East Germany’s Soviet Heritage – Löwen-Adler barracks and the Elstal Olympic Village
When hearing of the Olympic Village for the 1936 Berlin Games, then people quickly think about Hitler, the Nazis as well as their making a cult out of Hindenburg, the former WW I hero and later President of the Reich. However also the Soviet Army lodged itself in strategically well located Elstal and its Löwen-Adler Kaserne military barracks, leaving a very interesting melange behind as in the Olympic Village not only a terrific abandoned swimming pool can be seen, but also a mix of clearly recognizable Nazi elements and typical Soviet iconography.
The journey leads to Elstal, a little ATM-less village being located some 15km away from the Berlin city boundary. The settlement gets cut by B5, a highway margining Döberitz Heath in the north. For ages this territory has been a huge tank playground. At its southern end the abandoned Krampnitz Soviet tank battalion I visited in 2015 still gives evidence of that.
We, my Russian friend and photographer Victor Boyko and I, have an appointment with MDR TV channel, that wants to film us how we capture material for our project documenting East Germany’s Soviet heritage. After WWII the Elstal-based military barracks of Löwen-Adler-Kaserne involved the Olympic Village of 1936 Berlin Games as over there higher Soviet officers were living. Troops and technical equipment on the other hand were accommodated to the south of B5 highway and Olympic Village.
The craziest contrast can be seen at Hindenburg House of the Olympic Village where in the main festival hall a fiery red Lenin shows us the way while on the backside of the wall a real Wehrmacht, hence Nazi relief can be seen. There is no bigger conflict, isn’t there…? The relief got plastered over but is in a very good shape after being laid open. Such a (hi)story can tell only few places, for example also Krampnitz tank battalion and its imperial eagle mosaic showing a Hakenkreuz (swastika), that is illegal to show and photograph in Germany.
Also so called traditional chamber inside Hindenburg House boasts with such a heavy contrast as on the one side of the room a mural tells the story of the fight for the Russian homeland while the other side exposes a Wehrmacht guidon with Hakenkreuz (swastika) and all the trimmings. That contentual conflict pretty much eclipses the architectural contrast of the old Wilhelmine style building being framed by two bold prefab Plattenbau buildings.
Of course other buildings of the Olympic Village are worth to be seen as well, for example the old abandoned indoor swimming pool or the Dining Hall of the Nations, where typical Communist murals shouting “Higher, faster, further!” can be found in the training and sport facilities. Nowadays Olympic Village got dissociated from the former military area and is easily explorable with a guided tour.
The southern side of the Ex-Soviet military area look different. All buildings over here are in such a bad condition that it had to be fenced while security watches them. After having seen quite a few abandoned places I am surely optically spoilt, but to be honest despite having the catchy name Löwen-Adler-Kaserne, meaning Lion Eagle barracks, there is nothing left being really worth seeing, what is also due to heaps of graffiti disfiguring the place. Only few details are left bearing witness to who has lived here before. Basically those details are the “DMB” called scribblings on the wall telling who has served here for how long and where he came from. The roof trusses are full of them.