EAST GERMANY VISIT - April / May 2001
MfS = East German secret police or
GTD = (Soviet) guards tank division
NVA = East German armed forces
WGF = Western Group of Forces
(Soviets in East Germany)
by Paul W. SOWAN
These notes, based on those made on the trip, should at least be accurate
insofar as place-name spellings and locations are concerned, and such
commentaries as I was able to note down during guided tours. I intend to
prepare a more polished, detailed and checked version for publication in the
SB Bulletin or Newsletter in due course
28th April Magdeburg
We all met at Magdeburg. Accommodation overnight in Bundeswehr barracks.
Sunday 29th April Körbelitz
STASI communications intercept bunker, one of three surviving such bunkers,
of which there were formerly 15. It intercepted signals (mostly encrypted)
along the West Germany - West Berlin autobahn cables. The cover story
locally was that it was a - 'country estate.' Within grounds of
house in forest N of Körbelitz - Wörmlitz road
c. 14 km NE of Magdeburg. Original house is still standing and derelict.
Owner is erecting a new house alongside. There are pillboxes and traces of
electric fences in grounds. Also dog-runs and a concrete kennel.
The Main entrance is in the truncated end of a transport shed with two
subsidiary entrances with horizontal sliding steel doors in woodland to
north. There are also escape hatches and various intake & exhaust services
protruding from the ground. There are Russian air filters and manually
operated and motorised blast / gas-tight doors.
It might have accommodated c. 40 men in wartime, with supplies for 7 - 14
days. Cable taps were normally handled / recorded automatically in
Bundeswehr used it until 1994. The new re-unified German currency was stored
here before issue. The bunker has been stripped out and vandalised by local
people, although crates of un-issued Russian gas masks remain as do one of
the standby generators and some of the other plant.
Local geology is 7 metres of sands & gravels overlying impervious clays.
Water table is at a depth of about 6 metres. Visible in now-enlarged
steep-sided pond originally dug for fire-fighting purposes. The bunker is
of cut-and-cover construction and was constructed at night for security
Within a very large military training area (parts still in use by
Bundeswehr) about 33 km SW of Brandenburg. Approach via Drewitz (where a
rail siding serving military purposes terminates) and Dörnitz. Several
sites were visited, as below. The Russian sites at the northern part of
site are unguarded, although patrolled occasionally (? not military
This was formerly a Russian military training area and ammunition storage
site. The Russian 3 Shock Army was based here.
Underground communications relay bunker This bunker is wide open and
largely stripped out. There are two main entrances via narrow steps, either
end of a curved entrance corridor. An assortments of vents, structures,
emergency escape routes, etc, on the ground surface above the bunker. It
was largely full (or once full) of machinery and equipment. Very little
provision for permanent manning with little or no dormitory or canteen space
and only two loos consisting of a hole in the floor into a tank below. It
was built late 1960s / early 1970s by cut-and-cover construction. The local
geology seems to be sands / gravels of the North German Plain.
There are massive blast doors with Russian lettering underground (TAMBUR)
tambourine (a word frequently seen in bunkers in eastern Germany) was
perhaps a code word for these? (PATERNA AVARIINOGO VIKHODA -? main
emergency exit (the papa of emergency exits?), (ZASHCHITNO
ERMETICHESKII -? hermetically protected / gas-tight) . and (MASHIN
The larger plant remains in place but the electrical and electronic
installations have largely been stripped out. Much pipe work remains. There
are six curious vertical cast iron structures with restraining steel cables
for unknown equipment no longer in place.
Nearby (on surface) there is a small green iron building above a shallow
shaft leading down to a small? cable-junction room and a very primitive
earthen pillbox .
There is a guardhouse at the entrance to this secure area within the larger
Russian barracks Accommodation for 1,000s of troops consisting of
abandoned blocks of flats forming an entire small town, including a district
heating plant (looking like a small power station, but without generators)
abandoned but substantially complete. Large sign in Russian noted from the
dining hall, reminding soldiers of their responsibility for their
Shell-filling installation There is a small district-heating plant
nearby . ammunition was stored in warm conditions . c. 25º C
as nitro-explosives deteriorate in storage unless kept cold I thought.) PoW
labour was used in WWII to attempt to avoid allied bombing and the
facilities were also subsequently used by the Russians 1945 - 94. Former
NAZI PoW dining hall, with swastika blotted out but the slogan ARBEIT ADELT
(work enobles) retained!
Abandoned Russian fire-fighting train, with water cannon mounted on
Various surface ammunition storage bunkers . mostly / entirely of concrete
construction, mostly earthed-over. Nearby (not accessible) former storage
buildings for eight SS20, SS22 and SS24 missiles.
Russian military prison, with sign (KARAULNI KOMPLEKO -? secure prison) .
Wire netting covered the exercise area. There were iron cell doors and no
windows or lighting in the cells. Food bowls were fixed into floors.
Accommodation [Bundeswehr barracks]
Monday 30th April Geltow
Potsdam and Geltow / Wildpark fell within the old East Germany.
Within an active, secure Bundeswehr site at Wildpark, c. 6 km SW of
Potsdam. At least two 'windmill' shaped air-raid shelters in the grounds.
This is an active signals centre, Fernmeldesystemzentrum , one of five
such interlinked centres in modern Germany, built c. 1980 - 85 to replace
the older bunker ('Göring's bunker) nearby, with which it was linked by a
tunnel (now sealed.)
Photography was allowed only in the plant room and associated control room,
for air conditioning, water supply and other services.
'Göring's bunker - built 1936 - 40 or 42. Göring's train was kept on
siding nearby. It was used by the Russians 1945 - 56, and the East German
Army 1956 onwards being re-equipped 1962 and has been in the hands of the
Bundeswehr since 1992 It is now surplus to BW requirements, and in process
of being stripped and sealed as it is too expensive to maintain, and to man
for frequently requested tours (ours therefore amongst the last) We were
invited to take any souvenirs we wanted!
A cut-and-cover construction, inside a small hill (local geology not
ascertained.) with 25m cover.
A very large bunker that could accommodate 160 men for three months with an
independent oxygen supplies for two weeks. It was never used for operations
direction in the event of war (? Cold War period) and would have functioned
for 20 minutes then closed down.
Coffins of German notables were stored here for a while during WWII
The bunker is not now ventilated and connections to new bunker via the
emergency escape routes already sealed. Escape routes were tortuous, via
machine rooms with restricted headroom with a narrow tunnel for staff and a
wider tunnel with many steps for officers! When Bundeswehr took over there
was an orderly exchange of command, but classified material had been
Items of note inside the bunker include freestanding yellow Russian
submarine air-conditioning unit’s .these are evidently more than simple
silica gel de-humidifiers . they (also) absorbed CO2 and replenished
levels. (We liberated three of these).
Most of the plant was still in place.
There were also NVA (National volks armee) surveillance tapes and wooden
telephone booth for the 'hot line to Moscow.'
In the grounds outside a 'windmill' air raid shelter, and a radiation and
blast detector unit which would automatically close the bunker external
doors in the event of a nuclear explosion. Also buried wires to detect EMP.
There were problems with magnetic storms!
Strausberg is a town c. 17 km east of Berlin. Two inter-linked bunkers
with tunnel connection also to basements of multi-story buildings inside a
still-active military area with a small active airfield nearby.) One
lies below the large car park, the other is hardly subsurface, but under an
earthed-over concrete structure. An NVA communications / command bunker
complex Also in process of being stripped; again we were invited to help
ourselves to souvenirs! We were shown round by Col. Kampe, the former NVA
commander at this site.
Main bunker c. 30m x 70m, on two floors. Linked to a remote transmitter
station at Kargel It is built in two weakly linked halves, to provide for
possible dislocation as a result of a nuclear weapon burst.
Noted inside, pneumatic message apparatus, NBC air-filtering, carpet (the
bunker went on-line in the 1980s and was a much-visited model for other
Warsaw Pact military administrations) There were separate, secure (and
better furnished and decorated) STASI rooms, to which Col. Kampe had no
access! These had direct lines to Moscow.
Long tunnel (passing machine rooms on the right) to the second, operations
and command bunker. This had a command centre desk with telephones sliding
Garzau is c. 6 km SE of Strausberg. A very important NVA computer
development bunker in private ownership, and now operating as a museum
with most equipment still in place and working. Associated surface
buildings still stand, with a tunnel link from the basement to the bunker.
Software was developed in the surface buildings. Electronic equipment was
protected in a controlled environment in the two-floor bunker. It operated
fully-manned day and night and was built to withstand a direct hit from a
nuclear bomb. A displacement of 0.4 m laterally and / or vertically allowed
was for. The bunker is cut-and-cover, with layers of earth and concrete
slabs forming an umbrella above the structure, and a further layer between
floors, to absorb blast. The bunker is in a hill to the rear of the
buildings. Most internal floors are mounted on shock-absorbing springs.
Access tunnel from building basement ( 200m) leads into the lower floor of
the 45m x 50 m bunker. Each floor has a ring corridor, with central rooms
with shock-absorbing sprung floors. Entire structure built inside a
cage. This is an exceptionally strongly protected structure. The
all in working order. A positive over-pressure is maintained. There
independent 80m well / water supply. The bunker was built between 1972 and
1975 and was operational from1976 onwards.
Emergency exit is from the upper floor, adjoining a vertical shaft for heavy
plant (hoisting mechanism remains in place.)
This bunker could operate in self-contained mode for 24 hours, before a
decision had to be taken whether or not to continue in totally sealed mode
(for 14 days.) As a result of the very high power consumption by the
computer equipment, no internal heating was required. Diesel generators
used external air, so were sealed off from the bunker interior and remotely
operated. Of the four diesel generators, three were needed in action at
Original DDR computers removed, but have been reinstalled. An early 1960s
analogue computer was demonstrated, working!
The operator here sells NVA and other items!
accommodation [Der Goldener Kartoffel Hotel]
Tuesday 1st May Harnekop
Harnekop is c. 14 km NNE of Strausberg. A three-floor NVA command bunker
in private ownership - the site is permanently manned and no photography
allowed. The bunker is hidden deep in the forest to the west of the
village; one of the ring-fences was an electric fence at 2,000 to 10,000
Built cut-and-cover 1971 - 76 it is 40m x 60m at a depth to a depth of 20m.
It was built in great secrecy with a 'decoy' hole excavated elsewhere.
Workmen were employed only for short periods, and then replaced, so none
knew the full extent or nature of the construction. Tarpaulins were kept
above the structure during building and excavated spoil was sprayed with
liquid manure to disguise it. A nearby multi-story building was erected
the impression was given that this was only a signals bunker. The entrance
to the bunker is inside the office block.
Visiting officers from Strausberg were driven at night in buses with blinds
down, and via a long and tortuous route for the 16km from Strausberg (a
distance of about 16 km taking two hours.) NVA staff wore DDR post office
uniforms for secrecy.
The structure has sprung floors almost throughout and is built inside a
Faraday cage with 3m thick external walls and internal walls 1m thick. It is
very heavily protected against nuclear weapons attack with 0.4m lateral /
vertical displacement allowed for. A 'Hiroshima' sized bomb would have
shifted the structure 16mm!' Air intake could have been cooled from
C! Air intakes are hidden in surface sheds. A helicopter could be
on the flat roof.
It was designed for 450 personnel, 200 officers / 250 technical / domestic
staff. This bunker could have operated in sealed mode for 25 days. There
are four dining rooms; beds for 160 persons (hot bed system) There were
timetabled air-lock times to maintain internal overpressure .
There are NBC air-locks / decontamination rooms / CCTV with routes indicated
on floor (white route 'normal' or red route for 'decontamination') Metallic
alloy strip seals in blast-proof doors and is intended to prevent them being
welded shut by atomic fireball.
It is equipped to transmit via remote transmitters at Kunedorf c. 12 km away
but could if required transmit directly up to 200 km using an antennae
buried 0.8 m below ground. It was possible, also, to broadcast via DDR radio
or television networks. Accumulators could power plant for 24 hours.
A mainframe computer, made in Jena, was exported to Russia, then
immediately brought back to Harnekop in secrecy .
All original equipment remains in place. Electricity consumption was such
that the interior could not be kept below 25º C .
There is a 60m well in the lowest floor, the water was iron-contaminated
Wastewater was cooled before being pumped out of the bunker to protect
against detection by thermal imaging. Diesel generators could be in
operation within 20 seconds in the event of power supply failure. There
massive air-cooling plant to keep the computers cool utilising 10 huge
compressed air tanks .
There is a pneumatic tube internal communications systems (as well as
There was accommodation for five or six Russian 'advisers!'
Map room equipped with camera / CCTV .
Nicely wood-panelled Minister's rooms.
The bunker was used by the NVA until 1990 but before moving out the Russians
and NVA removed some of the equipment.
There are blast / ? - ray / EMP detectors outside.
It was used by Bundeswehr until 1993 after which Deutsche Telecom took some
Falkenhagen is c. 17 km NW of Frankfurt on the Oder (on the Polish border.)
It is an extremely large bunker north / east of the village and construction
commenced in1938. The area remained closed from 1938 - 45. The castle at
Falkenhagen was demolished in the process. A standard gauge rail link
(initially narrow gauge) was laid in with rail tracks running right through
the bunker at one of the higher levels. The open tunnel entrance (on the
eastern side) is disguised inside a camouflage-painted corrugated iron shed.
The interior of this large rail tunnel is now much altered by subsequent
internal building changes and additions including the installation of NBC
proof doors, tiled decontamination rooms and the like.
An extension from the main bunker appears to have been used for the storage
of chlorine tri-fluoride ClF3, an exceptionally unpleasant compound,
which was manufactured from 1938 and during WWII in surface plant,
presumably the gas was stored under pressure in liquid form (the liquid
boils at c. 12º C at normal air pressure.)
Description of chlorine tri-fluoride .
. discovered by Ruff and Krug in 1930, originally an impurity in the
mono-fluoride [ClF] It is made by passing a mixture of chlorine or chlorine
mono-fluoride with excess of fluorine through a tube heated to 250º [C],
condensing with liquid air [c. - 200º C], and purifying by distillation.
The reaction ClF + F2 ? ClF3 is reversible, and at equilibrium at 250º [C]
the amount of ClF is greater than that of ClF3.
Chlorine tri-fluoride is a colourless gas, which condenses to a pale green
liquid, and then [freezes] forms a white solid. It boils at + 12.1º [C]
melts at - 82.6º [C.]
This compound is remarkable for the extraordinary vigour with which it
reacts, which is even greater perhaps than fluorine itself. It destroys
glass and quartz except at low temperatures; glass wool catches fire in the
vapour immediately. Organic substances . react at once with
one drop of the liquid sets fire to paper, cloth, or wood. Most elements
are attacked explosively, and if not they can be lighted by a fragment of
charcoal; many oxides behave in the same way. Liquid ClF3 reacts with
with a noise like the crack of a whip; if water is allowed to enter the
flask, which contains the gas, some of it is thrown out by the violence of
Information from N.V. Sidgwick (1950), The chemical elements and their
compounds II, page 1156.
What the Germans proposed to do with this extra-ordinary material is far
from clear. Was it to find use as an explosive, a rocket fuel, an
incendiary, or for chemical warfare? Possibly incendiary uses are the most
likely, in view of the expense of manufacturing, storing, conveying, and
delivering the compound precisely and in quantity. It would presumably
been stored and conveyed under pressure in liquified form (as is chlorine),
and perhaps nickel cylinders were used as some such metals develop a tough
'passive' metallic fluoride layer which prevents further attack (the 1930s
are too early for fluorine-proof PTFE (poly-tetra-fluoro-ethylene) cylinder
linings I think.) Our guide mentioned that chlorine tri-fluoride was
'tried out' on the Maginot line - thus supporting the view that it was to be
used directly for offensive purposes. Introduction of the gas (or rapidly
explosively evaporating liquid) would result in exposed concrete and
steelwork of air intake and filtering systems being seriously corroded .
but how such material was to be delivered with precision to the intakes is
problematic? On the other hand, perhaps the chlorine tri-fluoride was
intended only as an intermediate in the manufacture of, for example, SARIN?
I'll have to look into the chemistry of SARIN to clarify this point.
Fluorine for the manufacturing process was generated on-site by electrolysis
of a molten metallic fluoride (perhaps potassium fluoride KF?), derived from
the common mineral fluorspar (CaF2) imported from Bavaria.
The storage area was on the lowest floor of the bunker extension, in 64
small rooms (four lines of 16) . we were told the containers (full)
2.5 tonnes, containing 1 tonne of chlorine tri-fluoride each and that there
was provision for 'drowning' the facility in massive volumes of water in the
event of problems (? perhaps explosive instability) There are (surprisingly)
small apertures at one edge of the ceiling in each room to provide for water
entry / fumes escape and presumably the rooms have not been modified since
first built . They have normal width doors (and provision for pressure-tight
sealed doors?) At a higher level, above the storage chambers, pressure
relief valves remain. On the ground surface above there is a high-capacity
water tower, and one or two fumes escape shafts. I saw no evidence of
explosion or corrosion damage to the building fabric, so presumably the
chlorine tri-fluoride remained under full control at all times.
An overhead 'monorail' system was used for moving the containers around on
the lowest floor.
I would expect the violently explosive reaction with water to yield an
extremely hot mixture of oxygen, possibly free chlorine and / or fluorine,
and hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride gases. The oxygen and free
halogens would all support violently exothermic combustion, and the halogens
and their hydrides are exceptionally corrosive, and form exceptionally
corrosive acidic solutions in water (HF dissolves glass and other
silicate-based materials such as concrete.)
There were altogether five surface chemical plants at this site, although we
did not visit any other than 'domestic' surface buildings. The world's
first industrial-scale fluorine production commenced here (we were told),
and all data went to the USA (with von Braun?) Quite how the
got all this from the Russian-occupied zone was not made clear. Other
factories at surface made Tabun (from 1938), Sarin ('six times more
effective', from 1944), etc. The Sarin factory was about 70 - 80%
when the Russians arrived.
Grinding mills (to process fluorite raw materials) were in buildings later
used by the Russians for saunas and showers. The chlorine tri-fluoride plant
occupied four surface buildings [? grinding fluorspar, conversion of
fluorspar to? potassium fluoride, electrolysis of molten potassium fluoride
(to make fluorine), electrolysis of brine (to make chlorine), reaction of
chlorine and fluorine, and condensing and purification and liquefaction
under pressure of chlorine tri-fluoride?]
There was a manufacturing capacity of 500 tonnes per month .
The establishment was known, in WWII, as 'Institute East.' The chlorine
tri-fluoride was codenamed N-stoff?
Everything of importance was removed to Bavaria as the Russians advanced in
The main bunker is on four floors. The Russians arrived here in April 1943
(the Germans had abandoned the bunker in February 1943) but decided they had
no use for the structure from 1945 to 1960, and it closed temporarily in
It was used February - April 1945 as a Russian hospital.
The Russians subsequently created the standard gauge rail tunnel into the
bunker. It is 180 m long and was intended to be used as a command post for
the Berlin area.
The NBC proof door weighs seven tonnes. The bunker has 400+ rooms and it is
'very easy to get lost!' Personnel 350 - 400 men?
Cables reached the bunker via the Baltic seabed (bypassing Poland) but all
Russian cables have been cut and they do not appear in East German records!
Officers' rooms had wallpaper! Bunker is stripped of equipment; the
Russians took from November 1990 to October 1992 to remove equipment, and
The third-level extension (westwards) was built by the Germans. The 60 m
long upper levels used by the Russians (after chemical production ceased) as
dormitories there were 64 'bedrooms' (cf. Storage chambers in lowest level).
There is a large abandoned power station (not examined) on the surface with
six diesel generators, these have now been removed, and the Russians used
this space (seen) as a gymnasium .
Amongst the surface buildings are barrack blocks (mural decorations in
domestic rooms), a social centre (mural), etc.
Characteristic Russian brickwork very prominent, white bricks, with 'far too
many' long vertical joints!
I have, but haven't yet had translated, Heini Hofmann's booklet
Geheimnisse 1938 - 1992: Das "Seewerk" Bunker im Wald von Falkenhagen'
will no doubt answer some of the unresolved questions noted above, when I
get it translated!
accommodation [Seehotel Wisenhof]
Wednesday 2nd May Zossen-Wünsdorf
The two adjoining villages of Zossen and Wünsdorf, and the north-south
road linking them, were enclosed within a secure military area during WWII,
the area is about 33 - 40 km S of Berlin. The installations (from WWII and
the Russians) are described and illustrated in some detail in the following
English-language booklet stocked (£ 7.95) by the Ian Allan Bookshop, 45/6
Lower Marsh, LONDON SE1 7RG ((t) 020-7401-2100) .
Hans George KAMPE, 1996, the underground military command bunkers of Zossen,
Germany. History of their construction and use by the Wehrmacht and Soviet
Army 1937 - 1994. 48pp. Published by Schiffer Military / Aviation History,
Atglen, PA, USA. [ISBN 0-7643-0164-0]
The expected guide did not arrive at this site, and we were unable to see
the interiors of the bunkers. However, we were able to see the massive
concrete interiors (now wrecked by deliberate dynamiting) of the fake
'cottages' built to hide bunker entrances, and some members were able to
explore to a small extent below the wreckage.
Two large main bunkers were known as Maybach I and Maybach II - a long
tunnel linked them. The wrecked 'houses' each covered smaller bunkers?
Stolzenhain is an obscure and small village on the main road southwards from
Jüterbog, about 18 km south of the town. The bunker and associated
buildings are hidden in forest on the east side of the road, about 3 km N of
the village. The bunker was for the storage of Russian nuclear warheads
for Scud B, SS21, and SS23 missiles. Another such store, to the N, has
been totally destroyed? NVA warheads were also kept here, but NVA
were not allowed access. Launch sites were elsewhere (not seen.). The KGB
controlled the bunker.
A forest track leads off from the road, passing a guardhouse and flanked by
gate pillars with Russian lettering (post and gates are not visible from the
road.) Beyond this the forest track leads into an area of barracks
(characteristic Russian white brick / yellow paint) and another gate, beyond
which are more barracks, a district heating plant (prominent chimney),
social centre (impressive Russian mural decorations inside and out) and
gymnasium (more murals inside.)
The gymnasium murals include Soviet badges and a male and female athlete.
What appears to have been the social centre has a 'Moscow' or 'Red Square'
sort of coloured mural on an outside wall; depictions of 'war' and 'peace'
either side of the entrance porch (doves, guns, etc); and large and
impressive armed forces' emblems on the interior walls.
A further guard post and gate (with electric fence) guards the innermost
(forested) area. The secure area is currently in private ownership and
for the manufacture of wood-chip based compost (a peat substitute?)
The underground warheads storage bunkers (there are two) are normally sealed
but on this occasion the owner had used oxy-acetylene torches to cut open
one of the two massive doors to one of the two bunkers, and laid in electric
lighting for us. Doors were to be resealed after our visit.
The main (innermost) security gate was opened only for transportation in or
out of warheads. Personnel access was via a tunnel from the basement of an
adjoining building (outside the electric fence) to the woodland inside.
Leading off from the pedestrian tunnel are several very small rooms -
presumably guard points. The tunnel itself has decorative wall panels.
We visited the west bunker, entering by its north door (which is about 0.5 m
thick!) The N and S entrances and associated lorry bays were hidden from
aerial observation by ramshackle wooden sheds; perhaps the Russians even had
the odd cow wandering about to complete the deception! Each entrance leads
onto a 'balcony' from whence the warheads could be taken by an overhead
travelling hoist and lowered to the floor of the central hall. Leading off
the hall are four large, long rooms where the warheads appear to have been
fixed to the floor by steel clamps, some of which survive.. There was room
(in the entire complex of two bunkers at Stolzenhain?) for 120 to 200
warheads. These were sealed in aluminium containers with an internal
overpressure to detect tampering, exclude dust etc. Each of the five USSR
armies had such a missiles brigade and store.
Control panels on the E wall of the central hall had labels (vozdukh -
(gelii - helium), and (vacuum.) Also noted were brown-coded gas
and labels such as (vkluch -? on), (shchitok -? control panel) and
(vikl -? off.)
The site was built for the Russians by the NVA but the East Germans were
never told what it was for, or allowed into the completed facility.
buildings are dated 1971, 1975, and 1987. There are assorted pillboxes in
the forest surrounding the storage bunkers.
This site was vacated by the Russians (along with contents) before any of
the re-unification agreements were signed, so no accessible records survive
There are monitoring devices in the storage rooms (on the west side of the
central hall.) Other rooms contain instrumentation, ventilation and other
plant etc. Also a 'glove box' for handling toxic or radioactive material.
Curiously, the only provision for personnel to reach the central hall floor
from the balconies is via vertical steel ladders.
Söllichau is a very large site hidden a long way down a narrow, twisting
road which branches off north-eastwards from the main road on the east side
of Söllichau railway station (still in use.) It is c. 9 km. NE of Bad
It is a Warsaw Pact six-bunker complex - all the bunkers are relatively
small, but dispersed for safety - four staff bunkers, a main command bunker,
and a communications bunker. There are no tunnel interconnections between
the bunkers. We saw the latter two. A nearby munitions plant was maintained
as 'cover' for the bunkers. The site is covered in beech and pine forest.
Our first (command) bunker was on two floors, built 1969 by the NVA, and
includes an army commanders' operations room. We were shown a red telephone
for a hot line to Berlin and Moscow. We saw a map room, CCTV (in use from
1979), air and water processing plants, all in working order. The bunker
construction was inverted U-shaped concrete arches, earthed over. There is
10m of earth above each bunker. One bunker has a mainframe computer,
another a hospital. Also a technical and supply bunker, servicing the
others. Much computer equipment, military stores and vehicles seen.
Camouflaged concrete roads. Signals-switching bunker - lead / copper
nitrogen-filled cables. This complex was completed in 1979, and used by
Bundeswehr 1990 - 93. The cost of construction of something like 100 such
sites (of a total in former East Germany of c. 650!) led to the economic
collapse of the country!
Söllichau - accommodation
Thursday 3rd May Machern
Machern is the site of the former STASI bunker for the Leipzig region,
and is thus very similar to Körbelitz, but fully equipped. It is now
operated as a public museum. Machern is c. 17 km east of Leipzig.
STASI HQ in the city is now a public museum also. The east German revolt
against communism originated largely in Leipzig.
The 'cover story' for this bunker was that it was holiday chalets for
waterworks employees! There were already genuine chalets nearby (and still
are), and additional ones, including fakes, were built. The bunker had
stripped out, but has been re-equipped. It is a 5.2-hectare site, the bunker
built entirely by the STASI and local officials / police were not allowed
knowledge of it. There were 2,400 STASI personnel in Leipzig. When a
30,000 - strong anti-communist demonstration was expected, STASI and police
were assembled to cope with that number but in the event 75,000
demonstrators turned up and the Leipzig city HQ was seized. The Machern
bunker was abandoned and subsequently discovered. The bunker diesel
was positioned beside a chalet chimney to deceive thermal imaging!
Entrances (two, with sliding horizontal steel panels as at Körbelitz) are
inside a surface building. A receiving radio antenna looked 'like a tree'
and was hard to spot amongst genuine trees and artfully positioned screens b
locked views of important parts of the site (such as air intakes / Diesel
exhausts) There were boundary dog runs and a fire engine was kept on site.
Construction materials were stockpiled off site, and brought onto the site
via a rear entrance, not along the road passing the established holiday
homes. There was a remote transmitting aerial. The bunker had NBC
protection. It was built 1969 - 72 (one of the first to be
were established c. 1953 following an anti-Russian uprising in East Berlin
which was put down by tanks and troops. It was said the STASI should have
known about and prevented this, thus a system (approximately an equivalent
of our MI5 / MI6) was set up to control the whole DDR which was divided into
15 regions, each with a bunker such as this, sub-districts also had bunkers!
Police, the Communist Party, and the Army also all had bunkers but the STASI
had the 'best' bunkers. Party bunkers had very poor protection! They were
planning the 'liberation' of West Germany! There would have been 'camps'
for the imprisonment of foreigners and 'undesirables.' Most documentation
has been destroyed, and few ex-STASI personnel have ever been charged or
convicted of offences as there is too little evidence, and too costly in
legal proceedings? In the event of war there would have been three KGB
'advisers' at Machern, although in fact no Russians were ever on-site.
In the event of war it was assumed Leipzig (25 km distant) would have been
lost as a result of nuclear attack but the Machern bunker might have
continued active for six days (it was assumed the war would last three
days!) What would the Machern bunker occupants have restored, and for
Technical data on air-filters and related plant was classified information
and exact knowledge of contents would lead to strategically important
knowledge of what gases were expected. The STASI had a 'map falsification'
department (but of course our own OS maps never told the whole truth
There is a 'bicycle' driven style filtration plant just to ensure air
circulation and 12 hrs air reserves held in cylinders (druckluft)
Battery reserves were prioritised for working the signals equipment.
Of 85 staff there were five women for cooking / cleaning! Flush toilets
were used unless bunker was sealed, in which case then chemical toilets were
used. Provision was made for the storage of waste and corpses. Badly
contaminated or irradiated personnel were to be pushed outside and
abandoned. Diesel oil was stored being sufficient for 35 days.
is a later, improved design STASI bunker.
Bunker access steps are of uneven riser heights!
Colditz is a small town (railway station now abandoned, rail links now
provided by buses) c. 36 km SE of Leipzig. The castle (a ruin in 1430 -
rebuilt) is within the town and was used as a lunatic asylum before and
after WWII and an internment camp 1933 - 35, PoW camp for escapee officers
1939 - 45 The hospital finally moved out in 1996 and most of the 400
rooms are now empty but some contain museum displays and some are to be
converted to a restaurant. Red volcanic stone is prominent in the fabric.
The building is now looking for a viable economic future.
We were shown various mostly unsuccessful escape tunnels dug by the French
At the liberation in 1945 the Americans and the Russians occupied the two
halves of the town, west and east of the river and as a result of the
Potsdam Conference, the American / Russian border was moved further to the
west, so Colditz subsequently fell entirely within the DDR.
During WWII MI9, (which was responsible for assisting PoW escapes)
discovered detailed plans of the Castle in the British Museum, copies of
which were smuggled into the inmates to assist them!
In Leipzig we were shown the cellars, parts of former fortifications,
below the new (c. 1905) town Hall, and admired the views from the 115 m town
The evening meal was in the 15th C Moritzbastei . former massive brickwork
fortifications (17) now converted as a restaurant / cultural centre,
initially by Leipzig students form 1973 onwards.
Leipzig - accommodation [Motel]
Friday 4th May Blankenburg
Blankenburg is a town on the northern edge of the Harz Mountains c. 15 km
SW of Halberstadt. The underground storage bunker is currently in use by
the Bundeswehr to store medical supplies (18) - anything from safety pins to
X-ray machines (equipment such as the latter is also checked / maintained
There is a small surface barracks / administration area. A standard gauge
railway line serves the site, with a transfer shed just outside the tunnel
entrance. The very large tunnel, which goes right through the hill between
the two huge access doors, has standard gauge track laid in it, with a
platform alongside inside the hill.
The 100 tonne doors take three minutes to open or close; one was
demonstrated for us.
The tunnels are first on record in 1944 and PoW labour was sent there.
Scientific instruments (manometers and thermometers) were manufactured the
surface factories having been bombed. The Waffen SS subsequently took over
and the site was then linked with DORA although V-weapons were not
manufactured here. In 1945 the Americans, then the British, occupied the
area, but it fell into the Russian zone and then the DDR as a result of the
During 1947 - 75 the tunnels were used for local commercial storage.
The NVA took the site over c. 1975 In 1980 it was reopened, much extended
(four times the area of tunnels?) this area is quite close to the
/ west German border. In 1990 - 91 the Bundeswehr took the site over for
its current purpose.
Currently there are 10 - 15 military personnel, and somewhat more civilians
(c. 115) working at the site, essentially engaged in warehouse management
and servicing technical equipment / maintaining optimum storage conditions
for medicines and the like. There are distinct areas for medicaments,
equipment and furniture, servicing, and dangerous items (compressed gases in
The entire bunker is of tunnels of large diameter, all on one level, there
is no 'lower' bunker, and there have never been any 'rockets' stored here
nor is the 'Amber Room' hidden here! Likewise there is no Erich Honnecker
room, and there is no secret railway tunnel connecting to Halberstadt! A
single Russian rocket did get jammed in the entrance tunnel once, to general
embarrassment and it was concluded rockets wouldn't conveniently negotiate
the bend in the entrance tunnel and fit into this storage facility, and the
single rocket was ultimately removed!
There are 20,000 m2 of floor area, of which 15,500 m2 are available for
storage. 2,600 tonnes of stores occupy a largely civilian staff of 130
persons (of which c. 15 - 18 are military personnel.)
The tunnels are in shotcreted sandstone and are c. 6 - 8 m wide and high.
NVA location numbers on the walls are still used.
Diesel trucks can be used underground as the ventilation system is very
There are six or eight equipment repair shops.
The blast doors are too expensive to remove! Dormitories and canteen areas
are not used; the three-tier bunks are no longer allowed by Bundeswehr
regulations as drunken soldiers might fall from the top bunks and injure
themselves! If sealed, the bunker could survive with air for two weeks.
There is an internal well.
There is a 'history room' (the former NVA control room) with contemporary
DDR / NVA maps etc and this facility is a popular 'day out' for visitors
from the local area about 50 tours are organised p.a. The Bundeswehr
maintain this facility to provide employment in the town, unemployment in
eastern Germany is very high, up to 30% or more .
There is CCTV surveillance of the entrance doors (for safety when
closing!) . periodic loudspeaker announcements make the entire bunker
rather like a railway station!
Nordhausen is a town on the southern side of the Harz Mountains, and is
served currently by both s.g. DB lines and by a narrow gauge line which runs
up into the mountains.
Mittelwerke / DORA concentration camp and underground rocket factory is
outside the town, about 6 km to the N by W of the town, in the area between
Woffleben and Niedersachswerfen. Before 1936 there were old and
unprofitable gypsum mining operations in the Kohnstein (a small mountain.)
Tunnelling in the mountain was commenced, with two parallel tunnels A and B,
initially for storage of strategic fuel reserves and chemical weapons. The
two main tunnels penetrated right through from the southern side of the hill
(where the public access site is) to the northern side (where there is no
access, and where gypsum extraction continues ? above the tunnels.)
Standard gauge rail lines ran along both northern and southern sides of the
hill, and each of the two tunnels was wide enough to accommodate two
parallel standard gauge tracks (which tracks were in fact laid in from both
north and south.)
At first, concentration camp inmates from Buchenwald were used as slave
labour to drive the main or inter-connecting tunnels, and initially they
lived and slept and died in these tunnels as they were driven. Later the
prisoners built their own exterior concentration camp, of which little now
survives beyond an old cinema and crematorium building, although a large
area (about a quarter of the entire camp) remains clear as a memorial.
During the latter part of WWII the prisoners were forced to manufacture V1
and V2 rockets and piles of rocket fragments including propellant tanks,
nose cones, and gyroscopes are recognisable. Even the side-tunnels
connecting A and B are of impressive dimensions. The original southern
entrances to A and B have been deliberately blocked by dynamiting, but a new
access tunnel is now in use for visitors. Even the small part of the
originally far more extensive tunnel network is on an impressive scale.
Parts of the main and side tunnels further N are either blocked off by roof
falls, or partially flooded, and as they run below the gypsum company's land
they are 'off-limits.' They are said not to contain anything of additional
There is an excellent sales stall in the former cinema, where books are on
sale and harrowing videos can be viewed of the condition of the camp and
some of its few surviving inmates as found on liberation. As the town of
Nordhausen was largely destroyed in WWII by bombing, most of the wooden camp
buildings were removed for materials for repairing the town buildings.
Suhl is a town in a valley in the Harz mountains, about 18 km SW of Ilmenau,
but the district STASI bunker is in the mountains to its east, near a
station near Rennsteig. .
The STASI bunker for the Suhl district is now within the hotel grounds,
and public guided tours can be arranged. The bunker (built 1973 - 76) has
the external appearance of and was perhaps disguised as, an ordinary covered
water reservoir. The interior is equipped or re-equipped. Usually
maintenance staff were present but it would only have been fully staffed in
times of crisis. Usual NBC and decontamination arrangements are found at
the entrance. Airlock, and numerous compressed air cylinders (? to maintain
internal overpressure) Steel canister toilets (entirely internal) would have
been used in times of crisis with waste and corpses stored until external
disposal was possible. This was previously a 'genuine' STASI holiday home!
The holiday home image was maintained, within an established game park, and
personnel wore hunting gear as 'cover' Curious glass manometers were noted
on walls The site area c. 40,000 m2 The equipment is not now run,
still operable. There was a large room for conferences and training, with
maps on walls [Suhl, Merkers, and Nordhausen are all quite close to the old
internal German border]
Canisters of chemicals for the 'yellow submarine' air conditioner units were
noted (one taken with permission for chemical analysis) The wording on
chemical canisters is (berech ot goryuchikh i vodi - protect from fuel and
There is an external sewage plant (which would not have been used in war.)
Full staff would have been c. 130. Fresh air was drawn in via an emergency
exit with the top was designed to look like a streetlight! Flexible
silver-coloured tubes were to be used to connect compressed air cylinders to
the internal ventilation systems if needed. Air pressure balancing (cf.
manometers) was necessary for the operation of air locks and maintaining
internal overpressure. Electricity was (normally) drawn from the DDR
National Grid but there were no meters!
A 'bicycle' was again to be used only to assist air circulation not to
generate electricity. The bunker was upgraded in 1987. Dormitory and
kitchen areas were never used with maintenance staff eating and sleeping in
the surface buildings. The bunker was always kept ready for immediate
operational use. There were two internal emergency power supplies (Diesel
generators), exhausts from which were to be used to warm air intakes. We
were shown a waste storage and mortuary room. Wood shavings would have been
used in the internal toilet canisters Food stocks kept underground were
rotated so fresh (canned) supplies were always available in the bunker.
A separate area (outside the controlled area) was reserved for technical
staff and could be sealed off with separate accommodation for 43 technical
staff with kitchen, toilets and emergency escape (to what!?)
As at Machern, access was through two large sliding hatches inside one of the
The current hotel owners took over an existing lease and would like to
purchase the entire site.
5th May Merkers
Kali und Steinsalzindustrie Merkers [Potash and Rock salt mine]
Merkers is about 8 km W of Bad Salzungen.
This is essentially a large mine most importantly working 'potash'
chloride, KCl) an important intermediary in the manufacture of
potassium-based agricultural fertilisers. A subsidiary product, in
terms, is rock-salt (largely used for de-icing roads.) If the UK mine at
Boulby is a reliable guide, most of the mine access roadways are in the
mechanically stronger rock-salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) beds with the
cavities mined out in the economically more important KCl being mechanically
weaker and abandoned to close up after being worked out.)
This mining field has been is use for about 100 years and there are various
large interlinked mine complexes including connections below the former East
/ West German internal border.
Merkers (or at least nearby mines) continues to mine potash (and perhaps
some less valuable rock salt for de-icing roads?), but is now largely a 'show
mine' doing a considerable business in tourism. As salt mine public tours
go, this one has much to recommend it! The more famous Wieliczka (Poland)
wins hands-down on impressive subterranean mine timbering (and on carved
rock-salt chapels, silly gnomes, and silly stories!), and nearby Bochnia is
in many respects much better (more genuine mining, fewer gnomes and silly
stories!) Merkers offers the punters what seem like high-speed switchback
jeep rides up and down tunnel inclines, round corners, etc . all very
exhilarating. We were told we would cover 20 km underground (and I can
believe it) and reach depths down to 800 m below surface. This was once
'the world's largest potash mine'
Points of call during the tour include .
The gold room . during the 3rd Reich German patents were stored here and
the Nazi regime fell, looted gold (230 tonnes), bank notes en masse, and
looted art treasures from cathedrals and museums etc were stored here, some
also went to Berchtesgarden. The Americans detected truck movements and
investigated arriving in this area 4 April 1945, and investigated the mine.
They discovered the 'gold room' and its contents which were trucked to
Frankfurt / Main and sent onwards to the USA. The whole lot weighed c. 400
tonnes; the art treasures were worth more than the gold! Art treasures
been returned to cathedrals / museums but fate of the gold and banknotes we
were told is classified information until 2015! Maybe the gold is still in
the USA? The Americans had expected to find wartime munitions factories in
As at Colditz, this area was liberated by America but, as a result of the
Potsdam agreements, assigned to Russian control after the gold etc had been
We were shown the 'largest underground machine in the world' in a vast
cavern evidently concerned with collecting potash via holes in the ceiling
from potash mine galleries above?
There are 4,600 km of mine tunnels and 3,000 men worked at Merkers in DDR
Mines were worked to ownership boundaries and interlinking was prohibited as
if one mine flooded, and water penetrated others, all mines would have been
Red / yellow / blue carnallite was worked for potash . 80% KCl / 20% NaCl
Workers from Buchenwald manufacturing aeroplane parts were mentioned.
There is an excellent salt / potash-mining museum gallery with much
equipment on show (underground) .
A 'sanatorium' was once operating here, also underground.
At one point basalt intrusions can be seen and some good detailed geological
sections are displayed in the museum gallery.
The lowest point in the mine is at 1,100 metres below surface where the air
temperature is c. 40º C. The lowest point on the public tour is 800 m
underground (temperature 28º C) and there is even an underground bar
(alcohol-free beer!) and a grotto containing impressive salt (NaCl)
crystals c. 1 m across, this had been found in 1980, and has been open to
the public since 1990. These are claimed to be the largest salt crystals in
the world .
Accommodation [Bundeswehr barracks]
Sunday 6th May Magdeburg
The party dispersed homewards from the Bundeswehr barracks at Magdeburg on
REPORT © PAUL W. SOWAN - CHAIR - SUBTERRANEA BRITANNICA - 31st MAY 2001
McKenzie 2001 Last Updated -