Wedged in between two busy roads and hidden by trees and blackberry bushes, lie the remnants of Dutch-German aviation history dating back over 110 years. The Flugplatz Schwerin Görries in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was where Anton Fokker would establish one of the primary testing and production sites of the Fokker Aviatik GmbH and would go on to produce such iconic planes as the Fokker D.VI, Fokker Dr.I and Fokker D.VII.
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The AHG Fokker Aeroplanbau
While he was born on a coffee plantation in Java in 1890- a Dutch Colony at the time, Anton Fokker grew up in the Netherlands. At the age of 20, Anton had initially intended to join an automobile construction course in at the Engineering School in Bingen, Germany but had changed his mind and instead enrolled in an aircraft construction course in Zahlbach, Germany. It was here, with the financial backing of his father and friend Oberleutnant Franz von Daum, that he contracted the Goedecker Flugmaschinenwerken to construct his first airplane – the Fokker Spinne”. With this plane, Fokker acquired his pilot’s license (Nr. 88) on the 7th of June, 1911.
As there was no real interest in aviation in the Netherlands at the time, Fokker decided to stay in Germany and founded the AHG Fokker Aeroplanbau in 1912 in Berlin-Johannisthal. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Fokker had decided to relocate specifically to Johannisthal, as it had the second oldest airport in Germany (opened in 1909, the first being August-Euler-Flugplatz in Darmstadt), and he would have potential access pilots and military contracts.
Origins of the Flugplatz Schwerin-Görries
Aviation was really taking off (no pun intended) in the early 1910s in Germany. To drum up even more interest, the “Deutschlandflug” was created in 1911. It was essentially the first German air race, with 17 stops all over Germany, starting and ending in Berlin Johannisthal. 24 pilots had signed up for the course, with prizes worth over 450,000 Mark up for grabs. Berlins officials had estimated that roughly 100,000 people would show up for the spectacle, but grossly underestimated the demand – with over 600,000 people showing up.
One of the cities on the 17-stop tour of the Deutschlandflug was Schwerin – which prompted local authorities to construct their own Airport. The „Mecklenburgische Flugplatz-Gesellschaft Görries-Schwerin mbH“ was founded in late 1912, and by early 1913 – the desired plot had been flattened, a spectator stand, a restaurant and an aircraft hangar had been built. The officials started negotiations with a variety of aircraft manufacturers set up shop in the newly opened airport – and in March 1913 Anton Fokker had agreed to leave Berlin and open up an aviation school in Schwerin Görries.
Of course, Fokker didn’t just open up an Aviation School, he also brough his entire production line with him. The city of Schwerin erected a hangar for him (the Fokker Flugzeugwerke) in 1913 along the Schweriner See, initially for the final assembly of Waterplanes (and another one right next to it in 1915). It’s worth pointing out that the company tasked with the construction, Thiedes Flugzeugfabriken und Hallenbau, managed to build the cantilevered hangars completely out of wood.
Flugplatz Schwerin Görries 1914 – 1927
With the outbreak of World War I, Fokker would ramp up his aircraft production for the German Reich. The production site in Schwerin would produce around 3400 aircraft for the German military, the most recognizable being the Fokker DR.I Triplane – made famous by von Richthofen and his flying circus, and the Fokker D.VII – considered to be one, if not the best fighter aircraft of the war. Fokkers production site in Schwerin kept on growing and expanding, employing over 6000 people in total, of which 1800 worked in Schwerin alone. Of course, Fokker made a hefty sum training the new officers to fly his machines – earning 7000 Mark for each officer that successfully passed the flying exam.
Fokker needed experts for his production sites, so he invested in piano manufactures to gain access to wood specialists, bought up large shares of an engine factory to produce rotary engines for his planes, and hired skilled designed and engineers to build his planes. It is worth mentioning that while Fokker claimed the glory for all his inventions, more often than not it was often his staff who were the actual inventors and designers.
One of Fokkers most famous inventions was the “synchronization device” which enabled his aircraft to fire through the spinning propeller. Fokker was credited with the invetion, despite him actually having fairly little to do with its development and further improvement, though it was Fokkers team which sucesfully managed to improve and implement the device on their planes. He was sued by Franz Schneider for patent theft after the war and convicted, but Fokker had fled to the US by then and avoided prosecution.
While being a Dutch national, Anton Fokker was gifted German Citizenship by order of the German High Command on his 25th birthday in 1915. He would also end up receiving the Iron Cross that year, as well as the Mecklenburg Cross of Merit a year later.
After the end of the first World War, the treaty of Versailles forbade the Germans to build any aircraft or aircraft engines. Remember the aforementioned Fokker D.VIII? All of them had to be handed over to the allies after the war. Not being able to legally produce his aircraft in Germany anymore, Fokker packed up the entire production facility in Schwerin within six weeks (as well as a large quantity of planes left behind by the Germans) and loaded them on a train back to the Netherlands to set up a new factory near Amsterdam.
His hasty departure from Germany was probably also due to the fact that he had a massive taxt debt to the German state. The majority of the aircraft that he manged to smuggle out – which had formerly belonged to the German military – would form a large part of the Royal Netherlands Air Force leading up to the second world war.
At the end of the war, a police aviation unit was stationed at the Flugplatz Schwerin-Görries, making use of the large facilities. Due to the stipulations of the treaty of Versailles, all military units had to be removed from the airbase by February 1921, and several of the hangars were torn down. The remaining hangars had to be modified in such a way that they could not be repurposed as aircraft hangars anymore. A refugee camp was built on the grounds where the aircraft hangars once stood, and what was left of the airbase fell into disrepair.
Despite all this, Schwerin Görries was designated as an emergency landing site, sparing it from being completely demolished. A brief attempt was made in 1925 to revitalize airbase, when a private commercial airline was set up to offer flights from Hamburg to stetting via Schwerin, but shut down operations in 1927 as the costs were too high.
Flugplatz Schwerin Görries 1930 – 1945
By 1932, the Flugplatz Schwerin Görries was reactivated as a civilian airport by the Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule (German Air Transport School). Despite its name, the DVS was actually a covert military training organization, training military pilots rather than commercial pilots – which was expressly forbidden by the treaty of Versailles. These aviation schools sprung up all around Germany, training pilots for the not yet established Luftwaffe. The DVS ended up buying the Flugplatz Schwerin Görries from the city of Schwerin in 1934, and immediate began with remodeling and expanding the airbase (the same year, the Fliegergruppe Schwerin was founded)
The DVS torn down the majority of the older buildings and built a new runway, hangars, barracks, munition bunkers and weapon testing facilities, a fire station, a medical facility and an aircraft maintenance facility. The Flugplatz Schwerin Görries officially resumed its military activity in 1935. The Fliegergruppe Schwerin, which was the first unit to be stationed there was renamed Sturzkampfgeschwader Schwerin (Dive Bomber Wing Schwerin) on the 1st of April 1935, only to be renamed Sturzkampfgeschwader 162 “Immelmann” (named after WWI ace Max Immelmann).
Like so many other german airbases, the Flugplatz Schwerin Görries was almost contiuously staffed with both operational and training groups of the luftwaffe between 1936 and 1945, most notibily the Jagdgeschwader 5, Jagdgeschwader 54 and Kampfgeschwader 26.
In 1944, the Norddeutsche Dornier-Werke (a subsidiary of Dornier-Werke-GmbH) moved some of its production facilities to Schwerin Görries in 1944, where both the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and Fw 200 were assembled and tested. Schwerin Görries was bombed by the British and Americans in August 1944 as well as April 1945, where the majority of facilities received heavy damage.
The last unit to be stationed in Schwerin Görries was the II. / Jagdgeschwader 27, which arrived on the 13th of April, 1945. The airbase was evacuated on the 30th of April 1945, and American troops took over the airbase uncontested. Even though US troops had captured the city of Schwerin, it had been agreed that the it would fall under soviet authority, so the city and the Flugplatz were handed over to the Soviets on the 1st of July 1945.
Flugplatz Schwerin Görries 1945 – 1993
After the Americans handed over the Flugplatz Schwerin Görries to the Soviets moved their troops into the former Luftwaffe barracks. Unlike other captured or occupied airbases, the Soviets seemingly had no use for another airbase and torn down the runway, yet retained some of the other buildings. Schwerin had dozens of former Wehrmacht facilities and after the war, the Soviets occupied over 19 different installations in and around the city (occupying over 1000 hectares).
By the mid 1950s, a large section of what was once the Flugplatz was handed back to the city and converted into an industrial zone, which continuously expanded until the mid 1960s.
It is said that the soviets stationed a SAM Unit in Schwerin Görries at some point, but by the late 1980s the site had been relegated to a depot, and was shut down by 1991. With the reunification of Germany and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the former Soviet troops left Schwerin on the 28th of April, 1993.
Flugplatz Schwerin Görries Video
We created a very short video of the Flugplatz Schwerin-Görries, albeit there wasnt terribly much to see. We would have liked to take a few drone shots, but it was getting quite windy and had started to rain once we finished exploring the buildings – so we decided against taking out the drone.
Flugplatz Schwerin Görries Today (2023)
Very little is left of what was once the Flugplatz Schwerin Görries. Of the 10 Aircraft hangars, only 2 have survived to this day. Wedged in between the hangars is the empty shell that was once the control tower, all other buildings have been since torn down. The property was up for sale in the early 2000s, and it seems like an investor from Cologne snapped it up in 2019 with the plans to develop the plot of land.
Schwerin decided to grant the remaining buildings with a heritage status – which won’t make any further development any easier, but it also seems like the current owner isn’t in any rush to secure or save the tower or hangars. It doesn’t help that the ground still might be contaminated with munitions, and supposedly the tower might be contaminated with some unsavory chemicals/materials as well.
While the city was probably right in granting the buildings heritage status, they did so under the pretext of acknowledging Schwerin’s long aviation history, especially with its connection to Anton Fokker. None of the buildings left in Schwerin Görries are older than 1935 and have any connection to Fokker. Thankfully, the remaining two buildings that once belonged to Fokkers factory are listed monuments as well, and have been preserved. Though one has been converted into a cafe, and the other now belongs to a fishing club – both can be visited (and do seem to draw a small crowd of visitors on the weekend).
Flugplatz Schwerin Görries Address