The forests around Berlin harbour a great many secrets. The Prussian, Nazis, East Germans and the Soviets – all of them have lurked around Brandenburgs expansive Oak and Birch forests, hiding everything from art to nuclear missiles. At the height of the cold war, fueled by both curiosity and the paranoia of the the local residents, nearly every forest was rumored to harbour a secret military base with an arsenal full of rockets. Ironically, a patch of forest in Klosterfelde just north of Berlin was the secret base of the NVA Flugabwehr-Raketenabteilung 4123 which housed both East German and Soviet Troops and SAM Missiles.
The National People’s Army
Upon its founding in 1949, the German Democratic Republic (just like Federal Republic of Germany) didn’t officially have its own military – or at least not what we would consider military today. The demilitarisation of Germany was a key objective for all allies – but both the western allies and the soviets realized that some form of internal german authority was needed to control its occupation zones.
The Soviet Military Administration allowed the formation of a Police force in its sector by July 1945, which swelled to a size of over 65,000 by 1948. While nominally armed, the initial east german police force was relatively weak and poorly trained. In October of the same year, the Soviet Military Administration issued order Nr 40., which sought the creation of the “Kasernierte Volkspolizei” – (Barracked People’s Police). The KVP consisted of 40 units, each 250 men strong and housed in fixed barracks and receive both strict military and ideological training from the Soviets. While the troops were nominally called “Volkspolizei”, it was clear to most that the KVP was a military in all but name.
By July 1952, during second party conference of the SED, it was announced the the GDR would establish its own national armed forces (of course with the explicit blessing of the Soviet Union). Following this announcement, both the Volkspolizei See and the Volkspolizei Luft (the precursors to the East German Navy and Air Force) were merged into the Kasernierte Volkspolizei.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union officially blocked the GDR from formally establishing its own military, as they wanted West Germany to make the first move. They didn’t have to wait long, as the West German Bundeswehr was founded on the 5th of May 1955, and the first 101 volunteers were sworn in on the 12th of November 1955. At this point, the Kasernierte Volkspolizei had a strength of over 100,000 trained men.
The NVA – the Nationale Volksarmee – was formally established on the 18th of January 1956 and began integrating the troops of the KVP into its ranks (which was thereafter disbanded). At its peak, the NVA had over 170,000 active troops, and an estimated 2 million reservists.
The Fla-Raketenabteilung 4123 (FRA-4123)
The German Democratic Republic saw it as an imperative to protect its airspace, so with the establishment of the NVA, the 1st Flak Division was established in Straußberg in November 1956. With the introduction of “advanced” Surface-to-air missile technology, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the East German Flakdivision – with the help of its bigger brother The Soviet Union – was reformed into the Flugabwehrraketentruppen (literally “anti-aircraft missile troops”).
The NVA had three mixed Anti-Aircraft Brigades (Fla-Raketenbrigaden) and three “true” Anti-Aircraft Regiments (Fla-Raketenregimenter). Each of these Fla-Raketenbrigaden was made up individual Fla-Raketenabteilungen (AA Detachments), AA Groups, a Technical Unit and a Radio Unit.
The Fla-Raketenbrigade (41. FRBr) „Hermann Duncker“ (named after the german Communist politician and marxist historian Hermann Duncker) was stationed in Ladeburg, a suburb of Bernau – just north of Berlin (and home to several Soviet Military installations). Under its command were eleven Anti Aircraft Divisions all spread around Berlin. One of these divisions was the Fla-Raketenabteilung 4123 (FRA-4123) – which was stationed in a forest in Klosterfeld in Wandlitz (which was also where the East German Political elite – and Goebbels had their tightly guarded homes) – with the purpose of defending the Airspace of Berlin.
The Flugabwehr-Raketenabteilung in Klosterfelde
While there isn’t much public information available, one can piece together a little bit of the Flugabwehr-Raketenabteilung 4123 in Klosterfelde. The complex spanned over 400 hectars of forest and was broken up into 4 distinct missile batteries, though the NVA only operated 3 of them as the Soviets had their own troops stationed at the fourth location.
The Fla-Raketenabteilung 4123 had a troop strength of 150 men and was initially equipped with the Soviet S-75 “Dwina” (NATO-Codename: SA-2 Guideline) and later with the updated S-75M “Wolchow” Surface to Air Missiles (as well superior S-125 in the late 1980s). The East German Military built several single story administrative and storage buildings and at least 3 two story barracks. Alongside multiple garages and workshops, the Klosterfelde base had its own heating plant and a small theater/cinema building.
The “main” complex also features a massive 200sqm bunker which was most likely the storage space for the 36 or so S-75 rockets that the Fla-Raketenabteilung was initially equipped with. A few meters away from the bunker is a small gas station – most likely to fuel the rockets.
Further to the east are both the Soviet and the East German battery positions. We neglected to visit the Soviet position as we didnt know it was there – we hadn’t actually planned on visiting this location and were en route to another spot. We did have a good look around the NVA position which consisted primarily of empty and fenced up above ground storage bunkers.
Upon researching the Soviet installation, it might be worth visiting. Though its buildings seem to be of somewhat more temporary nature compared to the NVA ones, it seems like there’s still a more or less intact control and command bunker.
We shot a little video while we were exploring the abandoned NVA base – including a very very short drone segment. It was quite windy that day (and we are still somewhat inexperienced with flying drones) and the forest was quite thick, so there wasn’t terribly much to see. As this was a relatively unexpected exploration, we didn’t gather too much footage, but you should still get a good idea of what the place looks like.
FRA-4123 in Klosterfelde after 1990
With the German reunification, the absorption of the NVA into the Bundeswehr, and the Soviet withdrawal from Germany – the Fla-Raketenabteilung in Klosterfelde was given up. Some of the buildings were torn down, while others were left empty and abandoned. As is so often the case, scrap hunters began tearing out copper cables and even stealing the blast doors from the bunkers for some quick cash.
While the military base was left abandoned in the forest, it – albeit shortly – gained a new lease of life in 2012 when the 2012 “Artbase” was held there. The Artbase is an urban arts event, which allows artists (DJs, art installations, graffiti etc) 3 days to take over an “lost place” and fill it with their art.
The 2012 Artbase was originally going to happen at the abandoned Teufelsberg Spy Station (which was truly abandoned at the time) – but the Berlin authorities rescinded their permission for the event – hence it being moved to the NVA Base in Klosterfelde.
The Fla-Raketenabteilung 4123 Today (2022)
As mentioned above, scrap thieves have left their mark on the abandoned military base in Klosterfelde. Virtually anything worth stealing has been removed. Many of the buildings are in terrible shape (as nobody is tending to them) and quite a few have already collapsed. The graffiti remnants of the 2012 Artbase are still visible everywhere and make for a nice change of scenery.
The bunkers in the eastern sector have also been stripped of anything valuable, but in comparison to the other buildings,have been secured by fences. While the fences won’t really keep anyone out, there’s nothing much to see – and its best to leave them be as many of bunkers have turned into Bat habitats.
NVA Flugabwehr-Raketenabteilung Klosterfelde Address