zossen brandenburg germany lost palces urbex abandoned

A1 : General der Luftwaffe beim OKH (General of the Air Force at the OKH)
A2 : Abteilung fremde Heere West (Foreign Armies West – military intelligence organization)
A3 : Abteilung fremde Heere Ost (Foreign Armies East – military intelligence organization)
A4 : Chefgruppe Generalquartiermeister (Quartermaster General)
A5 : Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (Commander in Chief of the Army)
A6 : Chef Generalstab des Heeres (Chief of General Staff of the Army)
A7 : Operationsabteilung (Operations department)
A8 : Operationsabteilung (Operations department)
A9 : Stab Chef Heerestransportwesen (Staff chief of army transport)
A10: Organisations- und Ausbildungsabteilung (Organization and training department)
A11: Stab Chef Nachrichtenwesen (Chief communications officer)
A12: Stab Chef Nachrichtenwesen (Chief communications officer)

After completion of the Maybach I complex, work began (and was completed) in 1940 on a second settlement with 11 similar bunker houses known as Maybach II. The Maybach II bunkers were almost identical in setup, and they too were connected to each other. Maybach II was originally planned as a transport operations center known as “Hektor I”, but it wasn’t ready when the war broke out and was provisionally moved into the Bunker Zeppelin (they would move into Maybach II upon its completion in November 1940).

Steering the war from Wünsdorf – Zossen

During and after the Poland campaign, the OKH worked at the Zossen-Wünsdorf headquarters. It was here, on Hitler’s orders, the Westfeldzug (the invasion of the Benelux countries and France) was planned in September 1939.

In the meantime, Hitler had already established a “Führerhauptquartier” (Hitlers Military Command Center) in Ziegenberg (Codename Adlershorst – not to be confused with the Obersalzberg / Kehlsteinhaus which foreigners call the “Eagles Nest”) and in the Münster Eifel (Codename Felsennest) for himself and the Command Staff of the Wehrmacht High Command.

soviet bunker door bunker zeppelin amt 500 maybach bunker ranet wehrmacht sowjet soviet military zossen brandenburg germany lost palces urbex abandoned

Hitler decided to settle with the Felsennest, and demanded that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Chief of Staff set up a command post for themselves and a small workforce in the immediate vicinity of the Führerhauptquartier.

Originally, the city of Gießen had been planned as the headquarters for the management of army operations in the west, where the necessary preparations were already underway. However, the great distance between the commanding squadron of the army working there and the commander-in-chief in the Felsennest, would have led to considerable communication problems.

As a result, the city of Bad Godesberg was picked as the new location for the headquarters. The Command Train “Afrika” of the Chief of the Army General Staff left Zossen on the 9th of may 1940 for Bad Godesberg, followed shortly by the Command Train “Europa” of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. At this point, Zossen and Wünsdorf remained virtually empty.

The Heeresführung didn’t immediately return back to Zossen and Wünsdorf after the successful invasion of France, but instead set up shop in the Castle of Fontainebleau to assist in the planning of Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sealion) – the planned but canceled invasion of Great Britain. After spending 4 months in Fontainebleau, the General Staff of the Army returned back to Zossen and Wünsdorf on the 30th of October 1940. At this point the Maybach II bunkers had been completed and could serve as the Headquarters for the Stab des Transportwesens.

Now the Bunker Zeppelin and Maybach complex was busy with the preparations for the “Operation Barbarossa” – the Invasion of the Soviet Union.

Especially for this campaign, several simulation games were carried out in Zossen under the direction of General Paulus, who later became Commander in Chief of the 6th Army, which was destroyed in Stalingrad. When the armies of three army groups began their advance across the borders into the Soviet Union in the early morning of June 22, 1941, the headquarters of the Army High Command moved from Zossen to the East Prussian Mauerwald on the same day (the OKH ” Anna” Mauerwald was only 20km away from the infamous Wolfsschanze).

2 years later and things weren’t going so well. The Allies had landed in Sicily and the Military leaders were discussing plans on moving parts of their Headquarters and staff back to Zossen. An evacuation order was drafted on the 17th of July, which also sought to scope out how much more accommodation capacity was needed if all staff was to be relocated to Zossen and Wünsdorf.

Oddly enough, the relocation didn’t happen during the summer of 1943, but only began to in March 1944. By May 1944, parts of the Head of Army Intelligence and by July by the entire staff of the Quartermaster General (before the failed assassination attempt on Hitler) had been moved to Zossen and Wünsdorf.

The remainder of the Führungsstaffel was to be relocated to Zossen Wünsdorf by July 1944, so the 20th of July was planned and technically prepared as the changeover day for all telecommunications connections on the “Anna” communications center in the OKH Mauerwald.

By the summer of 1944, the Bunker Zeppelin had developed into the largest and most important communication hub in the army network. There were countless connection channels to almost all fronts in the west, south and southeast, but also numerous lines to the eastern front. Under these circumstances, the Bunker Zeppelin should have played a pivotal role during the “Operation Walküre” – especially when considering the planed communications blackout. For reasons that be though, the planners of the Operation Walküre focused solely on the Communication Headquarters in the Bendlerstraße.

The failed assassination attempt on Hitler only had minor implications for Zossen, the most relevant being that for a short period of time, no personnel was being relocated there. With the Nazis losing ground on the eastern front and being pushed back into the actual borders of the German Reich, this policy was quickly dropped. By the end of November 1944, all Headquarters and personnel of the Army High Command had been relocated back to Zossen.

The Ardennes Counteroffensive, which had been planned by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and was carried out from the Führerhauptquartier Adlershorst – failed to turn the situation around for the Germany military and depleted them of much needed military reserves. By January 17, 1945 – the Wehrmacht Command relocated to the Maybach II Bunkers in Zossen as there were no suitable options left in Berlin. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht used the Bunker Houses A13 to A15, including nearby barracks.

By February 1945, the Red Army had already reached Küstrin and started establishing bridge heads. This prompted officials to order staff that was stationed in the Wünsdorf to start relocating further south.

On February 12th, the chief of the general staff issued an order to relocate the offices left in Zossen and Wünsdorf. This started an evacuation movement towards central Germany and later to southern Germany which lasted until the end of March.

The headquarters was divided into a Squadron A, which initially remained in Zossen-Wünsdorf, and a Squadron B, which was supposed to evacuate the location. On the night of February 14th, the first transport train left Zossen in the direction of Ohrdruf, which was followed by several more trains over the next few days.

nuklear bunker tuer bunker zeppelin amt 500 maybach bunker ranet wehrmacht sowjet soviet military zossen brandenburg germany lost palces urbex abandoned

When the last major offensive of the Soviet troops to enclose and capture Berlin began on April 16, 1945, only roughly 400 Officers, NCOs and Soldiers (of formerly 10,000 personnel) were left in Zossen-Wünsdorf. By the afternoon of the 20th of April – the German 9th Army had been encircled and Soviet Troops were heading towards the headquarters of the German Wehrmacht and Army. By the late afternoon, the last of the staff left the Bunker Zeppelin and the Maybach Bunkers and headed towards Potsdam and Wannsee. With their hectic departure, there wasn’t any time left to destroy the Bunkers or their equipment (their requests to do so had gone unanswered in Berlin) – which in turn fell into the hands of the Soviets virtually unscathed.

Wünsdorf – Headquarters of the Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany

From 1945 onwards, the Soviets made Wünsdorf the headquarters of the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany – and at its peak between 50,000 to 75,000 Soviet citizens lived in the area (in contrast to the 2700 locals). The area was strictly off limits to non-military personnel which earned it the nickname the Forbidden City (as well as Klein Moskau – Little Moscow). The Second Part of this series deals with this part, so we won’t dive into it any further.

The Allied Control council – which was established on the 30th August, 1945 – issued a series of Proclamations, Laws, Orders, Directives and Instructions for occupied Germany. One of these was the Directive Nr 22 which governed the demining process and the dismantling of all fortifications on “German” territory.

This directive is one of the reasons why so few bunkers and military fortifications (dating to WWII) still stand in Germany. After removing all technical equipment and shipping it back to the Soviet Union, the Soviets began blowing up the Maybach I and Maybach II bunkers (successfully), and tried to blow up the Zeppelin Bunker (which was less successful) between 1946 and 1948.

The attempted demolition of the Bunker Zeppelin aka Amt 500 only caused “minor damage” to the ceiling and essentially just sealed the entrance shut. Left abandoned, the lower floor of the bunker began to flood.

The Allied policy towards the demolition and usage of former Nazi fortifications somewhat softened after the Allied Control Council ceased to convene after a falling out in March 1948. The Soviets had already made themselves comfortable in former Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe bases all around East Germany – with especially large presences in places such as Vogelsang, Kaserne Krampnitz, the Flugplatz Oranienburg, Panzerkaserne Bernau as well as the Lager Koralle just to cite a few places.

While Maybach I and the Amt 500 were left alone for a few years, the ruins of the Maybach II bunkers were torn down (aside from the bunkers A17, A18, and A19) to repurpose their steel in the early 1950s.

Soviet Command and Intelligence Bunker “Ranet”

By the end of the 1950s, the Soviets had regained their interest in the remnants of the Zeppelin Bunker and began reactivating it. They unsealed the entrances and pumped out all the water that had flooded the lower floor. The bunker underwent extensive repairs and modifications and was converted into the secure Headquarters of the High Command of the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany.

While the Zeppelin Bunker was only built to be Gasproof, the Soviets modified the structure to ensure that it could withstand the forces of an atomic blast. The first floor of the Zeppelin Bunker was converted into the (codename) “Ranet” Communication Network – which connected all wire and radio connections of all Soviet Military Armies and Units in the German Democratic Republic as well as to their Superiors in the Soviet Union.

The entrance of the RANET Bunker was extended and equipped with an area to decontaminate personnel and had a staircase which led down to the lower floors. The former elevator shaft was partially refurbished, but now also contained the main dispatch center of the Ranet Bunker from which all technical processes in the bunker were monitored and controlled.

The entrance area to the first floor had specially secured rooms installed. Behind a thick steel door was the headquarters for the so-called “government connections” where secret conversations could be conducted securely over the special encryption telephones. These phones had direct connections to Moscow but also to the individual armies stationed in the GDR. This area was staffed exclusively with officers from intelligence units.

Located further down was the telegraph headquarters and the station room for the (on duty) Head of the Intelligence Services.

The middle of the first floor had the central intelligence control room which was responsible for the technical security of Ranet system. The rest of the floor was equipped with a Radio Center, a switchboard, a canteen and a food storage (in case of emergencies), as well as a workshop and storage rooms. The northern access tunnel was converted into an “Emergency Center”, where a maintenance unit was on constant alert in case of fires or other emergencies.

The second floor was occupied by the command post of the Commander in Chief of the GSTD. Its purpose was for the training of the staff under war-like bunker conditions, and only had space to accommodate the most important staff departments.

A separate area was reserved for the Commander-in-Chief of the GSTD and his deputies, though the deputies of the Commander-in-Chief sat in the opposite rooms. In addition, the security technology for the bunker, which was operated by the technical staff of the maintenance unit, was housed in a part of the 2nd floor.

The ventilation system was also located in this part of the bunker. Large fans ensured the exchange of air via a pipe system. The heated air was passed through a water-cooling system, though its effectiveness was described as low, especially because the system was prone to overheating and malfunctioning.

The air was supplied through one of the two external towers which had originally been constructed by the Wehrmacht. The second tower served as an emergency exit. Various workshops, the battery room and the fire extinguishing system were housed on the third floor of the bunker building.

The Längsbau section of the bunker was not converted to withstand a nuclear attack when the Soviets put it back into operation, so it was only accessible via a lock system from the first floor. The first floor of the Längsbau was used for workshops and storage rooms, as well as the changing rooms and a “smokers lounge”.

The second floor (underneath, not above) didn’t have any military functions, and was initially used to dump rubble from the bunker conversions and extensions as well as trash. To make dumping the trash even easier they blew holes into the ceiling and just dumped everything straight down.

In the early 1980s, the Soviets decided to clean up the second floor (which had been filed to the ceiling with trash) with plans to install a new air-conditioning system into it as the originally one had hit max capacity. After the floor was cleared up, inspectors from Moscow deemed that it would be too expensive and complicated to convert the floor so it was then converted into a pistol range.

“Bunker” Panzir

The Soviets came up with a construction called “Panzir” – which wasn’t a bunker but a “mobile” protective structure for equipment and personnel. The structure was designed so it could be quickly dismantled and moved in case of an attack. One of these Panzir structures can be found not far from the Bunker Zeppelin.

The Panzir is essentially a 40 meter long corrugated steel pipe – with a diameter of 5 metres – covered with earth. Generally both ends had large access gates which lead into a 120sqm interior. The floors were constructed out of steel plate and the entire structure could be sealed off with the assistance of pressure doors and a filtered ventilation system. The Panzir structure in Wünsdorf was built around 1983 and was most likely only ever used for combat/military simulations.

The Bunker Zeppelin after German Reunification

With German reunification in 1990, and the signing of the 2+4 Treaty in 1991, the Allied and Soviet Occupation Forces began planning their withdrawal from the country. The Soviets started their moving process from the former Zeppelin Bunker and Wünsdorf in 1992. All technical equipment – and virtually everything that wasn’t bolted down into the floors was removed and shipped back to Moscow. Conveniently, they decided to dump all their trash back into the hole of the “Längsbau” as a goodbye present.

By 1994, the former Soviet Army had left Wünsdorf and handed over the empty Bunkers to the German Government. They had little use for the outdated and only partially usable Bunkers – especially since they not only inherited all the former Soviet Military installations, but also absorbed all the East German NVA installations as well. Around the early 2000’s, the military area including the Zeppelin Bunker and the Maybach I bunkers came into hands of the Bücherstadt-Tourismus GmbH, which manages the property and has opened up the Bunkers for tours.

Bunker Zeppelin and Bunkeranlage Maybach Today

The Bücherstadt-Tourismus GmbH organizes various tours all throughout the year from Tuesday to Sunday and prices range between 12 and 30 euros (depending on the tour). Due to the current Corona situation, tours have been suspended, but they are highly recommended if you are ever in the area or plan on visiting the bunkers. When we explored the area, we actually had a former Soviet Radio Operator with us who was stationed there in the late 1960s and came all the way from Belarus to see what had become of his former workplace.

Generally the ruins of the Bunker Maybach I aren’t accessible – but they are often used by the dog trainers of the Technisches Hilfswerk. They use the collapsed structures to simulate collapsed buildings to their dogs can get used to the terrain and structures.

Bunker Zeppelin Wünsdorf Map

bunker zeppelin wuensdorf karte location map

Bunker Zeppelin | Bunker Maybach I Address

Zeppelinstraße 12
15806 Zossen

Contact for tours:
Bücherstadt-Tourismus GmbH
Address: Zehrensdorfer Str. 12, 15806 Zossen
Website: https://www.buecherstadt.com/
Phone: (+49) 0337029600

Bunker Maybach II Address

52° 10′ 57.36″ N, 13° 28′ 26.76″ E
15806 Zossen

Winkelturm | Spitzbunker Museum Address

Winkelturm
Gutenbergstraße, 15806 Zossen

Contact for tours:
Bücherstadt-Tourismus GmbH
Address: Zehrensdorfer Str. 12, 15806 Zossen
Website: https://www.buecherstadt.com/
Phone: (+49) 0337029600

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